Are Pitbulls Good Hiking Dogs?

When I was recently on a hike, I passed a dog owner with their pitbull. Pitbulls weren’t the first dog that came to my mind as hiking dogs. So, I did some research to find out if Pitbulls made the cut as good hiking companions.

Are Pitbulls good hiking dogs? Here are 3 characteristics that make Pitbulls great hiking dogs:

  1. Fun-loving and energetic
  2. Family-oriented dogs
  3. Athletic and strong.

The intrinsic qualities of the Pitbull breed make them good hikers. “Does my Pitbull” make a good hiking dog?” may be your next question. That requires a different response. There are lots of reasons why your Pitbull may or may not be suitable for hiking in the wilderness.

Why The Pitbull Breed Makes Them Good Hikers

Fun-loving and energetic

Pitbulls are an active dog breed. They love adventure and hiking trails is great for them. It works off their energy.

Family-oriented

Pitbulls like to be included in every family activity. This can include from a neighborhood stroll, a ride in the car, or happily trekking in the mountains with you.

Suggested healthy outdoor trail activities for your Pitbull and you include hiking, running, and swimming.

Athletic and strong

Depending on their age and health, Pitbulls typically have the agility, strength, and energy to make an excellent hiking companion.

Pitbulls also tend to be very muscular and strong. One of the perks of hiking and camping with Pitbulls is that they readily adapt to wearing a doggy pack. That means they can carry in their own food and plies. They can also take the trash out on the way back home.

What’s Your Dog Like?

No two dogs have the same temperament. a lot depends on the individual dog’s personality and their training.

There are several important factors to consider when weighing whether your Pitbull is suited for hitting the trail with you.

Age

A pup under 8 months old could have a difficult time keeping up with you on a long hike because their bodies are still maturing.

A six-month-old Pitbull can generally tolerate a mile run, but strenuous hours-long hikes at that age can cause stress in their joints that could have a long-lasting impact. Shorter, moderate hikes should be fine. If your hiking plans include overnight treks and several days of exercise, it’s probably best to leave them with a sitter.

The same is true in reverse for an older dog. Has your four-legged friend been slowing down? Can’t keep up with a steady jog? Has difficulty getting up or down off furniture? Then it’s probably wise to assume that while a leisurely, slow hike may be okay, they aren’t up to a big hike anymore.

Climate

What’s the climate like? If you plan to hike in the Rockies from December to March, your dog needs to be able to withstand cold weather and snow.

Pitbulls do well in warm climates. They can tolerate heat well as long as they stay hydrated. But their short fur makes them suffer in the cold weather when not on the go.

If you do plan a cold-weather hike or camping trip, make sure to bring along a dog coat or sweater for warmth.

If your trek involves warm weather, bring plenty of water.

Behavior (in general)

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need leashes and our dogs would run right back to us when we called their name.

When to keep your Pitbull on a leash

Some dogs are good off leash. Some are not. I read in this in a forum…

This breed likes to test their owners for control whenever they can… as a responsible owner you must be in control all the time with a dog this strong and powerful.

Mountain Biker Forum

I’d keep your Pitbull on a leash for a number of reasons.

Unpredictable behavior

I know you know your dog.

If your Pitbull is a rescue dog, maybe an innocent encounter with another person and their dog on a hiking trail could trigger a bad reaction.

If you don’t know the full history of how your Pitbull has been treated in the past, this could happen.

In this situation, it’s best your Pitbull has a leash when hiking.

Requirement in National Parks

Some national parks require leashing all the time.

Always check to find out if your destination requires full-time leashing before setting off.

Not wearing a leash can attract a fine from park authorities.

Other hikers’ reactions

Other people are generally cautious and fearful of Pitbulls. There are jerks around that will shout abuse at you or just get too close!

Once Pitbulls feel threatened, their protective instinct kicks in. And that person who got too close to you or your dog is toast.

For your dog’s sake, don’t give other people something to bitch and yell about, keep your Pitbull on a leash.

Running may trigger your Pitbull

When on a hiking trail where people run with their dogs off leash, it’s best to leash your Pitbull.

Your dog has a high prey drive.

Instinctively, it’s wired to chase things that move – especially if that dog is running away from them.

It’s all a game.

Pitbulls were bred to fight too. They have very strong jaw muscles. The more they move and wriggle, the more your Pitbull could take a stronger hold.

Don’t tempt fate.

Once again, it takes one bite for your dog impounded due to an attack.

If your Pitbull isn’t suited to trails where running is allowed, go for a less popular, more isolated trail.

