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The Best Hiking Dogs – A Guide To Small Breeds

In this post, we’ll have a look at 10 of the best hiking dogs, perfect for the trail. We’ll also provide essential tips and precautions to ensure a safe adventure for you and your pup.

Key Takeaways

  • Discover of the top 10 small dog breeds built for hiking.
  • Equip yourself and pup with essential gear, train & obey commands, and plan a hike tailored to their needs.
  • Learn how to enjoy all of the benefits that come from spending time in nature together – strengthening your bond while introducing them to new people, places & environments!

Top 10 Small Dog Breeds for Hiking

nature, hike with a small dog

Hiking with small dogs can be a delightful experience, as they’re often more portable and adaptable than larger breeds. Here are the top 10 small dog breeds perfect for the trail in no particular order:

  1. Jack Russell Terriers
  2. Beagles
  3. Miniature Pinschers
  4. West Highland White Terriers (Westies)
  5. Pembroke Welsh Corgis
  6. Cairn Terriers
  7. Australian Shepherds
  8. Norfolk Terriers
  9. Shetland Sheepdogs
  10. Alaskan Klee Kais

Each of these breeds boasts unique characteristics and abilities that make them excellent hiking dogs.

Let’s delve into the unique traits of each breed!

Jack Russell Terriers

Jack Russel Terrier Hiking Dog

Jack Russell Terriers are known for their sturdy build, agility, and boundless energy, making them perfect for adventurous, fast-paced, rigorous exercise. These fearless dogs were originally bred for fox hunting in the 19th century, and they still possess the remarkable athleticism and need for rigorous active periods today. However, due to their strong prey drive, it’s highly recommended to keep Jack Russell Terriers on a leash while hiking. Consistent training sessions will ensure they stay sharp and ready for the adventure.

Keep in mind their high energy levels when embarking on a hike with a Jack Russell Terrier. They require plenty of physical and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. With proper training and leashing, your Jack Russell will make a fantastic hiking partner, fearlessly exploring the great outdoors with you every step of the way!


Beagle hiking dog

Beagles are incredibly friendly, endlessly curious, and full of energy, making them delightful companions, just like Bernese Mountain Dogs. In fact, the Bernese Mountain Dog is also known for its friendly and gentle nature. They were developed in Britain to expertly track and hunt hares, and their impressive stamina, determination, and obedience make them ideal for hitting the trails. However, their keen sense of smell is truly remarkable, and it can sometimes lead them to follow interesting scents, making them better suited as on-leash hiking companions.

With moderate exercise and the right training, Beagles can turn into fantastic medium-sized hiking dogs. Be mindful of their proneness to certain spinal disk diseases and a condition called “Funny Puppy,” which can result in weak legs and a crooked spine. Despite these health concerns, Beagles’ gentle and laidback nature makes them an ideal companion for any family, especially on light jogging and hiking adventures.

Miniature Pinschers

Min Pin Hiking Dog

For those who prefer athletic dogs and high-energy workouts, Miniature Pinschers, boasting their sturdiness, agility, and vivacity, are a perfect match. They are assertive, proud, and full of energy, with a strong prey-drive that can be a great asset when spotting wildlife and other dogs from far away. However, their stubborn nature may require early obedience training to ensure a successful and enjoyable hiking experience.

Luxating patella is one of the health concerns to be aware of when hiking with a Miniature Pinscher. Despite this, their remarkable energy levels, innate curiosity, and ability to bolt after wildlife make them a fantastic hiking companion. Just make sure to provide regular training and have a confident demeanor while out on the trail with your Miniature Pinscher.

West Highland White Terriers (Westies)

West Highland White Terriers Hiking Dog

Westies, or West Highland White Terriers, are a robust, smart, and sociable breed with a distinct white coat. They were selectively bred for the purpose of fox hunting, making them excellent outdoor adventurers. However, their friendliness and love for chasing small animals on the trail mean it’s best to keep them on a leash while out and about.

Westies are incredibly friendly and warmly welcome guests, making them great family pets. They are also energetic and have tremendous endurance, allowing them to hike for a great distance despite their small size. With their weather-resistant coat and love for the outdoors, Westies make fantastic hiking companions.

