Best Dog For Hiking Protection (Bears, Snakes, Critters)

There are plenty of reasons why we adopt any dog into our family. Being active and adventurous, I wanted a dog that would accompany me during my hikes or bike rides. It’s more fun to have a companion by your side in the great outdoors and it’s also a good idea to have them protect you from any dangerous wildlife.

What are the best dogs for hiking protection then? There are plenty of dog breeds to choose from. The most popular would be the Labrador Retriever but any dog breed with high energy level, a sense of loyalty and a penchant to explore would be perfect.

Choosing the right breed might be a bit more difficult than you imagine because different trails would most likely offer different risks for both you and your dog to take. A few of the things you need to consider are the temperature, type of wildlife, and trainability of the dog before you make a final choice. In this article, I will explore a few popular dog breeds for hiking as well as what characteristics a hiking dog should have.

Top Dog Breeds For Hiking And Their Protection Level

The decision will largely depend on how much hiking you do, the type of trail you take and the trainability of the dog. If the dog’s temperament and behavior do not match yours then it might be a good idea to look for a different dog or a different breed.

Labrador Retriever

Known to be friendly and curious, this dog breed is the most popular dog to become your perfect hiking companion. Why?

  • They are very easy to train as they are smart and eager to please their owners.
  • They love to explore and are full of life and energy when out and about.

They are called retrievers for a reason and this is due to their origin. Labradors were specifically bred to be a fisherman’s companion. Their main task was to help haul fishing nets in or retrieve fish from the water. 

As for protection during a hike, since Labrador Retrievers are very curious and love to explore, they may not be ideal to do an off-leash hike unless they are well trained to do so. They can chase small animals and get lost in the process! However, they are great at detecting dangers like snakes, bears and other dangerous animals.

There are reports of labradors that are so protective of their humans that they are seen chasing bears who are much larger than them. Can dogs outrun bears?

Expect heavy barking, low growling and other aggressive behavior from this breed when faced with dangerous animals or just danger in general. Don’t ignore these signs in your labs behavior if you want the best dog for hiking protection.

Vizsla

This dog breed is from central Europe and is known to be very active. I’d probably be too if I was originally bred to pursue and kill wild animals. Since they have very good stamina and loads of energy, they need to be exercised a lot and those are the same reasons why they are perfect hiking dogs. 

Temperate or warm climate works best with Vizslas but they can hike also during cold months. Their short coat, long and lean body makes it a bit harder for them to stay out in the cold for a long period of time compared to, let’s say a huskie.

You can expect them to demonstrate their instinct to pursue wild animals during your hike. They know how to scent prey and can take off anytime during your hike. Best to have them on a leash to avoid any problems. Watch out for these signs they are about to take off with the prey instinct activated:

  • Change in their stance – erect, tense and engaged. Maybe the fur along the top of their spin is standing on end;
  • Low level growling; and/or
  • Barking.

These are signs that this breed is sensing something out of place or dangerous nearby.

When a Vizsla is erect and tense, it’s a time for you to be on alert as well. Maybe the danger is of a human variety. That’s why we nominated the Vizsla as one of the best best dogs for hiking protection.

Siberian Huskies

This adorable breed is well known for its singing like howls. Bred to be a sled dog, they are equipped with two layers of coat that allows them to take hikes in snowy mountains and still keep warm.

Because this dog breed is used to doing hard labor, they are one of the breeds that have high endurance and energy levels. You can count on this breed to keep up with you during long hikes. Many owners guarantee that they are very entertaining and gentle towards their humans.

Being a sled dog in the cold Russian climate, Huskies are very alert and can be a great protection dog when you hike. That’s why they are high up on our list of best dogs for hiking protection.

The reason why Siberian Huskies are great hiking protection dogs is that they were trained to accompany their owners find and chase down game in the Siberian peninsula. Those instincts that allow this dog breed to be an effective companion also gives them the edge to spot danger before humans do. 

Their howls have different meanings so be sure to pinpoint the one that signals danger. Watch their ears closely, they perk up when they sense something. If they coupled this with an aggressive stance and barking then you might have something lurking closeby.

Huskies make an excellent choice when considering the best dog for hiking protection.

German Shepherds

You’ll see plenty of this dog breed being part of the K9 unit of the police force and for good reason.

They are highly trainable, very athletic and are a very intelligent breed.

Some owners have even trained their German Shepherds to hike with them off-leash, which is really great.

If you search for the best breeds to go hiking with online, I am sure you will find the German Shepherd to be one of them.

Another great thing about the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is that they are willing to do work. Most backpackers who hike with their GSD would equip their dogs with a small backpack where they can put bottled water in it. This added weight on the dog gives them a better workout experience.

