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Most people think of big, sturdy dogs, when they think of dog breeds to take hiking. But actually, some of the small dog breeds make far better backpacking and hiking companions. To prove it I put this list of the 10 best small dogs for hiking this summer together.
There are actually quite a few small breeds that are far from being easy lap dogs as the majority of people views them. If you’re an active person, there are lots of small breed pups that love going on adventures just as much as you do! And by small, I mean less than 20lb on average!
In case you already have a small dog and would like to take him hiking, make sure to check out my complete guide for hiking with a small dog for beginners. Over there, I go over everything you need to think about to hit the trail with your small pooch!
Hiking with small dogs
Now you might be wondering: but is it really possible to take those tiny breeds for long walks, let alone hikes?
This is why I want to start by answering a few questions before getting into the list.
Can small dogs walk long distances?
Absolutely! It’s all a matter of training.
It doesn’t really matter what size your dog is. If he’s never been walking for more than 30 minutes at a time, it will be very difficult for him to hike for a full day.
It’s just like with us. Imagine never walking for more than a few minutes and then, all of a sudden you decide to go on a 3-day hike.
Well, that’s almost impossible! And even if you succeeded, it definitely wouldn’t be pleasant.
So, as long as you prepare your dog, almost every healthy dog can walk long distances.
The only exception are probably brachycephalic dog breeds. They often have breathing issues. So, walking long distances won’t be possible for them.
Can small dogs go hiking?
Hiking is basically just a longer and more strenuous form of walking. So, the same applies as what I just said about walking long distances.
My Miniature Poodle Baloo is much faster than me when we’re in the mountains. He jumps up on boulders and lose rocks as if it was nothing. Being super light is definitely an advantage. He can go over much more unstable terrain and can easily jump off if the ground underneath him starts sliding.
So, overall, small dogs are generally lighter and more agile, which makes them the perfect hiking companion.
How far can small dogs hike?
With proper preparation, small dogs can hike for 5 to 6 hours in a day. This should equal about 13 miles. Don’t do this without training, though.
Here’s a full guide on how far a small dog can hike and what you need to consider.
Advantages of hiking with a small dog
Now I quickly want to touch on the advantages you have when hiking with a small dog so that you absolutely want a small pooch to join you on your next adventure 😉
- You can always carry him: if he’s too tired, injured or when you’re on public transport, you can always pack him in a dog backpack carrier.
- He doesn’t need much space: if you go camping, you won’t even notice that he’s sleeping in the corner, because he’s so small
- His gear is small and light: no need to pack a huge dog bed and lots of food. Your small pooch only needs a quarter of what you’d need to bring for a bid dog.
- You can bring him anywhere: he’s basically invisible in his carrier, so you can even take him in grocery stores or other places, where dogs aren’t allowed.
Okay, I think you’re ready for the 10 best small dog breeds for hiking now.
1. Miniature Poodle
Of course, this breed has to be first, since I have one myself! 😉
Poodles are amazing dogs. During the last century they have gotten a bit of a misconceived image because of their grooming styles. Most people think of Poodles as well (or not so well) groomed dogs that can have literally any hair style and go from one dog show to the next.
It’s very unfortunate that Poodles are limited to this image. Yes, they don’t shed and yes, that’s why you can live your wildest dreams on their hair style. But people totally forget about their character. Poodles are extremely intelligent dogs. And they have loooots of energy!
One big advantage of Miniature Poodles is that they won’t get any joint problems compared to their bigger relatives. They also have an average life expectancy of 15 years.
So overall, a Miniature Poodle (15 – 17 lb) can be your perfect companion for your adventures!
Baloo loves to join me everywhere. If he’s close to me, he’s happy! That’s probably true for all Poodles. They’re really sociable and hate being alone. And the more activity, the better.
He’s happiest after a full hour of agility or a daylong hike. While he’d still be able to keep going, he’s happily retracting to his bed and relaxing after such activities.
Poodle are generally super friendly and will love any person. However, there are also some individuals who are more reserved towards strangers, but still friendly.
Because of their energy, they can be a bit jumpy. I’m still having a hard time getting rid of this. With the right amount of exercise, this can be limited to a minimum, though. They also love routine more than anything. Almost all “problems” like separation anxiety or destructive behavior could be eradicated with routines.
