Good Dog Breed for Hikers

11:00 p.m. on April 14, 2008 (EDT)
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Hey, how many of you have a dog and take him hiking? I am considering a german shepard or a husky, also want to hear about other breeds that make good hiking buddies.

Your thoughts and opinions?

6:33 a.m. on April 15, 2008 (EDT)
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As an owner today of a Border collie, Im biased toward that breed. But before this dog we had 2 Siberian Huskies, and I was active in a club for sledge dog owners.

There are pro and cons to every type of dog. It depends how your family situation is, how active you are in walking in the mountains, and where you want to walk.

Next weekend I will be skiing with my wife a 200 km trip in the border district of Norway and Sweden. We use our dog for pulling a pulk. He is strong and pulls 30 kg, but he weighs also 30 kilos. In the summer he carries a back-pack of about 10 kilos.

The pro side for BC is the habit of not chasing sheep or reindeer and elks. He is also easy to train, always eager to do what I want him to do. The con is that he needs a trip every day, and that he always finds something to play with. A wood-stick, a lump of ice. Only when he pulls the pulk is he not playing.

The climate in most of US is not so hard as in the mountains where I go, so any dog that is active will have enough fur to manage hiking trips. The short-legged and miniature breeds will not be able to walk long distances in stony terrain. You have to be prepared to carry the dog yourself if you have some of these breeds. The best advice is to contact the breed club of the dog you plan to get, and listen to their advice. Be sure to ask also the unpopular questions, and be realistic as to how active you will be in training and combing the fur. Most people overestimate their involvement.

Remember the dog will live for 10 to 15 years. And there is always the problem of trips abroad, friends that are allergic, shoppingcenters not allowing dogs etc.

But it is the best friend you can have on a hike. Never unvilling to go out in any weather. I think a trip in the mountains without a dog, is just half the fun as with the dog. I like dogs, and I recommend it to all if they are prepared for the work involved.

12:50 p.m. on April 15, 2008 (EDT)
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My Border Collies are terrible hiking partners.

They keep chasing armadillos and for some strange reason they think it's a lot of fun to flip over gopher turtles.

I would think a Lab would make a great hiker.

1:36 p.m. on April 15, 2008 (EDT)
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Otto, I am surprised you have a border collie. My sister has owned them for years. She trains them as well for other people and now has a grown one and a puppy.

As you well know, they constantly run around getting into things and need a lot of attention. I can't picture one pulling a pulk. Yours is a big one. I don't think any of my sister's dogs have been anywhere near that big, but it has been a long time since I saw them.

I have seen threads on this topic on other boards and the dogs people have vary widely. Most of them seem to have a medium to big dog like a Husky or Lab or some kind of mutt. I used to day hike with a friend's two huskies years ago and they were great. She also has a smaller mutt of some kind who liked to hike too, but that one would wander off sometimes if you didn't keep an eye on her all the time.

7:32 p.m. on April 15, 2008 (EDT)
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Yes Tom I know he's big. People always ask me which kind of breed is crossed with a BC when they see him. But he's 12 generations of pure swedish BC. They have bigger BC's there than here in Norway. Btw he's not the biggest I'v seen there. Normal male BC is 20-22 kilos.

But for me he is "perfect". Pulling the pulk is no big deal for him. We have been on longer trips, and he is never sore on the paws either. Always playful even after a long day of pulk-pulling. I compare him to the two Siberian Huskies(SH)I had before, and he's just as eager to pull as they were.

SH is more suited for winter conditions. They sleep out in the snow in -30C, no problem. But in summer be sure to have a strong leash, for SH have a reputation of hunting absolutely all kinds of animals, sheeps, reindeer, elks, oxes and CATS. I know 1st hand!

To EdG: we do not have those animals where i hike. But if he's without the job of carrying or pulling, he tends to be more interested in mice and small animals. May be it would help to let your BC's carry some weight. With training all breeds can carry 1/3 of their weight in a backpack I'm told.

9:08 p.m. on April 15, 2008 (EDT)
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We have a coon hound and she's great hiking and camping. She doesn't mind carrying a pack and stays on trail well. If she does stray, we can always find her baying at some poor creature!

11:15 a.m. on April 16, 2008 (EDT)
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I have a white German Shepherd and she has been a great hiking mate. My girlfriend and myself went on a 65 mile hike this summer and she trotted between the both of us the whole time and carried her own food in a dog pack. She's pretty mellow and doesn't wander off or get lost. I know Husky's can have a problem with this.
She did love to chase chipmunks, squirrels, and deer, but (fortunately) minded her own business when we saw a black bear. She didn't seem to notice it.
All in all, they're great dogs in terms of obedience and demeanor. They will be very protective of you, especially around other animals, and will be very loyal.
She does shed a lot. Be prepared for a lot of hair in the house and in your tent if you get a German Shepherd. I have not donned a dark colored fleece in 3 years now. I also got a wagon for transportation so that she could go in the back and not get the seats hairy. If you need to commute to your hiking areas, I would consider finding a way to contain the dog hair.

