Dogs are great backpacking companions, and there are hundreds of breeds of dogs to choose from. Some of them are more outdoorsy breeds than others. So if you’re considering buying or adopting a dog to fit in with your outdoorsy lifestyle, you’ve landed in the right place!
So what are the best dogs to take backpacking?
- German Shepherd
- Siberian Husky
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Border Collie
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Alaskan Malamute
- Standard Poodle
- Catahoula Leopard Dog
- Mixed breed dogs.
These dogs are all great backpacking companions for when you want to hit the trails, but which breed is the best breed for you? Read on to find out more about these active breeds of dog and which one might be suitable for your lifestyle.
Recognized for decades for their high intelligence and endurance, German Shepherds were originally a herding breed who evolved into a dog that is prized for its service attributes. At this point in history, it’s heavily deployed in police and military work.
German Shepherds are used in all kinds of strenuous human working activities, from search and rescue to bomb detection.
On the home front as pets, these dogs are easy to train and are large enough to be able to carry several supplies in their own packs should you take them backpacking.
However, German Shepherds can be prone to hip dysplasia, which can prevent them from hiking. Make sure that you buy or adopt a puppy that has been certified against hip dysplasia to avoid having problems down the road.
Siberian Huskies love to work. And they adore the outdoors, so this makes them the perfect backpacking companion for when you’re ready to head outdoors. Used for centuries as sledding dogs, Huskies have the stamina needed for long hikes.
One thing to consider if you’re thinking about getting a husky is their coat. Because they were bred for inclement northern climates, a husky can suffer in southern climates or hot temperatures, even with adequate shade and water.
Huskies are also notorious escape artists and are capable of jumping very high. That is why escape-proofing your backyard is vital if you intend to keep one. Once loose, a Husky does not have good homing instincts and can roam very far very quickly, so identification is crucial on their collar.
They also require lots of attention and activity to keep from getting into trouble, as they have a tendency to be mischievous. So give your Husky a job to do, or they might get creative and invent their own, like tunneling through your drywall.
American Pit Bull Terrier
American Pit Bulls have gotten a bad reputation due to their use in illegal dog fighting rings. Bit these fuzzy land hippos are, for the most part, dauntless and affectionate friends. Loving with family and protective of the home, a Pit Bull Terrier is as good as the people raising it.
Their endurance and stocky size make them a good choice for backpacking with a dog, as they can carry their own weight. Pit Bulls love to be with their owners, so if you want a dog that wants to be with you, this is a good breed to pick.
However, due to their reputation, many apartment complexes and home owner’s associations (HOAs) have regulations against Pit Bulls and similar fighting breeds, so make sure it is legal for you to own one before you purchase or adopt.
American Pit Bull Terriers can also have mixed temperaments around other dogs. So they can cause a lot of damage if they do get in a dog fight. If you have other dogs in the household or you encounter other dogs on the hiking trail, this is something to take into consideration.
These tireless dogs were bred to retrieve the kills of men with guns (mostly game like ducks, pheasants). However, they are smart enough to do just about anything.
Coming in a variety of solid coat colors (white, golden yellow, chocolate brown, or black) Labrador Retrievers are the “can do” breed you’re looking for if you want to spend time outdoors.
Because of their affable personalities and smarts, they are popular choices as service dogs and have been employed in all kinds of jobs alongside humans. A popular role that they play in society is as working dogs in service to the blind and handicapped.
One thing to be watchful for if you get a Labrador Retriever is to make sure that you do not leave things around for them to chew on and swallow. Labs are notorious for swallowing socks, rags, children’s toys, rocks, and basically anything they can fit into their slobbering mouths. It’s just that instinct cutting in from retrieving things, well that’s what I think!
To avoid expensive vet bills, keep small objects out of swallowing range (the same as you would for a toddler) and be sure to keep toxic or dangerous foods out of reach, such as chocolate or cooked bones. These can lead to serious illness or death if ingested.
Like their cousins the Labrador Retriever, golden retrievers are popular choices for service dogs and share their gentle loving personalities as well as their intelligence. One concern with keeping goldens that you don’t have to worry about with labs is their coat.
