As a hiker, you know there is nothing better than getting a chance to explore the outdoors. Connecting with nature and experiencing the beauty that surrounds you can be hard to beat, unless of course you can share that experience with your four-legged friend.
Having a dog hike along with you gives you companionship and joy unlike any other. Finding the best dog to hike off leash though, can be a challenge.
Not only does your dog need to be strong and able to endure a good hike, but your dog must be obedient and willing to hike alongside you. Let’s take a closer look at what to consider when picking a hiking companion, and the best dog breeds to hike with you off-leash.
What To Look For When Considering Outdoors Dog Breeds
While there certainly is no such thing as a bad dog, there is however a bad dog for hiking off-leash. When selecting a breed of dog for a hiking companion, it is important to find a dog that will be obedient.
Your dog must be able to respond well to your leadership, and be willing to follow commands along the hike. Your dog must know basic commands, such as recall, to be able to come back when called.
Further, look for dogs that have a pack mentality. This usually means that these dogs will look to you as the leader, and will listen to your commands.
Another key factor when selecting a dog for off-leash hiking is the dog’s activity level. While a couch potato pup is alright for some people, if you are an avid hiker a couch potato might have a hard time keeping up with the pace you set.
Look for a dog with an eager mind and lots of energy. This will ensure your doggo is able to accompany you along any length journey.
Lastly, when selecting the best breed of dog for off-leash hiking, try to find a dog that is social around other people, pets, or children. Often, other hikers are along the trail and have their own families or pets with them.
If you dog is off-leash, the last thing you want is for your dog to get in a tussle with other hikers or animals. Work with the dog as a puppy to properly socialize him or her.
The more people, pets, and surroundings the dog will get to experience when he or she is young, the better socialized he or she will be. So, let us help you with which dog breeds can be trusted off leash and are least likely to run away from you on the trail.
The Best Off-Leash Hiking Dogs
Below, we have put together our list of the best dogs to use for off-leash hiking. These dogs all exhibit at least some of the above mentioned traits, making them the very best hiking dogs.
Of course, everyone is different, so be sure to consider your own lifestyle and hiking needs before selecting a dog.
1. Labrador Retriever
Labs are great, all-around dogs. Not only are they loving and affectionate, but they are incredibly intelligent too.
Their affectionate nature generally makes them friendly with other people and animals, a key characteristic for being a good candidate as a hiking companion. Further, these dogs seem to have unlimited energy, and love to be outdoors.
Their thick coat and durable paws make them able to hike through all weather conditions, rain or snow. Plus, their intelligence can make them easy to train, so recall commands will be easy for this dog to learn.
2. German Shorthaired Pointer
This breed of dog was created for the long-haul. A large and hardy breed, the German Shorthaired Pointer was developed as the ideal hunting companion.
Both rugged and loyal, this breed of dog will stay close to his owner, awaiting the next command. This dog craves long hikes and the outdoors, so it makes a perfect candidate as a dog to hike off-leash.
Plus, the German Shorthaired Pointer is incredibly intelligent, able to pick up on his owner’s demands quickly. This breed of dog is very social, and happy to meet new people and dogs along the trail.
3. Irish Terrier
Certainly not a common breed, the Irish Terrier is a small, spirited, and adventurous little dog. This dog has a very easy going temperament, which makes him a very “go with the flow” kind of dog.
This makes him perfectly adapted to life on the trail. Plus, his easy going personality makes him happy to meet new friends along the hike.
The dog can be independent at times, which means that it will require ongoing and regular training to make sure this dog is able to hike off-leash. However, the Irish Terrier responds well to authority and has a pack dog mentality.
While this dog is prone to wondering off from time to time, rest assured that the Irish Terrier will still come when called.
4. Border Collie
Easily one of the smartest dog breeds in existence, the Border Collie is quick to learn new commands. This will make training the dog to hike off-leash along the trail very easy.
However, the Border Collie has an extremely high energy level, so this is a dog that will require long and regular hikes. Its intelligence can also make this breed prone to an independent streak.
