(Ruff Wear BackPack from ALTREC.COM)
I like a medium size dog that preferably doesn’t shed too much. What breed should I look at for a hiking companion that will accept carrying a pack and not get too tired or aggitated?
Okay, now if by ‘medium’ you mean less than 20-22 inches at the shoulder and under 60 lbs but over 16 inches and over 20 lbs, that is a tough call. By the way, do people actually READ the question or just automatically type in their favorite breed? You say “medium”, they say large (Lab, German Shepard, Old English Sheepdog) or very large (Husky, Boxer) or giant (St. Bernard.) You say “doesn’t shed much – they say Old English who strew the house with balls of fluff and require a lot of grooming to keep their coat nice, Huskies from whose discarded coat you can spin a sweater……..
While a dog can carry up to 25% of their body weight for a distance, they should generally not exceed 10-15% for any real distance depending upon their build. For example, a greyhound with a tall narrow body would be hard pressed to do 10% of its body weight but a broadbacked, stocky Aussie could easily do the 15% and up to 20%. Now ‘real distance’ is anything in excess of a half mile or so. Do not ask a long body breed like a Basset to do this – it is very tough on the spine and they already have to cope with that elongated spinal column and can’t get their back legs under to balance and drive as is needed in order to a carry the pack.
Haven’t met a dog yet that I couldn’t get to carry a packback in less than an hour. For a dog that will have the energy and endurance, look at the Herding and Sporting Breeds. (The Working Breeds can do it easily but these are the big guys – 26 inches or more at the shoulder and 85/90 lbs and up.) Keep in mind that Sporting Breeds where bred to chase and retrieve. Doggy will have to be very well-trained before hitting the back country without a leash.
The Hounds – well, fleet of foot and gone on a scent – again leashes until 100% reliable in off-lead work. Herding tend to stick closer – they want to know where their charges are at all times. Years ago my Golden and I would backpack in alone for 1-2 weeks at a time – each of us with our packs (and me with most of it!) After wrecking my shoulder with a sports injury, I now rely upon a Kuvasz as a Mobility Service Dog – he wears packs and carries what I can’t (anything above 5 lbs). He is 110-115ish and can easily handle 20 lbs even in deep sand.
I stongly recommend the Wenaha packs. The pack part attachd to a body harness with velcro and can be lifted off to give the dog a rest without having to undo all the straps. Here is one site that has them: http://www.getoutoutfitters.com/browseproducts/Wenaha-Dog-Pack-Explorer-III.HTML Mine came from REI but I’m not sure if they are carrying them or have them in stock (they always sold out fast.) They aren’t cheap but they are tough and last forever.
Now the ‘not shedding much’ complicates matters and eliminates long haired breeds. Labs are pretty good at going along but be prepared for a lot of stubborness and passive resistance if they don’t want to do something. Sporting: Try the Spaniels – Brittany, English and Welsh; Vizsla (taller but not massive); The others suitable (Labs, Goldens) are considered large breeds. Hounds: Top pick is the Rhodesian Ridgeback but they may be larger than you want – up to 26-29 inches at the shoulder and 80 100 lbs. They are actually a herd guarding breed from Africa who were also used for hunting.
My choice for a Service Dog for what I needed came down to a Rhodie or Kuvasz, and the deciding factor is that we live on Lake Michigan further north than Chicago – with the cold and snow, a short coated Rhodie woul d not have been happy out running errands on a winter day. Another posiblity is the Norweigan Elkhound – sturdy dog with medium length thick coat. Terrier Group – don’t even go there. They will be off after everything and have ignoring you down to a fine art.