Their lustrous, gleaming golden coats look great but do require a bit more maintenance and upkeep versus a Labrador Retriever to avoid snags. So when you are hiking expect twigs, burrs, thistles and other things to get caught in their fur.
If you’re looking for a friendly dog to take gorgeous mountainside selfies with, a golden is going to be your best bet.
Golden retrievers are highly trainable and reliable, so if you’re looking for a dog to take outdoors that can eventually be trained for no-leash hiking or a strong recall, a Golden Retriever would be a good option.
While these herding dogs are a bit smaller in frame than some of the dogs on this list, what they lack in size they make up for in tenacity.
Widely held up as the most intelligent breed of dog ever created, Border Collies can be taught to do anything you want them to do, and quickly.
The downside of this sharp intellect is boredom. Border Collies are not good apartment dogs, and along with large spaces, they need lots of one-on-one interaction and exercise.
Border Collies require a lot more exercise than the average dog, so if you are an avid hiker who goes out regularly, they could be a good choice for you. If you only go out occasionally, you might want to try a breed with less energy.
If you have the time and energy to put into a Border Collie, it is amazing how trainable they are. Whether you simply want your Border Collie to carry some of the backpacking supplies or you want to teach them more complicated survivalist techniques for the outdoors, such as stalking prey, you can manage it with a Border Collie.
Australian Cattle Dog
Like Border Collies, Australian Cattle Dogs are a high energy breed that requires a ton of exercise and training. If you are an experienced backpacker or hiker who wants a constant companion to act as your shadow on the trail, an Australian Cattle Dog is worth checking out.
Bred to herd cattle by nipping hard at their heels, Australian Cattle Dogs are both smart and willful. They can be easy to train because of their intelligence, but they are also smart enough to know that they can disobey orders without serious consequences. That’s the wilful side coming through too. So training these dogs can sometimes be a battle of wills.
Once they are trained, however, it is hard to find a breed of dog that can be more reliable off-leash and is more protective of its owner.
One thing to take into consideration is that Australian Cattle Dogs tend to be one person dogs and bond with one owner over all other people. For single people who want a backpacking companion, this can be the friendship of a lifetime.
Larger, stronger, and more resilient than Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes were bred for heavy sledding in snow country, and it shows. These fluffy, wolf-like dogs are great companions for backpacking and the outdoors, especially if you live in a colder climate.
Malamutes are strong hiking buddies and can carry their weight but may suffer if you live in a warmer climate.
Like Huskies, they shed a ridiculous amount of hair, so if you’re going to be keeping your Malamute inside, that’s something to take into consideration.
Another consideration is that like Huskies, Malamutes can be wanderers and escape artists when they get bored. Be careful. Ensure the yard you plan to keep a Malamute in has high fences and no weaknesses.
People don’t often think of Poodles when they think of outdoorsy dogs, but they’d be wrong. I’ve owned three Poodles and they loved the outdoors, Max especially. He could out-walk, out-swim and out-chase birds, compared to the other poodles I’ve owned. If there was a muddy puddle around, he would find it and walk through it – ugh!
Originally bred as waterfowl retrieving dogs similar to Labradors, Standard Poodles combine the intelligence of a working dog with the beauty and grace of a show dog.
Their hypoallergenic coats are a great advantage if you intend to keep your Poodle indoors, as they will not shed. I suffer from asthma, so Poodles were great for inside our home.
Poodles are also affectionate dogs that are very eager to learn, and large enough to handle backpacking easily.
However, if you’re going to be taking them on outdoor adventures often, it would be advisable to keep them groomed in a “puppy cut” or similar short style to avoid them accumulating burrs, twigs, thistles and anything else their coats could collect. Their fur is so fine, I found things easily got caught.
Poodles love to camp near lakes or beaches for swimming and romping purposes since they are water dogs at heart.
If you’re looking for something with the sass of a Border Collie or Australian Cattle Dog in a slightly smaller package, then look no farther than the Corgi.
Corgis are a herding dog from the United Kingdom that make up for their short stature with endurance and a good attitude.
Corgis make enthusiastic hiking companions. So it’s fun to go backpacking with a Corgi. They can keep going for a long time with their legs so close to the ground (they’re especially good in uneven terrain).