When to take your Pitbull off their leash

Sometimes it’s not safe for you or your dog to hike and climb with him tethered to a leash. What do you do then?

Make sure your dog is trained to come immediately when called and doesn’t run far ahead. The last thing you want is to lose track of your dog while hiking.

Pitbulls are very well-behaved if they’ve had proper training. They are quick learners. They take instruction well. And, because they are such people-pleasers, they are generally eager to learn. With the right obedience training and consistency, your Pitbull can be trusted off-leash.

Read this article to discover 15 trails where you can hike off leash with your pitbull in Colorado.

When Not To Take Your Pitbull Hiking

When your Pitbull is not trained

Really, if you own this breed, take some responsibility! Take the time to train your dog so that you can both lead the fullest life together.

When your Pitbull has a strong prey drive

They will be hard to control if they see squirrels, birds, or other wildlife on the hiking trail.

When your Pitbull can get aggressive

If your canine companion is aggressive in any way toward people or animals, leave them home.

Lunging, barking or snarling at fellow hikers or their canine companions, will mean you and your Pitbull won’t be welcome in many outdoor areas and trails.

If your dog is a constant barker, their noise will spoil the quiet of your nature walk, and annoy others looking for peace and quiet.

Pitbulls Aren’t As Dangerous As Their Owners Can Be

There’s a view that Pitbulls are dangerous dogs.

It’s my opinion that the owners of Pitbull dogs make them dangerous not the dog itself. If I see a young guy walking his Pitbull on a very thick chain and the owner looks like trouble (not the dog), I have crossed to the other side of the road with my dogs.

I have heard the stories of Pitbulls being aggressive towards other dogs.

First hand, I have witnessed the bloodied mess after a Pitbull attacked another dog and the owner didn’t even care! They just walked off!

I have also met Pitbulls rescue dogs (ex-fighters) who are the most gentle and affectionate dogs.

If a Pitbull is aggressive, it’s the dog owner that has made Pitbulls fight to the death. It’s that young guy that thinks he looks tougher walking with a Pitbull, which makes the dog dangerous. He makes the dog look tough and muscle-bound, to look like him. To boost his ego. Demo-9 gets what I’m saying:

Most people think that Pitbulls are vicious, dog fighting killers. Many people fear them because dumb ass owners and scumbag trailer trash, hip-hop gangsta wanna-be retards usually own them.


Mountain Biker Forum

It’s the Pitbull owner that is responsible for how that dog is socialized and handled. In my opinion, Pitbulls aren’t as dangerous as their owners.

I will get off my soapbox now.

Meeting a Pitbull on a hiking trail as a another dog owner

So when you meet a Pitbull hiking with their owner, check out the owner first.

You may be cautious.

I get it.

Hiking trails can be narrow. What do you do? Stop walking. Stand to the side of the trail and keep your dog behind you. Wait until that Pitbull has passed you.

Pitbulls are very protective of their owners.

If your dog is excitable or fearful, turn to them and calm them down as the Pitbull passes.

With a strong prey drive, the Pitbull may chase a dog that retreats.

Meeting another dog on a hiking trail as the Pitbull owner

As the owner of a Pitbull, what do you do when you encounter another dog owner with a worried look on their face?

Stop.

Chat.

Educate.

Let that worried person know your dog is fine with other dogs.

Let them know your dog, just like their dog, is enjoying a fun outing.

I like how Jodi, over at Bless The Bullys, encourages you to be a “Breed Ambassador” at that moment.

But don’t go overboard so that the other dog owner thinks you’re part of a cult!

Here’s a great inspirational story of Danny and his Pitbull Moose, hiking the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail:

I wanted Moose…to show that Pitbulls can be amazing creatures.

Man and Pitbull Hike The 2200 Mile Appalachian Trail

Before You Hike With Your Dog

If you’re a trekker and a Pitbull owner,  you and your friend have many exciting adventures awaiting you and are sure to bond and become great trail buddies.

But, remember that your hiking sidekick is going to need a lot of consideration, care, and feeding.

Keep the advice below in mind as you begin creating your perfect trail dog.

Pre-hike readiness

Start slow.

Brush up on obedience training, pick appropriate trails, practice trail etiquette, and build up your dog’s confidence and stamina.

Consult with your vet before your first outing to ensure that your pooch is healthy and fit.

Food and water planning

Even short day hikes will require some planning for food and water needed to sustain the activity.

This is especially important when planning backpacking trips. Your dog will need more fuel and water, and is likely to be the one packing it in.