6:41 p.m. on April 16, 2008 (EDT)
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Dogs, like people, are individuals, so you might find the perfect hiking companion in a mutt (hybrid vigor!) or a breed that is least expected.
However, applying logic never hurts. Most of the hound group, both gaze-hounds (e.g., saluki, greyhound) and scent-hounds (e.g., beagle, coonhound) are going to be distracted and not easy to train to walk ahead without leash (holding a leash on a rough trail is a drag, but legally required sometimes). Looking at the AKC groups, ( ) the herding group seems to have the most potential because they have been bred for the necessary qualities of a good hiking companion -- intelligent, not too noisy, strong, very good stamina, very dependable, loyal, etc. They do not, however, cook.

If you ever get the chance to see Border Collies working sheep, you will perceive a near-perfect relationship/comradery between man and animal.
IMO, the most adaptable, dependable, hardiest, medium-coat, low-maintenance breed is the Australian Cattle Dog (a.k.a., Blue Heeler). A lot of the Dingo still shows, but a well-trained dog of this breed is a blessing (a poorly-trained dog of any breed is a potential curse). Since these dogs are so intelligent, the owner really needs to be well-trained themselves.

6:50 p.m. on April 17, 2008 (EDT)
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The time you spend at home is much greater than the time you go hiking. Therefore the main question is to find a dog that fits into the daily situation. Living alone in a farmhouse or with 4 children in an appartment makes great difference, also in choice of dog breed. Is the dog left alone when you are at work, or is there someone at home. Some breeds may chew on carpets or shoes if they are alone and bored.

Most medium sized dogs make a good companion on hiking trips. If you want the dog to carry some of the gear and food, the weight of the dog should be 15 kg or more. Extremely great dogs like Great Dane or Newfoundlander take so much space that you must consider them as a extra person in the tent.

Some dogs have short hair, and will freeze in winter conditions. They must have an extra coat even when they walk. Only the polar breeds may sleep in the snow without freezing when they are used to it.

Yes there are many things to consider, but the main is the the family and daily living situation. The trips on a hike is just the sugar on the cake. Right now I'm on night shift, but to morrow I will go for my long skiing trip this year. Wish me good weather folks, Ill be back in 10 days.

8:56 p.m. on April 17, 2008 (EDT)
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Some good points, especially about the hiking aspect being such a small part of the dog's life.

One point of disagreement - you said, "Only the polar breeds may sleep in the snow without freezing when they are used to it." Actually, the sheep guard breeds like the Great Pyrenees, Kuvasz, etc., are well-adapted to sleeping in the snow during a winter night; they do it with a flock of sheep.

I had a Great Pyrenees that wasn't crazy about spending long periods indoors. He would often be seen in the winter, curled up outside, covered with snow, only his black nose showing. At night, he would start patrolling the 23 acres we lived on at 10:00 PM, barking his way around the perimeter for four hours. Never saw a coyote on our land.

Best regards,

12:12 a.m. on April 18, 2008 (EDT)
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I have a Australian Cattle Dog (a.k.a., Blue Heeler), she is a great dog and better hiking partner. Part of a heelers personality is to be very attached to their owner. I have not used a leash for Belle since she was one and she has always stayed within a few feet of me, whether we are on a trail or in a crowd of people. However heelers are notorious for not getting along with other dogs, especially if they are not around other dogs much. They are very smart dogs, if you ever watch some of the very well trained heelers herd it is impressive.

8:04 a.m. on April 18, 2008 (EDT)
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Good luck, Otto.

Be sure and give us a trip report after you return from your skiing trip:

11:56 p.m. on April 19, 2008 (EDT)
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I have had dogs for over 50 years and we used several breeds here in B.C. with varying degrees of success; my youngest brother, an extremely experienced and competent bushman, still prefers Labs, the black ones, over anything.

About 21 years ago, I got my first Rottweiler and that is IT for me. These are NOT dogs for novices and they COST a LOT of $$$$$ to buy, feed, train, "vet" and so forth, but, I am "hooked" on them and usually have two at once....if, I had more space I would have a dozen!