However, they might not be a good option for apartments, as they have a tendency to bark.
Like many herding breeds, Corgis are fairly easy to train and are an affectionate, loving dog. These dogs are a good choice for any backpacker who doesn’t mind being able to pack down their dog with a few less supplies in exchange for an extra dose of personality.
Remember, good things come in small packages!
Portuguese Water Dog
Recently popularized by being adopted into the White House by the Obama family, a Portuguese Water Dog is a good breed option for those who want to curly fluffy coat of a poodle, but also want the rugged hardiness of a retriever.
These black and white dogs are a good choice for outdoor activities, especially those involving any kind of water such as a lake or river. If you want to go rafting or kayaking, this is the dog that will want to go with you.
Portuguese water dogs are hypoallergenic like poodles, so they are a good choice to people with sensitivities to pet dandruff, and they will not shed. However, they do require intensive grooming to avoid getting mats in their fur and having other issues.
Catahoula Leopard Dog
This gorgeous American breed of dog is a type of hound bred specifically to tree small game such as raccoons or possums. They come in a kaleidoscope of both coat and eye colors, meaning you’ll never see two that look exactly alike.
Originating from the swamps of Louisiana in the U.S.A., these rough and tumble dogs are active and a great option for people who like to backpack and hike. They are an especially good choice for warmer climates due to their short coat length, and this can help keep them clean in the woods too.
While they are a good choice for a companion dog, Catahoula Leopard Dogs require firm, consistent training and socialization in puppyhood, as this breed has a tendency towards territoriality that can lead to aggression if not checked early.
However, if they are socialized properly and trained, Leopard Dogs are gentle and affectionate family pets who are good with children and excellent watchdogs.
Bred centuries ago to run alongside horse-drawn carts, Dalmatians are a breed to consider if you are wanting to do long hiking expeditions or other outdoors activities requiring endurance.
These unique, eye-catching spotted dogs may have been popularized by film, but they are born athletes. While their origins are somewhat mysterious, we do know that Dalmatians have been used as coach and carriage dogs for hundreds of years.
If you plan on jogging or running outdoors, a Dalmatian is sure to keep up with you. Because they were bred to protect roadside carriages, they will act as both watchdog and guard dog.
However, be careful to test for temperament if you decide to get a Dalmatian. This is because this breed can be somewhat highly strung and prone to aggression as a result of bad breeding practices. Puppies should also be socialized early and often to encourage gentle behavior.
Irish wolfhounds are not as easy to find as some other breeds of dog. But once you have found one, you’ll fall in love. Fierce, loyal, and humongous, these gentle giants would take a bullet for their people.
Though they are often depicted in paintings as lounging in aristocratic settings (and wolfhounds can be couch potatoes for sure), wolfhounds were initially bred to track and run down large dangerous game such as wolves, wild boar, and bears.
Their large size and endurance for the chase make them a good choice for backpackers and people who want to spend time with them outdoors. This is because their rugged coats and strength make them suitable for long hours of hiking.
However, it should be noted that due to their size, wolfhounds tend to have a shorter lifespan than some smaller breeds of dog, so they may only live to be eight or ten years old.
Mixed Breeds and Adoption
Before purchasing a breed of dog for backpacking, it can be worth it to check out local pet adoption agencies and animal control to see what dogs are available there. Many mixed breed dogs are well-suited for hiking and backpacking outdoors with the right training and guidance.
Rescues and animal shelters are bogged down with Labrador Retriever and Shepherd mixes. These mixed breed shelter dogs are not only usually healthier than a purebred dog due to their more diverse genetics. They are also usually comprised of breeds that are suitable for an active lifestyle.
Not only can you get a suitable mixed breed dog from an animal shelter, you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that you saved an animal’s life. If you prefer a purebred dog to a mixed breed, many rescues and shelters have purebred animals available to adopt as well.
Most local rescues and animal shelters have online databases where you can look at all the animals they have available, so do both yourself and the dog a favor and check out a local shelter before buying a puppy from a breeder.
Who knows? You might just find your next best friend and backpacking companion.
Where To Next?
Wanna know the best places to take your dog for hiking, backpacking and camping? We’ve got you covered. Check out our detailed guides below.
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