What is a good breed of dog for a Hiking companion?

9:21 p.m. on April 11, 2009 (EDT)
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I love to hike, backpacking actually for extended periods of time, multiple days....I would love to have a K-9 companion for many reasons. I am very partial to the "Bulldogs" including Great Danes, Dobermans, Mastiffs, etc. I just lost my most recent dog (Dane mix) and would like to recieve another. I would like to keep the dogs best intrest in mind....which breed can tolerate the long, cold, treacherous hikes and enjoy them also.......I do want a hiking dog for many reasons but to name a few......companionship, they are just fun (lol), protection, and family dog......I do have a lil' girl who it would have to be good w/ although she is animal crazy and very mature for her age.... I would really appreciate some advice since I am newly adicted to hiking and backpacking, Can't get enough of it.....please share any help available.....thanks so much.....

10:52 p.m. on April 11, 2009 (EDT)
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I have an Australian Cattle Dog (Queensland Heeler/Mexico Mutt). I believe the Mexico half to be Husky and maybe some Akita. He is quite possibly the most loyal dog I have ever known, and is very protective of both myself and my friends. On the trail I never have him leashed as he will not go out of eyeshot, and returns at the drop of a hat. The cold is not an issue as Huskys, as I'm sure other breeds, have hollow hair that insulates like a straw roof, and a heavy undercoat. The only drawback is that he does overheat easily in warm climates, although I could shave him, and sheds quite severely in spring and fall. I also find that working dogs and primitive breeds are far better built than meticulously bred dogs, and will make a stronger hiking companion.

11:19 p.m. on April 11, 2009 (EDT)
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+1 on the Australian Cattle Dog, as long as you can make the commitment to time and attention.

1:48 a.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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I've heard others suggest that you stay away from any kind of herding dog because they have the tendency to chase animals. I don't know how true this is... I have a German Shepherd, but he loves to chase just about anything, so I don't trust him on the trail.

There was another dog thread on here not too long ago... some good advice was posted, and I suggest digging back and finding it for some good info.

11:11 a.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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Yeah, I happened to find it after I posted, lol....lots of god stuff, but nothing on the bully breeds. Bulldogs (Dobermans, Mastiffs, Danes, Bullys, Boxers) are my passion w/ dogs, so I am inclined to pick one of these......However I want to pick one that will be comfortable, resilient, manageable (Boxers tend to be VERY Hyper), weight baring, and overall healthy enough to participate. I know hip displaysia is a concern w/ these breeds, also temperature can play as a factor (So I have read)....just looking for any personal experiences w/ backpacking and these particular breeds.....thanks to everyone for the help!!

12:05 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi Ky Cannon,

I adore all the breeds that you do as well. We have an Am Staff in the family and she is a great, loyal, loving family pet. She would be an excellent hiking partner except she hates other strong willed dogs. She was socialized as a pup and gets along fine with other dogs as long as they are submissive to her, as we know that is not always the case so I don't take her where other dogs travel. She also doesn't like the cold. While the bully breds are tough as nails in some areas they are very delicate in others. Her feet are very sensitive as well as her skin, the breed is known for this. Personally I think most of the bully breeds would be fine once properly dressed for the terrian and weather (lol) except the bulldog. While exceptionally good looking I would rule them out for a hking partner because they are not very agile, have very short legs and are kind of muscle bound. I think very rough terrian would be difficult for this breed especially rocky trails. My biggest advice is to buy from a very well known breeder. They should have many generations of healthy dogs, physically as well as mentally. It is very important they breed for temperament with bully breeds. Hope this helped a little.

12:41 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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I don't know a tremendous amount about the "bull" breeds, but my impression is that at least most of them tend to have issues with dominance when around other dogs and not on their own turf, as well as aggressiveness, esp. if not well trained and socialized. Boxers, I agree, can be quite hard to control in general.

I disagree, at least modestly, on the recommendation against herding dogs; their tendency to herd, as far as I've seen, and I've been around lots of 'em, extends primarily to domesticated animals and sometimes their family--the latter especially depending on how they've been trained re: the dominance hierarchy. They are generally very intelligent dogs, and very highly trainable. If my own domestic circumstances were amenable, I'd have a border collie (or two) in addition to our current cairn terrier.

The terrier breeds, as much as I love 'em, I don't find to be good trail dogs, in general, largely because they want to chase every critter they come across, just about--and no wonder, we've bred it into 'em for generations.

The sporting dogs, well-trained, I've seen be excellent outdoors companions--very loyal, highly trainable, etc. One of my favorite all-time breeds is the Gordon setter, another I'd love to have if our home arrangements were better suited; the vizsla is another in this category.

Obviously, the toy group is ill-suited.