I just got a superb little bitch, she is tough and ignored last night's snowstorm here in Vancouver, B.C.; she is VERY smart, brave and quite agressive. It will take me 2.5 years to bring her to where she will be a top pack dog in B.C. wilderness and a lot of work as obedience and bear training take a lot of time and work. But, I am looking forward to having another bush dog as my pair of massive male litter mates whelped in Sept. 1999, are now only one, due to an early death and that one is my wife's baby, will not leave her side and pines every day that she is at the office.

If, you are the right kind of person for this breed, they WILL be fabulous bush dogs and will backdown any other animal that you might encounter. The problem is that they are not an easy breed to train as a G-Shep. or Lab is.

11:04 a.m. on April 27, 2008 (EDT)
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I got an Alaskan Husky, she's beautiful. I found a family who's daughter had asthma and they couldn't keep her.

So on the plus side, the dog is very well behaved. I've had her for a week now. She's very well trained, doesn't bark at all. Takes a lot to get a bark out of her and she's barked once in the whole week I've had her.

She has already killed a squirel however and almost caught one yesterday, lol.

I've taken her hiking with me on two 6 mile loops and I take her jogging each morning 2 miles.

And oddly enough, she is very well behaved inside the home. I had a problem leaving her outside, but when I tried leaving her inside, she just sat at the window all day till I came home.

So been looking at some dog packs.

12:23 a.m. on April 28, 2008 (EDT)
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I think a medium size breed will do, hybrids are great dogs if you can guess the size of them. More important than the breed is the conditioning and training you are willing to put into the relationship. A well trained dog of any "right size"breed will be a valuable hiking companiion. I recommend reading "The Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson or "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor for understanding how to train the dog using positive reinforcment. Good Luck.

11:45 p.m. on May 4, 2008 (EDT)
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To those that were astonished that I used a Border Collie for pulling a pulk, I have now posted a report and some pictures for you to see. We had a magnificent trip. Hope you enjoy the pictures, and that my english is understandable. Be free to ask questions.

To overmywaders about dogs sleeping in the snow. I was certainly not precise enough. Yes even my own Border Collie sleeps in the snow, and I know BC's that do not matter even if it is -20C.

But when it is -20C or lower and a strong storm also, the conditions are too much for most animals. This is the conditions in the mountains where I go. Even sheeps freeze to death. Only polar animals survive. I have never seen any other breeds sleeping constantly outside in Greenland, Spitsbergen and Jan Mayn. Therefore I would not recommend any other breed for these conditions.


9:43 p.m. on May 5, 2008 (EDT)
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"But when it is -20C or lower and a strong storm also, the conditions are too much for most animals. This is the conditions in the mountains where I go. Even sheeps freeze to death. Only polar animals survive. I have never seen any other breeds sleeping constantly outside in Greenland, Spitsbergen and Jan Mayn. Therefore I would not recommend any other breed for these conditions."

Otto, did you mean that your BC can sleep out in the snow, or were you thinking of another breed?

4:58 a.m. on May 7, 2008 (EDT)
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I ment my own BC. He does not matter sleeping in the snow, but he prefers to be inside. On the trip in Sweden we just let him out of the hut as there are rules for not having dogs in the citchen. Later when we checked to take him in, he was asleep outside. It was not especially cold as you can see from the report, no problem for a well coated dog like ours.

Our dog is not trained for constant outdoor life, but I have seen a BC that stayed outside even in -20C sleeping. The owner told me the dog was with the sheeps most of the time, sleeping outside with them.

I would not let my dog sleep outside in the coldest conditions even with training. For the more common winter conditions, training could enable him to sleep outside. I'd have to start in the automn as the cold nights appear. Then he would develope thicker and longer fur.

8:34 a.m. on May 7, 2008 (EDT)
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My first purebred Rough Collie, which I had from 1958 to 1973, would usually sleep outside, in the snow, by choice, at temps. that were often around 0*F and would not want to come inside. He did this until he was about 12, lived to over 15 and simply was not bothered by cold weather.

He would go on our morning newspaper delivery route in -10*F and wade through 3+ ft. deep snow with us and never seemed to mind, actually, he appeared to enjoy it.

But, although a wonderful kid's companion, Collies are not suited to the wilderness life in BC or other remote parts of Canada. You need a dog that obeys INSTANTLY, is VERY strong, tough and fearless and my ideal would be a longcoated Rottweiler, left longtailed. These DO exist, but, are out of "breed standard", so, are quite rare.

10:48 p.m. on May 21, 2008 (EDT)
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Growing up we had Shetland Sheepdogs. One was great for hiking. Never drifted out of sight and cover more distance than I could. Only problem were stream crossings.

