When I brought my first Border Collie, Nyxie, home from her breeder, I was uncertain about what to expect despite doing tons of research. I was thinking, “Are Border Collies good for hiking?” I didn’t know if her high energy levels would translate well to hiking trips or if she’d want to run, run, and run some more.
Are Border Collies good for hiking? Border Collies are excellent hiking companions and always eager to hit the trails. They have endless energy, a low prey drive, and love to accompany their owners on adventures of all kinds. As an added benefit, they will keep the group together and moving forward using their strong herding instincts.
Before you start planning your trips through the trails, there are some things you need to know about going hiking with Border Collies. Thankfully, you can learn all about hiking with BCs from this helpful guide.
My B.C. Experience
Although Nyxie introduced me to the world of Border Collies, Bandit confirmed everything I learned from her. With these two by my side, hiking trips are always a blast. Ruby joins in the fun, too, of course, but as an Australian cattle dog, she’s a bit more focused on finding something to chase. However, the BCs keep to tradition by ensuring the group stays together and on the right track every step of the way.
Are Border Collies Good Hiking Dogs?
Adult Border Collies can endure long hikes given their history of herding sheep over long distances. Their agility lets them get over obstacles like boulders and felled trees. Curious and smart, they are always ready to explore what the trails hold.
A fit and healthy Border Collie on a sheep farm can run up to 50 miles in a day herding sheep. This amounts to 10-12 hours of activity. This steady drive and endless energy make them great hiking companions.
Border Collies are strong too. You can saddle up your dog with a pack on their back, carrying supplies while hiking. A word of caution: wait until they are over 1 year of age, and developed enough to handle the weight of the pack.
It’s important your dog responds to commands while hiking. You don’t want them straying too far from you. According to scientists, Border Collies are the smartest dog breed around. So when you train your Border Collie to “come”, they will come when called and be happier for pleasing you.
Although Border Collies will eye stalk just about anything and everything that moves — and even a few things that do not — they don’t have a high prey drive. I’ve seen this in my own Border Collies. While they love to watch the birds and squirrels, they’re not as eager to chase them around the backyard as Ruby (a red cattle dog) is.
A low prey drive is a great thing if you’re taking them hiking because there are endless birds, squirrels, and much more to chase. If they were as prey driven as other dogs, your BCs would drag you through the forest and beyond in hot pursuit of whatever catches their keen eye. Instead, they are satisfied with giving them a good lookover and moving onto the next big thing.
When is the Best Time to Take Them Hiking?
While Border Collies enjoy moderate temperatures, they are pretty good about hiking in hot and cold weather.
When it’s hot out, be sure to watch the surface temperature.
An asphalt pavement can heat up to 143 degrees when the air temperature outside is 87 degrees. If you can fry an egg in five minutes at 131 degrees, imagine how hot your dog’s paws could become.
Should your dog wear boots when it’s very hot while hiking? Don’t forget to bring along plenty of water.
As temperatures move into the freezing range, you’ll want to observe your dogs to see how they are faring in the cold.
My Nyxie is not a fan of freezing weather, though she certainly loves the snow. We balance it out by taking short trips outside instead of spending hour upon hour in the freezing cold.
While she’s not against wearing sweaters, they often get quite dirty since she loves to roll around on the ground.
In all adverse weather conditions, you might want to consider having your BCs wear booties to protect their feet. You’ll have to take some time to help your dogs get used to the extra gear, but it’s well worth the effort.
How Far Can Border Collies Hike?
In their prime, adult Border Collies can hike up to five miles, or about four hours, after getting used to the trails. Senior collies like to take it a bit slower and may tire out after a mile or so, or about one hour. If you have a puppy, you shouldn’t measure by the mile. A good rule of thumb to follow is two minutes for every week of age. Start at around 16 weeks and only take them out for about 30 minutes.
As you get your puppy used to the trails, stick to flat, well-maintained paths and let your pup set the pace. Continue to increase the activity time as they grow, but don’t increase the intensity until their bones and joints finish growing.
By the time your dog is an adult, they should easily walk up to five miles by your side. Always take 20-minute breaks, no matter your BC’s age, to give them a short rest and time to drink water.
If you want to go beyond five miles with your dog, you’ll need to look at their age, physical fitness, and overall comfort after hikes to see if it’s a good idea. Only then will you discover how far a Border Collie can comfortably hike while having fun every step of the way.
Although Border Collies will keep going until they drop, it’s not good to let them push their limits.
As a breed, Border Collies are well accustomed to accompanying the crew out in the field all day long. As they herd the sheep and other livestock around the farm, they take tons of short breaks from running to recharge their energy. Hiking trips work a little bit differently, often pushing BCs to maintain a steady pace instead of going in short bursts.
Are Border Collies Good Off-Leash?
Border Collies can be good off-leash when taught to consistently respond to your heel and recall commands. Their low prey drive and exceptional biddability make this easy work, even if you wait until they are older to get started.