Perhaps the best single bit of advice is to spend some time around some dogs of the breed(s) you consider, and then get to know well the breeder and dogs from whom you will eventually get your dog, if possible. A good match between you and dog is of primary importance, and then the dog's general characteristics, overall temperament, etc. Don't rush it! It's like getting married, only more important. (Jus' kiddin', dear!)

1:36 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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A little more advice: I guess what I was trying to hint at in my above post, and what you touched upon yourself:

"(Boxers tend to be VERY Hyper),.............. I know hip displaysia is a concern w/ these breeds, also temperature can play as a factor"

and Perry Clark:

"most of them tend to have issues with dominance when around other dogs and not on their own turf, as well as aggressiveness,"

and Wilderness Gal:

"While the bully breds are tough as nails in some areas they are very delicate in others"

.....is that these breeds are not particularly well suited for hiking companions. I think this is a case of wanting something to be what it is not, and that your best bet is to give up on the Bully Breeds and find a dog more suited for what you want to do. This is of course why we have bred different types of dogs.

Also, Perry Clark's vote for the Border Collie is A+, though not as stout as a Cattle Dog (less load capacity), they are possibly the smartest breed, and almost always come with a very sweet disposition that is good if you have children.

1:41 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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I love my Cattle Dog.......

2:28 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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I have very little experience with most breeds, but quite a bit with bird dogs. My dad was never much into backpacking, but I was walking through cornfields in Kansas as soon as I was big enough to carry a shotgun.

I would say upland bird hunting presents some of the same demands as backpacking... our dogs had to be obedient, they had to get along with other people and dogs (fields were getting crowded even back then... we usually ran into at least one other party on our hunts), and it was NOT ok for them to chase animals.

We had two Luellen Setters, and they are excellent dogs. They're not as lovey as more "domestic" dogs, but they train easily and don't have many of the bad traits (ie: animal chasing) you'll find with some breeds. They're not aggressive at all, so they would make poor guard dogs, but I think it makes them well suited for pack dogs.

We also had a Britney Spaniel, and he was even better than the Luellens (except for the nose... Luellens have the best nose/tracking ability of any dog I've ever come across). He was a bit better of a pet (more lovey with the kids and liked to play), and he was really low-key. Not hyper at all, not aggressive, and while we had to train the Luellens to stay close and not get rangey on us, he did it naturally.

The Britney was a bit stockier as well, so he would probably be more able to carry a load. The luellens are built more like marathon runners (which enabled them to keep hunting long after the Britney was out for the day).

We also hunted with my Uncle frequently, and he had a Springer spaniel. The springers are by far the best pets out of the group, because they love to play and they love kids. They're hyper as they can be though, so I'm not sure how well that would work on the trail.

2:51 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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I hear VERY good things about Karelians, though I have not had any first hand experience with them. Their temperment, obediance, instinct, and fitness level seem to be unmatched by most other breeds, as far as hiking companions go.

3:21 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks everyone for the help, Alot of useful info!!

12:20 p.m. on April 13, 2009 (EDT)
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What I meant in the fact that some bully breeds are tough as nails in some areas and delicate in others is they are very determined, they don't quit and can go the mile and then some, this being tough. Delicate meaning they are a short haired breed and may need a coat in winter and boots in the cold and ice. Most domestic dogs need protection of some sort from the different elements. I know some dogs that have sensitivities to salt, others with icy conditions, it will depend on the individual. This can be individuals within any breed, you won't know your particular dog til ya get em! Other than Inuit Huskies I don't know of a breed that may not protection from some sort of element and even they would not do well with excessive heat. Short haired dogs such as bully breeds and many others are also prone to sunburn so might need protection there as well. Thick coated, long haired dogs can overheat in hot, humid weather, these are just things to consider. Know your limits as well as your pets. Think about where and when you will be hiking and then decide if you both are up for it! I think a dog choice is individual and there is no one perfect breed for all hiking conditions. I think with the right dog, gear, owner and training, anything is possible!

1:32 p.m. on April 13, 2009 (EDT)
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Most backpackers I know aren't out in weather cold/harsh enough that their dog can't handle it. That being said, winter is my favorite time to camp.

Like I said before, I don't have much trans-breed dog knowledge, but I do know that my shepherd loves to play in the snow all day long and will stay out most of the day in -10 degree weather just to play in the snow drifts.

The only time I've ever seen him get cold is when he was standing under the eaves of the shed barking at some birds, and caused a mini-avalanche off of the roof, covering him with wet snow.

1:51 a.m. on April 15, 2009 (EDT)
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Big difference between "hiking companion" and "pack dog".

Different requirements to some extent, this is a difficult question to answer. Talk to breeders and do some research. I found that the breed I loved the most did not make the best pack dog for me.