Non-sporting; Dalmations (if there are no kids under 12 in the household or likely to be any in the next 14 years.) Keeshond – smaller but very sturdy, Again they have the longer coat. STANDARD Poodle – give them a terrier clip and not that pouffy stuff and thye look like a real dog ready to hit the water and work. No shedding. Usually 22-27 inches. They were bred as water retrievers. Herding Group: Australian Shepherds Border Collie
NOTE: I see people are recommmending German Shepherds which aside form being a Large breed, are a breed that is having horrendous problems with the dogs’ rear end – problems beyond hip dysplasia. I would be extremely extremely careful and not only want to know if the dogs in the immediate family tree passed all their health checks but if any collateral realtives (aunts, uncles 1/2 siblings ….) ever had any of the problems endemic in the breed.
Now, in this group all except the Corgis and the Australian Cattle Dog have longer coats. Australian CD (often called blue tick helers or blue heelers by backyard breeders) is long on energy, short on trainability (okay, maybe come and some basic-basics but…) and obedience and can be nippy. Go to the AKC website and read in detail about the breeds http://www.akc.org/breeds/index.cfm?nav_area=breeds You can search by Group, Breed name or all of them at once. Now, when you click on the picture of the dog and go to the page for that breed, on the left is a column. At the bottom of the column, is a link captioned “National Breed Club”. Click on it – that takes you to the link to the National Club for that breed that sets the breed standards. The Clubs’ websites will give you an ENORMOUS amount of information about the breed – the good, the bad, and the why or why not to get that breed.
The clubs websites also have: (1) a breeders list – all of whom have agreed to abide by the breeders code of ethics (which you can read) (2) a link to the breed rescue for their breed Do give serious thought to adopting from an adult from a breed rescue. The clubs’ breed rescues go to a great deal of trouble to determine the dog’s temperment, personality, likes and dislikes (particularly kids and cats and other dogs in the household), HEALTH, and level of training. They make a huge effort to match the right dog to the right home – and if they don’t have one they think will be suitable for your home, they won’t place it. Great way to avoid the puppy training, newpapers, chewing…….
If you decide to get a puppy, please use one of the breeders who are members of the breed club. A well-bred pet puppy may not be a candidate for the show ring (that nose being 1/8th of an inch to long or something else very picky) but they will be very healthy, the parents carefully screened for hereditary health problems, and from a breeder who has devoted a great deal of time to understanding the breed and bloodlines.
A responsible breeder will have a written contract with a health guarantee for hereditary problems; require that if for any reason you ever have to give up the dog that it comes back to them; and always be available for help, assistance and advice about your dog. Such a breeder wil tell you if they don’t think their breed is right for you based upon your needs. They want a perfect forever home for the puppies – not the money. (In 43 years in the dog show world, I have never known a breeder of that caliber who has made a profit on their dogs – it is labor of love.)
A puppy from such a breeder costs no more – and often less in view of the vet bills for an animal from poor quality breeding – than from a backyard breeder who doesn’t do the health checks, knows nothing about the breed or bloodlines, doesn’t give a guarantee, never wants to hear about the puppy again and has breed from mediocre or poor quality dogs. I you want a hiking companion, you will have to very careful about getting a dog from a breeder who screens their breeding stock for hereditary orthopedic defectsthat and other problems that can affect their ability to go out and go with you – hips, elbows, patella, cardiac, eyes….
Now many reputable breeders will have adult dogs that they bred that they are placing. The dog may be a re-home since a good breeder requires the dog be returned to them if the owner can’t keep it. The dog may be one they held back to show and it turned out to just not quite be show caliber as it grew up. Occassionally, in rare instances, they may have a dog who did finish its AKC championship but the breeder needs to place it in a home as a co-own (you get the dog, they get to use it for breeding – with a female maybe 1-3 litters and male as a sire for number of litters. Once the breeding career is done which is earlier than mosst pet people realize, the dog is spayed/neuterd.)
Similarly, the dog could have finished its championship -after much effort, many shows and a lot of money – but the breeder decides not to use them as breeding stock because the dog hated showing so much and lacked the personality and temperment for the ring. If the breeder is placing a dog who is over 12 months, ask to see its health exams – they can preliminary xrays on elbows, hips and patellas at that age, and compelte on eyes cardiac and thyroid.
