Many people I’ve met throughout the years maintain the stance that you’re either an outdoorsman or you’re not. I believe that the same mentality can be applied to dog people; you either love dogs, or you don’t. I fall in among the ranks of dog lovers and one of the things I miss most about owning a dog is hitting the trail with my furry friend for an exciting trek. While we love our dogs, though, not every breed is made for the rigors of hiking. Today we’ll take a look at some of the best dog breeds for outdoors enthusiasts.
Perhaps the most well-known breed for the outdoors is the Labrador retriever. Athletic, playful, and seemingly at home in the water, labs love to get out and enjoy the world. Their webbed paws make them excellent swimmers, in fact, which is why they’re such a popular breed for duck hunters, too. You’ll want to stay on top of your lab’s health and fitness, though, as labs have a tendency to easily gain weight if they don’t exercise consistently. They’re also commonly prone to developing hip dysplasia, so be sure your lab can handle the physical demands of the trails before heading out.
If cold weather hiking is more your style, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a breed more suited for such a lifestyle than the Siberian husky. These rascals love to work hard, so load them up with a pack and watch their enjoyment at working. Huskies are also well-equipped to handle long hikes, trail runs, multi-day treks, and even cold-weather camping trips. Furthermore, they're very intelligent and can instinctually fend for themselves in the wild (huskies used as sled dogs are well-known for digging snow beds for themselves.) The downside, however, is that their heavy coats cause difficulties in hot weather, and they also require a TON of exercise, due to their high energy levels.
Vizslas (pictured) are perhaps a lesser-known breed, but they’re quite adept at outdoor activities. Vizslas tend to have a lot of energy, so they love to be active. They’re also extremely athletic, great swimmers, and nimble. They are incredibly obedient and faithful, as well, and will travel right by your side when trekking through the woods. Vizslas do require lots of exercise, though, and are susceptible to cold, which may mean winter hikes are out of the question.
Rounding out today’s list is perhaps one of the most rugged breeds an outdoorsman can ask for: the Australian cattledog. Like border collies or Australian shepherds, cattledogs are herders, which means high energy levels, intelligence, athleticism, protective instincts, and a tough as nails demeanor when faced with danger. These dogs will faithfully trot along beside you on your toughest adventures.
Of course this brief list doesn’t outline every dog breed suitable for the outdoors, but rather a few of the favorites among outdoorsmen, myself included. Dogs truly are man’s best friend and enjoying a hiking trip with your own canine pal is a great bonding experience that any dog owner looks forward to. Any trail nut looking for a companion would do well to consider the characteristics of each of the breeds outlined above.