The Border Collie is not a very social dog and dislikes strangers. Plus, the dog does not have the patience for small children, and prefers to be accompanied by older children or adults along the hike.
5. Australian Shepherd
Bred to work, the Australian Shepherd is constantly looking for something to keep him active. With boundless energy, running alongside you as you hike is a perfect way to redirect his energy.
The Australian Shepherd will happily stick by your side for hiking, or trail running. Both eager to please and intelligent, the Australian Shepherd is content to simply make his owner happy.
This is a social dog who understands the pack mentality, and often does well hiking with other off-leash dogs as well.
6. Golden Retriever
Generally considered one of the most popular breed of dogs in the United States, it is no wonder the Golden Retriever made our list as one of the best dogs to hike with off-leash.
Not only is this dog intelligent, able to learn new commands very quickly, but this is an energetic and fun-loving dog. Plenty social, the Golden Retriever seems to make new friends wherever he goes.
This dog has plenty of energy and is happy to spend the day outside along with his family. Plus, the Golden Retriever is a big bodied and strong dog, able to hike through all weather conditions with incredible endurance.
Although often considered a dainty dog breed, the Poodle was actually originally bred to be a hunting dog. This versatile dog is able to take on any terrain, from mountains, to plains, to even water.
The Poodle is durable and intelligent. In fact, the Poodle was once entered as a sled dog in the Iditarod!
Quickly able to learn new commands, the Poodle will pick up the idea of walking off-leash in no time at all. Plus, this dog has endless energy and will enjoy playing a quick game of fetch while along the trail.
Both loyal and social, the Poodle not only wants to please his owner, but is gentle and playful with strangers and other dogs too. This makes the Poodle an excellent breed of dog to learn to hike off-leash through any environment.
8. Catahoula Hound
The Catahoula Leopard Hound is the only breed of dog that originates from Louisiana. Originally bred to be a guard dog, the Catahoula Hound is incredibly loyal to his family.
Although this breed has a tendency to be a bit independent from time to time, its loyalty always brings this dog back to his owner. With lots of energy, the Catahoula Hound is happy to accompany his owner on a long hike through the forest.
Although its independent nature means this dog may have the tendency to run off, just outside a comfortable distance, its loyalty and training will always bring the dog back.
This dog does have a tendency to be cool with strangers and other dogs, so be sure to properly socialize your Catahoula Hound from a young age.
A Boxer is a big, and power dog, but don’t let that discourage you from adding this breed to your list of dogs that hike well off-leash. The Boxer is a silly, active, and fun-loving guy that is willing to take on any new adventure.
This breed of dog enjoys being outdoors exploring. It has an inquisitive nature and is incredibly intelligent. With very little training, the Boxer will be able to follow your lead and learn to hike off-leash rather quickly.
The Boxer also is extremely social, and often does well with other pets and all ages of family members. This breed of dog is a durable dog that can withstand even the most rigorous hiking alongside its family.
Often referred to as a “Velcro Dog” the Vizsla wants nothing more than to be attached to his owner’s hip. Traditionally used as a hunting dog, this breed of dog does particularly well outdoors.
It has a sleek, fine coat of fur which rarely picks up sticks and brambles along the trail, making clean up a breeze. Plus, these dogs have plenty of energy, and can often outlast their owners on hikes.
The Vizsla is very intelligent and can quickly pick up new commands, so teaching it to hike off-leash almost comes as second nature to this dog. This breed of dog can be sensitive, so always use positive reinforcement when training new commands or tricks.
11. Belgian Sheepdog
Like other herding dogs, the Belgian Sheepdog is energetic and willing to go on any length hike with his owner. Loyal to a fault, the Belgian Sheepdog is undyingly devoted to his owner.
This can make the dog particularly easy to train. The dog simply wants to please his or her owner, and will go to any length to do so.
Couple their loyalty with their intelligence, and this dog is quite easy to train for hiking off-leash. The only downside to this breed of dog is that it can be shy at times toward other dogs and people. F
or this reason, it is very important to socialize the Belgian Sheepdog at an early age. Exposing this dog to plenty of new people, and animals will help create a more social dog to hike with you along the trail.