The best canine hiking companion I had was my neighbors Chocolate Lab. Listened to all commands, was not a drifter, endless stamina and had a major fear of bear. He would pretty much glue himself to me & give me a look of anxiety if he sensed bear. One day we came to a bend on the trail. Around the corner was a fresh steaming pile of bear poop. Yukon gave me that oh s..t look, a full body giggle . Starting laughing so hard I think I embarrassed him. He turned around and slowly started walking back in the direction we came from. I followed.

9:04 p.m. on May 23, 2008 (EDT)
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This is a link to Cesar Milan, a brilliant dog trainer. He has a TV show called Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic channel in the U.S.

I have gotten great insights regarding dogs watching the show.

9:06 p.m. on May 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Hey Mikekey, I'm not a dog expert, but I spent several years going on solo trips in the southern Appalachians with my dog Boo. He is an American Akita, looks like a husky on steroids. While this breed is not for everyone, I have thoroughly enjoyed his company and ability to get around in rugged terrain. He doesn't care how cold it is, or if it's raining, or if it's dark. He just doesn't stop, even with a dog pack on. The breed is extremely loyal and eager to please.
They do however require socialization from an early age, and you must be willing to be the boss. Mine is very well behaved, and has learned to fetch numerous items from our packs on command. Taking a dog along is more work, but it is also rewarding, and a good dog will alert you to movement in the woods long before you would otherwise be aware, if at all.
I agree with some of the other comments, a lot of times it's not just the breed that matters, but how much time you invest in training and bonding with the dog.
I don't know if any of that helps you or not, but I had a blast with my dog and I bet you will too.

12:05 a.m. on May 25, 2008 (EDT)
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That is one of the FEW other breeds I would consider as a B.C. bush dog, however, finding the right breeder to obtain good stock here is difficult. I like Akitas and a guy from New York who lives on a bush farm near my hometown showed me his when I was hunting a couple of years ago. There are bears by the gazillions there and this guy has little kids and really hates killing bears, so, his big Akita chases them off and everyone is happy.

I am probably the biggest bear lover alive and prefer a dog to do this rather than have to shoot a bear and this guy's Akita really impressed me, a fine specimen of a super breed.

9:05 a.m. on May 25, 2008 (EDT)
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I met an Akita breeder in a truck stop recently. I traded him a look at the golden eagle I was transporting for a look at his dogs.

He and his wife were on their way home from a show. They had a specially built truck, outfitted with two levels of kennels on each side. What beautiful dogs they were. I agree, they do look like Husky's on steroids! But yet, gentle at the same time. The breeder said they make great pack/sled dogs. He takes them to pulling contests too.

9:26 a.m. on May 31, 2008 (EDT)
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We have a German Shepherd Dog and he makes a wonderful camping/hiking/boating companion. He's almost impossible to wear out, even carting his own pack (which sometimes we'll really load up! he doesn't seem to mind...) He is an unusually large shepherd at about 110Ibs, so we have to consider him another person as far as tent space (and count him as two people on a boat when you consider that he is going to move around a little more than the average person passenger) His hair is a little intense however. German Shepherds shed year-round.

I think that the biggest consideration when choosing a K9 companion that is going to travel with you is your ability to train the animal. Any well trained medium size dog is going to be manageable...any poorly trained animal is going to be a distraction no matter what you are doing or what breed you choose. You just have to take the time to work with him and especially make sure that he is going to come when you call no matter what. Dog training courses are extremely helpful in this respect so don't discount them.

Dunderhead also makes a great training companion for my girlfriend. I like to run in the morning and she likes to run at night so we rarely run together except occasionally on the weekend. She feels a lot safer running after dark thru the neighborhoods and parks near our house if she takes him along...and he loves the daily exercise. Every evening after dinner he goes and finds one of her running shoes and follows her around the house with it in his mouth.

One thing to consider about German Shepherds is that most do not like water. Dunderhead is an exception, he takes every opportunity to take a quick dip, but every other shepherd that I have know has been a bit skittish when it comes to crossing a stream or taking a bath.

4:05 p.m. on June 4, 2008 (EDT)
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My Great Dane loves going backpacking

10:44 p.m. on June 9, 2008 (EDT)
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My wife and i have a 1 yr old white husky who just hiked up little devils tower in South Dakota on our last trip, and has hiked with us on every trip and trail we go on. We have yet to have an overnight backpacking trip put he spent 9 days hiking and sleeping with us in a tent no problem. Very reliable and a firm "leave it" or "on-bye" and hes past the animal/poop/whatever.

11:55 p.m. on June 11, 2008 (EDT)
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i have a mutt, we picked her up on our travels, abandoned and really skinny, didnt know what to think at first, but she has turned out to be so awsome, try checking out your local pound, you never know what youll find, you can usually tell by the looks if their a suitable outdoor dog.
best of luck

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