But why is the German Shepherd one of the best dogs for hiking protection? They chase away snakes, critters and sometimes bears! If the dog is trained to defend and protect their owners then they can go as far as attacking the threat.

The ears and stance of this breed can literally tell you if they find something dangerous or if they are just curious about something. Listen to their growls and bark too. Those are sure signs of danger lurking somewhere.

Terriers

They are the perfect hiking companions for those who live in areas where snakes can be one of the main threats. Terrier dog breeds have been known to be aggressive towards snakes and why wouldn’t they be? They were originally trained to chase and kill. Their usual prey would be rats, mice, and other small rodents.

These dog breeds have great stamina, endurance and high energy levels which are all great qualities for a hiking companion/protector to have.

However, snowy terrains and cold weather can be a bit of a setback for terriers as most of them have very short coats.

Terriers are a feisty breed and you can easily determine when they sense danger. They bark a lot and charge their target. Also, they have this aggressive stance before they launch themselves towards the direction they sense the danger. Keep a lookout for those and you’ll be able to spot when to be worried.

Don’t underestimate small dogs like terriers. When you take them hiking with you, be sure to first read our best hiking tips with small dogs article to ensure you are prepared.

Characteristics Of A Perfect Hiking Dog

All dogs have different temperaments, trainability levels and personalities but there are a few basic things you should consider when choosing the right hiking companion and protector.

Superb Health

Younger dogs are ideally the best for hiking trips since they would have fewer health problems than older dogs. However, if you’ve been taking care of your dog’s health strictly and is going to regular checkups constantly then even older dogs can become your hiking companion.

The basic things that you need to look at before adopting a dog for this specific purpose are the type of breed, vaccination history and possible health problems that the breed may develop throughout his life. If you look at those, you will have a bird’s eye view of how much hiking your dog can do, on what kind of terrain he can hike and the health maintenance you may need to keep your pooch healthy.

Good Stamina

Age and breed play a big role in this aspect.

Younger dogs undeniably have more stamina and better endurance than older dogs.

Different dog breeds have different temperaments as well as energy levels. Those breeds that belong to the working dog category would be a good breed to look for your dog companion/protector during hikes. 

Hounds, terriers, pointers and other breeds that have a chase/kill or herding background will have enough stamina to accompany you on hikes and backpacking trips.

The great thing about these breeds too is that they have a very keen sense when dangerous animals are near.

Hounds particularly know how to scent, locate and keep their target in one place until the human arrives.

Terriers are aggressive towards small critters, rodents, and snakes and can easily give you a heads up when one is near.

Coat

The reason why you need to consider the dog’s coat when you are looking for a hiking partner is that some breeds are more resilient to the cold than others.

Let’s take the Huskies and Malamutes for example. They are dog breeds that originated in the extremely harsh and cold climates of Siberia and Alaska. With that, their coat is designed to trap body heat better and therefore makes them perfect hiking companion for snowy mountain trails or cold-weather hikes. 

On the other hand, Vizsla or a Labrador breed is perfect for lush, green and rocky mountain trails where the weather is warm and humid. These breeds have a thin coat that allows them to cool down far better than other dog breeds with thicker coats.

Related Questions

What are the things I should bring during a hike with my dog?

The most important thing you should bring is plenty of water for you and your dog.

Of course, if you bring water, you must have plenty of snacks too.

And if you are hiking with a leashed dog an extra leash is a must.

Poop bags are also part of your list and then, of course, a handy first aid kit.

Since your in the wild, bringing a gun might be a good call, since these can be used to scare off bears, wolves and other dangerous animals.

Can I hike with my dogs in National Parks in the U.S.?

Check out our article on this topic here.

How many miles can a dog hike in 1 day?

We’ve written a detailed article on this topic here.

Conclusion

There you have it! All you need to remember is that you have to match your hiking dog to your hiking needs and surroundings. This way, you will pick the correct breed and dog temperament that will meet your expectations. Keep in mind that being a dog owner or fur parent as many calls it is a big responsibility. We are talking about a living, breathing and feeling being that you will take care of for as long as is needed.

Epilogue – Where To Next?

Now that you’re prepared to hike with a companion dog that will be loyal, trustworthy and protect you, where will you go hiking?

We’ve prepared some expert dog-friendly hiking guiges for around the U.S. that you may find useful. And we’re very specific about the type of wildlife you could encounter along the way!

DOG-FRIENDLY HIKING GUIDES
Name and link to the articleState covered
Can You Hike With Dogs In National Parks?Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Utah, Maine and Virginia
Top Rated Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails Near Grand Lake CoColorado
Hiking With Dogs Off-Leash in Colorado (15 Epic Hikes)Colorado

Enjoy your next adventure!



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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