Pembroke Welsh Corgis

Corgis Hiking Dog

Pembroke Welsh Corgis, similar to Miniature Schnauzers, make terrific companions, thanks to their abundant energy, steadfast loyalty, and sharp intellect. With their strong, sturdy legs, they are perfectly suited to navigating various terrains with ease. These herding dogs were originally bred in Wales and were used to herd cattle in rural areas, just like the miniature schnauzer was bred for herding as well.

Their gentle, curious, and clever temperament makes pembroke welsh corgi wonderful companions for outdoor enthusiasts. With a bit of training and socialization, Pembroke Welsh Corgis can even be friendly with strangers. When hiking with a Corgi, be mindful of their predisposition to certain spinal disk diseases and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Cairn Terriers

Cairn Terriers, with their immense energy, unwavering loyalty, and exceptional intellect, rank among the best small dogs for hiking. These fearless dogs were originally bred in the Scottish Highlands to hunt and chase small animals like foxes and badgers. Their strong, sturdy body and love of the outdoors make them perfect for long walks and jogs.

Cairn Terriers are also predisposed to cataracts and hip dysplasia, so it’s important to be aware of these health concerns. With these considerations in mind, Cairn Terriers are excellent hiking partners, full of energy and enthusiasm, always ready to accompany you on your next adventure.

Australian Shepherds

Australian Shephard Hiking Dog

Australian Shepherds & Miniature Australian Shepherds, blessed with their charm, agility, and ease of training, are fantastic companions for hiking and backpacking. These herding dogs were originally bred for their herding skills and are delightfully small, making them easy to travel with.

Australian Shepherds are:

  • Incredibly loyal
  • Love spending time with their family
  • Have great endurance
  • Eager to please
  • Excellent choice for active owners looking for a competitive canine companion in dog sports like agility and obedience
  • Intelligent dogs
  • Agile
  • Love the outdoors
  • Ideal hiking partners

Norfolk Terriers

Norfolk Terrier Hike

Norfolk Terriers, with their energy, loyalty, and intelligence, make for truly outstanding herding dogs. They are small but fearless and can keep up with you on an outing, making them great hiking partners. Be sure to provide plenty of TLC to your pup while on the trail! Schedule appropriate rest stops to ensure they are comfortable and hydrated. Don’t forget that Norfolk Terriers can be quite stubborn, so it’s important to be mindful of their limits.

These intelligent, fearless dogs are highly energetic and able to adapt to various environments, making them excellent companions for outdoor activities. Some reasons why Norfolk Terriers are great companions for outdoor activities include:

  • Their agility and love for the outdoors
  • Their ability to adapt to various environments
  • Their high energy levels
  • Their fearlessness

With these qualities, the Norfolk Terrier can happily accompany you on many hiking adventures.

Shetland Sheepdogs

female dog, dog, shetland sheepdog, on hiking trail, small hiking dog

Shetland Sheepdogs, characterized by their energy, loyalty, and intelligence, are genuinely remarkable. They are incredibly athletic, energetic, and obedient, making them the perfect choice for an outdoor adventure. They have great endurance and are always eager to please, making them an ideal choice for a hiking companion.

With their strong herding instincts and love for the outdoors, Shetland Sheepdogs can easily keep up with you on your next hiking adventure. They require extensive exercise and mental training to stay happy and active, so be prepared to provide plenty of physical and mental stimulation for your Shetland Sheepdog while on the trail.

Alaskan Klee Kai

Alaskan Klee Kai, an exciting breed developed in the 1970s, is a companion-sized version of the Siberian Husky. They are intelligent, energetic, and incredibly loving to their families, making them great hiking companions. Early socialization is essential for these dogs to avoid shyness around strangers.

With their high energy levels and agility, Alaskan Klee Kai is perfect for those who love the outdoors and are looking for a small, easy-to-train companion. Some key features of Alaskan Klee Kai include:

  • High energy levels
  • Agility
  • Medium-length, wiry fur
  • Resemblance to miniature huskies

These qualities make them an attractive choice for hiking enthusiasts.

Hiking with Small Dogs: Tips and Precautions

Having introduced the top 10 small dog breeds ideal for hiking, let’s explore some vital tips and precautions to guarantee a safe and fun-filled experience for you and your furry companion.

We’ll cover training and obedience, gear essentials, and breed-specific considerations, so you’re well-prepared for your next outdoor adventure with your small dog.

