What Makes A Good Hiking Dog? 5 Best Traits

Hiking is a fun outdoor activity that is perfect for exercising and exploring an area. That’s one of the reasons why so many people bring their dog out with them on the trail.

Dogs are great companions and absolutely love being in nature and roaming around freely. Now you may be wondering if all dogs are capable of hiking.

What makes a good hiking dog?

Most dogs can be a good hiking dog as long as they’ve been properly trained and cared for. The best hiking dog are those that are high energy, follow orders, and are social and friendly in all environments.

Safety is very important while hiking so a dog that listens will be much safer on mountains and steep trails. But, there are some key characteristics that make a dog better suited for hiking. In this article, we’ll be exploring the physical and personality traits that make up a good hiking dog.

So if you’re considering taking your dog out with you hiking, read on!

Man Hiking With Dogs

5 Features of a Hiking Dog

1. Active

It’s hard to think about how we consider a dog active. Most dogs are happy while being outdoors, running around, and exploring an area. Some breeds are just better suited for a higher-impact exercise such as hiking and climbing. If you and your dog are out running on most days, the majority of hikes shouldn’t give you any trouble.

There are two questions you need to answer before you think about whether your dog is capable of hiking.

  • How long will the hike be?
  • How fast will you be moving?

If you aren’t certain your dog will be able to handle an all-day hike, there are plenty of opportunities for shorter distance hikes. It takes a lot of energy to complete any length hike, and even more so once you’ve been at it for a few hours.

Comfortable harness with no pulling that’s easy to use, reflective, and long-lasting.

Start out with an hour-long hike at the beginning to make it easier to judge your dog’s energy level after. This will give you a good idea of how much further you could hike while still being safe and comfortable for your dog. If they seem exhausted and out of it for the rest of the day then you know to hike for a shorter amount next time.

Active dog running

2. Responds To Leadership

While out on the trail you will no doubt run into other people or animals. In order to keep others and your dog safe, a good hiking dog will respond to leadership and listen to your commands. Hiking can be dangerous for a smaller dog, especially if they wander off out of sight.

You also can’t always be certain that other dogs will behave while out hiking, which is why I always bring a leash with me. This helps me feel confident that my dog will stay close to me and won’t wander off into trouble.

Besides seeing other dogs, you might have other wildlife encounters during these hikes. A lot of dogs have a habit of being a little too friendly with other animals, which isn’t always a good thing. If you run into more dangerous animals in the wild, you want a dog that will stay safe and listen to your verbal commands in any situation.

3. Friendly & Social

Since hiking has been gaining popularity over the last few years, it’s much harder to go through a complete hike without running into other people. You might have some secret less populated spots, but in general that’s not the case. If you have a friendly dog that gets along with most people and pets, I wouldn’t worry about this one too much.

Because of all the people that will be out hiking the same area, a friendly dog makes for a great hiking partner. You want a dog that will be friendly around other people and pets.

There may be people asking to pet your dog or other dogs trying to inspect, so make sure your dog is fine with the spotlight and isn’t aggressive towards other animals. If you are worried about other dogs, having a leash handy when you get to those higher traffic areas is one tip I can give you.

Husky and Chihuahua

4. Carries Gear

When bringing your dog hiking there are some items that you’re recommended to carry. These items will help keep your dog comfortable and safe during the trek. If it’s just you and your dog hiking you might want some help with everything that you should carry.

As a starter guide, you should try to carry the following while out hiking with your dog.

  • First Aid Kit
  • Plenty of Water
  • Dog Treats
  • Leash
  • Dog Towel
  • Dog Coat(for colder temperatures)
5 foot leash built with foam handles that’s secure and perfect for keeping your dog close on those active hiking trails.

That’s quite a list of items to carry by yourself. Having a larger dog that is able to carry some weight can be helpful for hiking. Smaller dogs may actually fewer items, so you could manage to carry it on your own. The list could be narrowed down, but I recommend bringing those items at least for the first couple of hikes just to be safe.

Dog Hiking With Gear

5. Handles Multiple Weather Conditions

One factor that makes a good hiking dog is one that can handle different climates and weather conditions. Some dogs might be fine with hiking during the fall, but not during those hot summer days. For consistent hiking, you’ll want your dog to be able to join you no matter the weather.

If you have a dog that has trouble when it’s hot and humid, don’t worry there are other options you can try. Hiking in the early morning will be much cooler with less direct sun to deal with. The same goes for hiking more towards the night once the temperatures have dropped.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, the top characteristics that make a great hiking dog! This isn’t an exact rule book to follow, there are definitely many exceptions. The bottom line is to think about the intensity of your hike and if your dog will feel comfortable for the entire trip.

I hope you at least give it a try! There’s nothing quite like being out on a beautiful day hiking with your dog right by your side!