You can start training them to be incredible off-leash with solid recall work.
Once they respond to your call flawlessly, you can teach them a strong heel.
You’ll want to prove these skills with distractions to ensure your pup will withstand temptation in favor of sticking with you.
Once those two skills are mastered, you can likely trust your Border Collie off leash while on the trails.
When Should a BC Not Go Hiking?
Like all dogs, there are times when BCs should not go hiking.
As with all dogs, you should go easy on hiking during the puppy stage.
Beyond letting their bones, joints, and muscles ease into the intense activity, slow introductions help pups get used to exploring the trails.
They should stay off the trails prior to reaching 16 weeks of age, for example, and after that, if they’re not yet done with their second set of vaccinations.
It’s important to keep senior dogs off the trails, especially if dealing with any health issues. Joint pain, heart problems, and cognitive dysfunction are all worsened by hiking.
Although it’s not any fun to stay home, it’s important to skip the hiking trips any time your dog is dealing with illnesses or injuries.
Even a little cut on the paw pad can turn into a serious problem with too much activity.
Prerequisites for Good Hikes
By now, you likely have your answer to, “Are Border Collies good trail dogs,” but preparation is still vital in making the most of every trip.
Here are a few ways to prepare for all your hiking adventures:
Before going hiking with any BC, they must have solid obedience skills under their belt. Even if you’re not planning on letting them off-leash, you’ll want them to know how to:
- Lie down
- Leave it
Their recall should be excellent as well, in case they trot out of view or otherwise get away from you.
Is your Border Collie not listening to you? This can happen. Read our blog post on this topic so you know what to do.
Research the Trails
You should also research every hiking trail you plan to visit to learn about any known hazards, including info about pests and predators.
Do people frequently come across cougars or bears?
Is there a lot of tall grass with ticks lying in wait for their next meal?
You will even want to know if there’s water onsite, shade available, and safe spots to rest along the sides of the trail.
Get All the Right Gear
Don’t forget to grab all the right gear for the trail.
You’ll have to reflect on your personal preferences and your dog’s needs to see what to bring.
Since I have an old shoulder injury that likes to act up from time to time, I never go hiking without my dogs’ no-pull harnesses.
I cannot live without pop-up water dishes, biodegradable poop bags, and a large treat sack attached to my belt.
Best Gear to Take Hiking
|Brand and model||Check the price|
|Dog bell – warns bears and other humans that there’s a dog coming up the trail. Also, place one on your backpack to warn bears away too!||Warner Bear Bell|
|Dog booties||Ruffwear Grip Tex|
|Dog bowl for water and food (collapsible)||Ruffwear Quencher Cinch Top|
|Dog first aid kit||RC pet products pet First Aid Kit|
|Option 1 – freeze dried dog food (lightest to carry)||Stella and Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Dog Food|
|Option 2 – freeze dried dog food (for variety)||Vital Essentials Grain Free|
|Option 3 – dehydrated dog food||Honest Kitchen Human Grade|
|Dog food biscuits||Blue Dog Bakery Natural Dog Treats|
|Pocket-sized dog food treats||Zuke’s Mini Naturals|
|Meaty dog food treats||Spot Farms All Natural Human Grade Chicken Strips|
|Dog food energy bars||Zuke’s Power Bones|
|Dog food jerky||Brutus and Barnaby Chicken Jerky|
|Dry dog food storage||Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack|
|Dog harness (no pull)||Ruffwear Front Range|
|Hiking dog leash||Ruffwear Crag leash|
|LED dog collar||Blazin’ Safety LED Dog Collar|
|Dog poop biodegradable bags||Earth Rated Dog Poop Bags|
|Trowel for digging hole for dog poop in the wilderness||Coghlan’s Backpackers Trowel|
|Dog water bottle (attaches to your backpack or belt)||Highwave AutoDogMug|
|Wax for paw protection||Paw Soother|
|FDA compliant sunscreen for your dog||Epi-Pet Sun Protector|
|Natural and organic sunscreen for your dog||Wolfe & Sparky Natural|
Best Medium-Sized Dogs for Hiking: Border Collies!
While I might be a bit biased, Border Collies definitely qualify as the best medium-sized dogs for hiking. Since they are task-focused, they quickly learn that hiking means exploring, not herding, chasing, or running like wild. They are happy to plod away by your side while taking in all the amazing sights and sounds around them.
More About Border Collies
Border Collies are one of the most popular outdoor breeds. That’s why we write many articles about them. If you’re made about Border Collies, have a read of these resources:
- Aussies vs. Border Collies: battle of the breeds
- Are you crate training your B.C.? Read our comprehensive guide.
- How do Border Collies show affection? Find out here.
- How do you manage a B.C.’s energy levels?
- Hiking with your Border Collie: all you need to know
- Border Collies and Huskies make great companion dogs
- True webbed feet: do Border Collies have them?
- Interested in dock diving for your Border Collie? Read this article.