Remember, if you are thirsty or hungry, your dog probably is, too.

Your dog pack

Most dogs are able to carry their own food, water, bowl, blanket, and other essentials.

Make sure the pack is the right size and fit for your individual dog.

Load each side evenly, and watch the weight.  

Gear considerations

You’ll likely need a roomier tent if your dog is sharing it with you.

You and your trail partner will also benefit from packing a special first-aid kit in case of emergencies.

Beware of trail hazards

Consider water safety and pack a dog vest if your dog is not a good swimmer.

Also think about climate conditions, toxic plants, other creatures, and pathogens lurking in the water or soil.

Be a Considerate Hiker

Poop and hiking with your dog

Always pack dog poop bags when hiking, and clean up after your dog. Do not leave feces on or near trails. Either bury waste or double-bag the poop bags and carry them out with you.

Better yet, have your pooch pack it back out of the National Park. You can easily slip in doggy poop bags in their doggy pack.

Follow the “no-trace” rule by burying dog waste in a 6- to 8-inch hole at least 200 feet away from water sources, camps, and trails.

Pee and hiking with your dog

Yes, there are rules about peeing on hiking trails!

While it’s difficult to enforce the 200-foot rule for urination breaks move your dog away if possible if they appear ready to pee in or next to a water source.

Controlling your dog on a hike

Do I sound like a broken record yet? Maintain control of your Pitbull companion at all times.

Be ready to step off the trail and yield the right of way to horses, runners, other hikers, mountain bikes.

Having your Pitbull leashed isn’t enough. You also need to keep control of your pooch, making sure they are calm and quiet when other people or dogs pass by.

Brushing up on obedience training before every hike will ensure that you, your Pitbull pal, and other hikers and their companions have a wonderful outdoor experience.

Other Dog Breeds That Make Good Hikers

If your heart isn’t set having a Pitbull, there are several other breeds that might be your perfect trekking partner.

There are many dog breeds that love long hours of outdoor activity during any and all weather conditions. They are typically the best choices for hiking enthusiasts looking for a very active hiking partner.

According to the American Kennel Club, if you’re looking for the perfect hiking companion, you’ll want to consider these active breeds of dogs.

The Siberian Husky

A true endurance breed, Siberians were originally bred to pull sleds long distances in the harsh Russian climate.

They are lively, powerfully built canines, always ready for a new adventure at any time.

If your hike involves extremely hot weather, you might want to leave them at home, but they are great partners for cold climates.

The Australian Shepherd

Intelligent and adventurous, this breed is always ready to go.

Aussies make excellent hiking partners, as they are very athletic, agile, eager to please, and well suited for long periods of strenuous activity.  

The Vizsla

Vizslas make an ideal choice for someone looking for an active companion.

This Hungarian hunting dog has power and drive, a need for exercise, and a love of the outdoors.

Energetic and athletic dogs, Vislas always welcome a new outdoor adventure.

The Bernese Mountain Dog

A gentle personality and agreeable nature make this powerful working breed a joy to hike with.

Originally bred for cattle driving in the frosty Swiss Alps, they enjoy strenuous activity, but don’t do as well in warmer climates.   

The Portuguese Water Dog

This affectionate and adventurous breed is happiest when getting lots of exercise.

Bred to herd fish into fishermen’s nets, retrieving nets and tackle, and serving as couriers between ship and shore, they love to work and have a natural affinity toward hiking that involves water.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback

This active, dignified hound was developed in Africa to hunt game for long distances for many hours, making them the perfect outdoor traveling companion.

They are affectionate and laid back with their family, and reserved toward strangers, meaning you aren’t likely to see much drama from them on the trail.

Related Questions

How far can I expect my dog to hike in one day?

That depends if your Pitbull regularly takes long hikes or are not used to long hikes. We explore the response to that question in this blog post.

Where can I go hiking with my dog?

Great question! Check out our detailed dog-friendly hiking guides below for locations around the U.S.

State/AreaLink to article
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Utah, Maine and VirginiaClick here
Colorado (near Grand Lake)Click here
Colorado (15 off leash options)Click here
Tennessee/Cherokee National Forest
Click here






What Pitbull hiking gear do I need?

This response applies to all dogs and not just Pitbulls. Here is my minimum gear list and my product recommendations you can buy from Amazon.com.

