Why the best hiking dogs aren’t always the obvious ones

Someone searching for an ideal hiking companion will already have eliminated the lowly Basset Hound.

That doesn’t mean he’s not capable. Dogs – renowned hikers or not – spend most days at home, sometimes around family, oft-times alone. That’s an environment better-suited to the mild-mannered basset hound than a rambunctious Siberian Huskie, one of the top adventure dogs on the planet.

“I take my Basset Hound hiking on a regular basis,” says Shawn, a weekend backpacker. “They were bred for hunting rabbits long distances so they have the stamina. She isn’t fast, sometimes it takes a minute to cross over a large rock. But she stays with me for 10-12 miles.”

He’s not suggesting his stubby-legged pooch is any match for the trail-blazing Bernese Mountain Dog, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Border Collie or Australian Cattle Dog. Just don’t underestimate the family pooch. Training is key.

“Start out with shorter hikes,” Shawn advises. “Slowly build up to longer ones and build up the dog’s comfort level. Keep the activities fun and stress free. If there’s a fenced park nearby, start there as they will quickly get comfortable off-leash.”

Serious hikers who spend long hours, even days, crisscrossing dangerous mountain terrain often choose the purebred adventure option – Hungarian Vizsla, Portuguese Waterdog and German Short-haired Pointer are other go-to choices. But back-packing experts acknowledge there’s another, oft-times over-looked superstar out there:

The Mutt.
“Mutts are often the most loyal companions and all the more unique for their mixed lineage,” claims Shey Kiester of Backpacker.com., who ranked the mixed breed No. 10 on his “Ten Best Outdoor Dog Breeds” list. He says rescue shelters are a good place to start looking.

Veteran back-packer Patrick has his own ideas about what makes a great hiking dog: “Gentle, well-mannered, passive, stays close and listens to verbal commands,” he says.

In fact, some A-list hiking dogs need leashing so they don’t chase vermin and disappear for an hour. Dobermans for example.

Another consideration is a dog’s coat. Long-haired hikers can over-heat in the sun. They also collect burrs, fleas and ticks more easily.

One more thing. The heavier your dog, the harder he’ll be to carry in the event of an accident. You hope it never happens but marching miles across rugged, sometimes unstable terrain has inherent risk.

Always pack a first-aid kit, water, dog food, treats, insect repellent and doggie booties to keep bandages secure in case he injures his paws.

(Sources for this report included sectionhiker.com)
Image from baldhiker




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