Who is the one person you can always count on to go for a hike whenever you feel like it? Well, it’s not a person. It’s man’s best friend: your dog. A fit, healthy dog will likely be more excited to hit the trail than you. Most dog breeds will enjoy a jaunt in the woods, but some dogs have backcountry survival in their blood. If you’re a hiker of the avid variety, you need to choose a dog that will be comfortable in the forest and on mountain trails. You’ll need a dog with good recall (comes when called) so it won’t go chasing madly off after a squirrel, or worse, a mountain lion. Your dog needs to be strong and boast powerful endurance. Even the climate and conditions of your area determine which breed is best.
Bernese Mountain Dog
These giants were bred to haul carts and be helpful as working dogs on a farm. They’re said to be capable of pulling 10 times their body weight. If you like to carry a bunch of gear on your adventures, look no further than a Bernese. They are affectionate and intelligent and come with a long silky coat to withstand cold temperatures—perfect for high altitude conditions
This dog was originally bred to hunt lions in Africa. They are sometimes referred to as the Navy SEALS of dogs, and can handle the roughest of terrain with thick foot pads. They can also withstand high temperatures better than most other breeds.
Agility, high-energy, and unmatched obedience put Australian Shepherds on a pinnacle above other breeds. Herding cattle is a tough job, especially in disagreeable weather and tough terrain. Steep inclines and long excursions will just be entertaining to this herding creature.
If tough, snowy terrain is your game, the Alaskan Malamute is your companion. They are able to endure temperatures 70 degrees below 0! Their huge paws act like snowshoes while their sharp claws grip ice like ice axes. The Siberian Husky gets an honorable mention here, but the Malamute is slightly larger and stronger.
The Vizsla is a very active breed that is a super strong swimmer. You need to be an active person to handle this breed or they will run you into the ground from exhaustion. If you can keep up with a Vizsla, they will be right there by your side. Take a doggie coat if you end up in a cold place.
These breeds love just to get out and play more than anything. They were originally bred to retrieve waterfowl for hunters, so bring a good stick or Frisbee along your hike. Like the Vizsla, the lab needs a lot of exercise or else he or she will gain weight quickly.
Portuguese Water Dog
If hiking near water is your cup of tea, this is a dog for you. These canines herded fish into nets, retrieved fishermen’s lures and tackle, and transported messages between ships. They love being within sight of their owners.
Whatever dog breed you choose, be sure to check local laws and regulations about pets before heading to the trail.