Training and Obedience

To ensure a safe and pleasurable hiking experience for both you and your pet, training and obedience are crucial for small dogs, especially when dealing with active dogs. A well-trained and obedient dog will be less likely to run away, get lost, or get into dangerous situations. It also helps to ensure that your dog is well-behaved and respectful of other hikers and wildlife. The most effective types of training and obedience methods include positive reinforcement, clicker training, and operant conditioning.

When training and obedience, it is essential to be consistent, patient, and encouraging. Utilize positive reinforcement and rewards to promote desired behaviors. Furthermore, make sure to set realistic expectations and be aware of your dog’s individual needs and abilities. Training and obedience can enhance your small dog’s hiking experience by increasing safety, improving communication, reducing stress and anxiety, and helping to strengthen your bond.

Gear Essentials

man, dogs, hiking

When gearing up for a hike with your small dog, bringing the appropriate gear is crucial to their safety and comfort. Some of the must-have items include a harness, leash, identification tag and/or microchip, water, food, collapsible bowl, plastic bags or a small spade, and a first aid kit. For longer hikes, you may also want to consider a doggy backpack, a basic first aid kit, dog boots for rugged terrain, and a GPS tracking collar.

In addition to the essential gear, it’s important to consider any special needs your dog may have, such as a specific diet or medication. Keeping your dog comfortable and well-equipped will make the hike more enjoyable for both of you and help ensure a successful outing.

Breed-Specific Considerations

To ensure a successful and pleasurable hike, consider the breed’s energy level, size, and coat type when hiking with a small dog. Some breeds may require more frequent breaks or may need to be carried over difficult terrain. Brachycephalic breeds, such as Chihuahuas, Yorkies, and Pomeranians, may have heat challenges due to their flat noses.

Additionally, small dogs with short legs may not be used to long walks and may require shorter hikes. To ensure a successful hike, start slow and do some pre-hike training with your small pup. Pay attention to breed-specific grooming requirements, energy levels, and potential health concerns to keep your small dog happy and healthy on the trail.

Benefits of Hiking with a Small Dog

dog, fall, hybrid

There are numerous advantages of hiking with a small dog. Here are a few:

  • Their adaptability and portability make them suitable for various environments
  • Their smaller size often means they are welcome at dog-friendly hotels with weight limits
  • Small dogs can provide extra warmth in your sleeping bag
  • They can serve as a great icebreaker when meeting other hikers on the trail

Taking your small dog on a hike can be an amazing opportunity to:

  • Strengthen your bond
  • Get some exercise
  • Discover the beauty of nature together
  • Introduce your pup to new people and environments, allowing them to become more self-assured

With proper preparation and attention to breed-specific needs, hiking with a small dog can be a delightful and rewarding experience for both of you, turning your pet into an adventure dog.

Adapting Your Hike to Suit Your Small Dog

outdoors, man with dog, pet

Each dog is unique, and adapting your hike to cater to your small dog’s needs is crucial to ensuring a safe and pleasurable experience for both of you. This might involve:

  • Starting off slowly and gradually building up the difficulty of the terrain
  • Making sure that your dog is comfortable with the surroundings
  • Familiarizing them with basic commands

It’s also essential to consider your dog’s energy levels, size, and coat type when planning your hike. Some breeds may require more frequent breaks or may need extra protection from the elements. By taking the time to understand your dog’s individual needs and abilities, you can create a hiking experience that is enjoyable, rewarding, and safe for both you and your furry friend.

Caring for Your Small Hiking Dog

Post-hike, it’s vital to attend to your small hiking dog by providing a thorough grooming, conducting a health check, and ensuring proper nutrition. Post-hike grooming helps remove dirt, debris, and parasites from their fur and skin, as well as to spot any injuries or irritations. Regular brushing is especially important for long-haired breeds to keep their fur free of tangles and mats.

During a health check, look out for any signs of injury, such as cuts, scrapes, or bruises, as well as any signs of parasites, such as fleas or ticks. Proper nutrition is vital for your dog’s overall health and well-being, so provide them with a balanced diet full of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

By taking the time to care for your small hiking dog, you’ll ensure their happiness and well-being after a day on the trail.


Hiking with a small dog can be a wonderful and rewarding experience for both you and your furry friend. By choosing the right breed, preparing essential gear, and paying attention to breed-specific needs, you’ll be well on your way to creating unforgettable hiking memories together. So, grab your leash, pack your bags, and hit the trail with your small hiking companion – adventure awaits!

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