Good luck and happy hiking!
12 Comments posted on "What is a good dog breed for hiking?"
Dalmatian Rescue on September 21st, 2009 at 10:27 pm #
Lab or Dalmatian. I would go for a Dal due to their endurance.
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Dal’s are very loving, loyal, and active dogs. They were breed to run with horses so their endurance levels are amazing. They bond very closely with their masters and are very protective of them. Dont take this the wrong way, Dals will accept anyone outside the ‘pack’ as long as their master does. They will pick up on your emotions. If your feeling nervous, uneasy, or have the heebee jeebees about someone they will react. I have trained Dals to work in ‘Hospital Therapy’ areas. They love the attention and love to play with the folks. They make great hiking companions and ball fetchers. Once a Dal loves you, your loved for life. If your considering a Dal, please check our website
Melon on September 21st, 2009 at 11:06 pm #
I think a smooth coated Border Collie would make a good hiking companion. These dogs are high energy types and getting out on regular hikes would be good stimulation (they need that). They’re also highly trainable.
There are a range of sizes for this breed tho and you would want to make sure you look into a breeder with "larger" dogs. Our puppy will be about 45lbs when full grown, but I have seen them smaller and under 35lbs.
sixcannonballs on September 21st, 2009 at 11:34 pm #
St. Bernard would be ideal but they do get huge and they do shed. We always kept Pit bulls and they loved to go camping and pull the kids in the wagon!! Depends on how they’re raised as to if they get aggitated. (The reputation does not fit all dogs of this breed.) I had a 2 year old daughter that would go face first into my males food dish with him. (Usualy he would sit down and wait for her to finish) and my female let 2 of the kids in the whelping box with her while she was delivering puppies.) Get a puppy and train him/her young. There are specially designed harnesses for pulling carts and wagons make sure you start him on this about 9 months but the harness earlier so he/she gets used to it. Good Luck!!
frediks10 on September 22nd, 2009 at 12:05 am #
slash on September 22nd, 2009 at 12:27 am #
huskys, labs, and terriors (trust me, there good at hunting, especially the black ones)
SinghSharapova on September 22nd, 2009 at 1:08 am #
Labradors are awesome.
Kathleen T on September 22nd, 2009 at 1:57 am #
I would recommend any dog in the sporting, working or terrier group. They are usually the most high energy breeds. Go to akc.org and dogbreedinfo.com for more info on each breed.
bicknell660 on September 22nd, 2009 at 2:04 am #
I think the best dog would be a boxer there are fun loving great with kids and VERY energetic they are also love to jump and are built to jump. With my boxer i walk in the woulds and she will follow and jump over any thing or i can let her lead and show me the easiest route and she is excited every time and she is 9 years old which is pretty old
sunbun on September 22nd, 2009 at 2:34 am #
i think i would try a german shepherd….they can last a long time and have an extellent temperment
MightyRighty on September 22nd, 2009 at 3:21 am #
I would say a German Sheppard would be an excellent dog for that. Fisrt of all they are one of the smartest breeds and can be easily trained. Second they are strong and have excellent endurance. So caring some light weight things on their backs shouldn’t be a problem. Lastly they are excellent protectors. If you were hiking and came across a Moutain Lion, Wolf, Stray dogs etc. they become fierce protectors. A lab or retriever are not going to be the protector a German Sheppard will be. Labs and Retrievers are hunting dogs not guard dogs like a German Sheppard. I would definitely say a German Sheppard would be your best bet. I hope this helps. Good Luck.
Jenna M on September 22nd, 2009 at 3:37 am #
A lab or a blue healer. Labs are very active and if you train them they are very easy to walk with you. Blue Healers are also very active and they listen extremely well… plus they are small and easy to transport.
daniel loveday on December 29th, 2011 at 11:11 pm #
huskys are not a very large breed sorry the gsd is much bigger than a husky
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