ItemBrand and model
Biodegradable dog poop bagsEarth Rated Dog Poop Bags
Collapsible dog bowl for water and foodRuffwear Quencher Cinch Top
Dog backpackMountainsmith K-9
Dog bootiesRuffwear Grip Tex
Dog first aid kitRC pet products pet First Aid Kit
Dog leashRuffwear Crag leash
Dog water bottleHighwave AutoDogMug
No pull harnessRuffwear Front Range
No pull harness with handleRuffwear Web Master
Paw waxMushers Secret
Pet sunscreenEpi-Pet Sun Protector 
Pet sunscreenWolfe & Sparky Natural 

Even if you don’t plan to be hiking after the sun sets, I would always pack a safety LED dog collar and a head torch. Always be prepared.

What is a good leash to buy?

National Parks often require a dog to be on a leash less than 6 foot long.

I recommend a long-ish waist-worn leash (if your Pitbull is not a puller). The Ruffwear Crag Leash, also known as the Slackline Leash, is a perfect choice. It’s adjustable in length to up to 6 feet so it meets the National Parks requirement.

It does transform into a hands-free waist leash, which I find more comfortable and convenient.

If you like to jog with your dog, the Crag can also be used for running. So it’s versatile too!

What is a good no-pull harness to buy?

If your Pitbull pulls you along when walking, then the leash will need to be really strong or you could use a no-pull harness as well as a leash.

If you hike is mainly on a trail, my first choice for a harness for your Pitbull is the Ruffwear Front Range All Day Adventure Harness. The front and back clips are very strong, and the webbing in the chest area is also reinforced. This makes this harness suitable for a muscular dog like a Pitbull. You can attach 2 leashes if necessary to control bad pull behavior.

Pitbulls are very athletic and strong but they do have short legs. This can be challenging if the hike involves clambering over rocks or boulders. If this is the kind of trail you favor, I recommend a harness with a handle, like the Ruffwear Web Master, so you can lift up your pup when required. 

See the Ruffwear Web Master harness in action when hiking the Catherdral Rock Trail in Sedona below. You can see how the handle helps to keep your dog secure on steep sections of climbs and lift them up where necessary (around 2 seconds into this video).

The Ruffwear Web Master Pro Harness is used to support the well-trained dogs in avalanche rescue teams. The dogs assist their handlers to search and rescue skiers and snowboarders across the U.S. and Canada. The Web Master Pro is finished to a more professional and heavy-duty standard than the Web Master. And for that reason, it is a more expensive harness.

Does my Pitbull need sunscreen when hiking?

I say yes, especially white Pitbulls. Now which sunscreen is best?

You have 2 options:

  1. Sunscreen for babies
  2. Sunscreen specific for pets.

Best baby sunscreen options

When you are hiking with your dog in the sun, use a baby sunscreen that is non-greasy. It should be free of:

  • Parabens
  • Zinc oxide
  • Fragrance.

I’ve read in forums that Pitbull owners have used these baby sunscreens with good results.

  • Aveeno
  • Banana Boat for Infants
  • Neutrogena.

You can easily pick up these sunscreens at the drug store.

Best pet sunscreen option

I’d recommend the Epi-Pet Sun Protector. It’s FDA compliant. It’s a non-greasy and non-oily spray so it’s really easy to apply to your Pitbull.

Want a more natural sunscreen? Wolfe and Sparky has no chemicals like zinc oxide, titanium oxide, sulfates, parabens, and alcohol. The less chemicals, the safer the sunscreen is to lick. It can be applied to your dog’s nose, skin and paws to moisturize and protect from sun damage.

What to do about your Pitbull’s poo on the hike?

Dog waste is a big issue to manage in National Parks.

It’s estimated that around 30 tons of pet waste is left behind in the trails around Boulder Colorado every year.

So what can you do to dispose of your Pitbull’s poop responsibly?

Firstly how do you carry around used dog poop bags on a long day hike? Consider these 2 alternatives and the dispose of the poop in a bin in the National Park or when you get home.

  • Your dog can carry used doggy poop bags inside their backpack but this doesn’t stop the potential smell of the poo.
  • You can store in Poo Vault that attaches to your backpack, your dog’s backpack or your belt. A container like this stops the stink.

If you are hiking in an area where it’s acceptable to bury human poo, you can bury your dog fresh poo as well. Make sure you bring a trowel with you to dig a hole. Make it 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches across. You don’t want wildlife to dig it up. Also, make sure the dog poop is buried at least 200 feet from water.

Michelle

Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Lucy loves playing fetch with her ball and frisbee. Max loves swimming and could walk forever. Latte's life is simple: follow Lucy and Max and fun will happen. Michelle and her 3 dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp and swim.

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