For a pack dog, I use an American Akita, very strong, intelligent, able to handle tough terrain & nasty weather, extremely loyal, alert, doesn't chase things or go off getting into trouble. However not the easiest to train, I paid a pro to help me and am very pleased with the results.

This is not a one size fits all topic. Kinda like....what's the best tent for me? Depends on a lot. Biggest thing is to be 100% in control of your dog, to be courteous to others, and make sure the breed you pick is up to the task you require of it.

Both companion, or pack dog, can enrich your outdoor experience. They are not necessarily interchangeable roles. I have found both in the breed I use, and that may well be the challenge here. I love stoic, working northern breeds & they seem to love me. You may have a different experience. The key is training the dog & consideration for others trying to enjoy the backcountry. More and more areas are being closed to pets / dogs because of owners failing to control their pets and diminishing the experience of others.

Dog ownership is work, plain and simple. It also brings great reward to the owner when done properly.

My dog is named Boo. He can carry 25 lbs. easy, out hike me at will, survive in cold temps that would kill me, find his way with out a map, hear things I can't, find water on his own, see in the dark, etc. And never once have I heard him complain, or had to give him a pep talk. Although sometimes he does need to work on his breath.

1:16 p.m. on April 15, 2009 (EDT)
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Another thing that i've been reading in this thread has to do with the temperature of your dog on different hikes. Ruffwear makes coats and coolers that your dog can wear to help them cope with different climates - to an extent; it probably wouldn't be wise to bring your long haired, furry dog into the desert with 100+ degree temps. But there is always exceptions.


Either way, having the companionship of a dog on a hike is well worth the effort of training them to stay alongside you, not run off, and to carry their own food/water in a pack.

8:33 p.m. on April 15, 2009 (EDT)
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snowboarda42 said:

"Either way, having the companionship of a dog on a hike is well worth the effort of training them to stay alongside you, not run off, and to carry their own food/water in a pack."


I agree! If it weren't for the companionship and humor my dog brings into the picture it would not be worth the effort. My favorite breed used to be the Golden Retriever, but my Akita does much better at backpacking and I have come to love this breed as well. I would advise people really "shop around" and ask a lot of questions, try not to make your choice based just on the type of breed you love around the house.

12:35 p.m. on April 16, 2009 (EDT)
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I like to believe that a Catahoula (Louisiana leopard dog) makes a great hiking companion. I actually researched dogs that are suited to being outdoors and would fit my lifestyle and I am very impressed with her! Her webbed toes are great for swimming and large chest has the extra lung capacity. She is very agile and was scaling large rocks, boulders and scree at 4-5 months old with ease.

I also like the Ruffwear packs, great packs but it is a worthwhile investment. The best thing I found is being able to have a dog that fits well in the confine of a small tent.

10:26 p.m. on April 16, 2009 (EDT)
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Friend said:

" The best thing I found is being able to have a dog that fits well in the confine of a small tent".

Well, good point, now why didn't I think of that sooner, my dog is huge. He is banished to the vestibule.

12:13 p.m. on April 17, 2009 (EDT)
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If you have not already decided on a dog, here are a few opinions from Norway.

First, there is a distinction between a pet on a hike, and a dog contributing to the tour. I have seen people with two dachs going up to Kebnekaise. You see pictures from my trip in the report section. But if you consider a dog that may contribute in some way the dog must be a bit larger.

Many years ago we had a club for sledge-dogs here in my town. There were all kinds of dogs, but all over 15 kilos. The climate is rather harsh here, but also shorthaired dogs like pointers are OK as long as they pull/work. Only consideration when they sleep must be taken.

But remember also that the dog will be a family member for say ten years at least. The time you are on a hike is so small, compared to the other time the dog must function in your home. If the dog you find suitable is more than 15 kilos (30 pound) it will be a good and usable companion I'm sure.

You see in my avatar that I have a Border Collie. It is big for the breed, and in winter he pulls a pulk with 30kilos, in summer he carries up to 12kilos in a backpack. No problem with a herding dog, but we have not trained him for herding. He thinks he's a sledge-dog. Just as I write this he is pulling a pulk of about 30kg on a tour with my wife. Talked to them just some minutes ago, no problem.

Good luck finding a dog. IMHO a hike without a dog is just half as rewarding as with the dog. They are always eager to go out, never moody or unwilling, and always glad even when they are exhausted.

8:11 p.m. on April 18, 2009 (EDT)
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I had a male Viszla for years-he was an awesome mtn [Adirondack] dog and companion in the woods or at home and friends often called me and asked if he could go hiking with them.

Loyal, quiet, clean, athletic, obediant, he could hunt and would fend off a bear if need be or die trying and would lick flies off our infants face!

I raised and owned many dogs and the Viszla is still at the top of my list though I like many others also.

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