To be aware of
Being so intelligent, your poodle will likely not just accept things you say the first time!
He’ll question your commands and sometimes think he knows it better. So, you have to be willing to work with your Poodle and be very consistent. Otherwise, you’ll soon be obeying your pooch instead of the other way around!
Also, Poodles really do need a lot of exercise. And not only physical, but also mental. If not properly held busy, they will find themselves something to get rid of their boredom, like barking at whatever they can find or empty your yummy smelling trash bin…
Related topic: Mental stimulation can be a wonderful tool if used correctly. Check out Braintrainingfordogs to learn how to train your dog to be the best dog he can by be using mental stimulation!
If you want a small breed dog that will adore coming on every adventure and you’re willing to work with him, look no further. A Miniature Poodle is your breed!
Also he’ll love you more than anything, making him your perfect furry friend. For more information on his character, look here.
2. Jack Russell Terrier
This breed is the best example of a big dog “trapped” in a small body (14 – 18 lb).
Jack Russel Terriers definitely think a lot of themselves. Character wise, Jack Russells are similar to Miniature Poodles. In fact, I was thinking for a very long time whether to get a Poodle or a Jack Russell.
This breed loves adventure more than anything. He loves it that much that he’ll try to dig underneath your fence to get out and find something interesting to do. And he’s more than happy to go on adventures by himself!
So, proper training is a must! Being such an intelligent breed, Jack Russells are highly trainable. With a lot of positive reinforcement and endurance, Jack Russells can become the perfect adventure companions!
They’re probably also about the best small hiking partner you can find. They have an enormous amount of energy and will love joining you on hikes and backpacking trips. Like Poodles, they’re highly sociable and will have a hard time staying by themselves for long hours.
They’re happiest when they can join you on a hike or any other adventurous trip.
To be aware of
One big difference to Miniature Poodles is that Jack Russell Terriers are hunting breeds. So, most of them will have a strong hunting instinct. You’ll have to be willing to work hard to get this instinct under control or you’ll be likely looking for you’re a dog on a regular basis.
And they looooove digging, because they were originally bred to go after small animals such as mice, rats or squirrels. So, leaving a Jack off leash is rarely advised unless you really have his hunting instinct perfectly under control.
They are also quite frequent barkers which is good if you’re looking for a watchdog but otherwise needs quite some training as well to get under control.
Probably the breed with the highest endurance, Jack Russells are THE ideal small dog breed to take backpacking and for multi-day hikes! For more information on his character, look here.
Despite their small legs, Dachshunds (16 – 32 lb) are active and adventurous dogs. Check out Jessica’s blog to see where she’s taking her two Dachshunds. Many owners are so devoted to them that they never want to get another breed, or they even get themselves another Wiener dog.
They are comical little clowns and being clever little pups, they can be stubborn and not the easiest to train.
These are not the kind of dogs you can take jogging. Agility and any other jumping activities are also no good idea for a Dachshund. And while hiking, you might have to carry them over bigger boulders because jumps can hurt their backs.
They’re definitely willing to come on adventures with you, though. As long as you take some precautions regarding their health, they make good hiking companions.
They’re ideal small dogs for semi active owners, who like to walk or trek for a good two to three hours at a time. They’re not the kind of dog you can take to multi-day mountain hike.
Miniature Dachshunds (5 – 11 lb) and Wirehaired Dachshunds seem to be the most active. Wirehaired Dachshunds stem from the same family as Terriers, hence have a similar personality.
To be aware of
They also have quite a strong hunting instinct, originally being bred to hunt vermin. This means they love digging more than anything. Be prepared to have a few holes in your garden and start training them to stop digging on command as early as possible!
They also make great watchdogs and will therefore have to be trained so that they don’t bark at any- and everything.
If you’re looking for a clown on four legs who will love to join you on shorter, more relaxed hikes, you need to get yourself a Dachshund! But be warned, you will probably soon be addicted to this breed…
Also bear in mind, that they have a mind of their own so you’ll have to be kind and patient to train them. For more information on his character, look here.
Also a commonly overlooked breed when looking for an active dog. They look like a super cute fluff ball and are therefore often held by women who want a cute accessory dog.
But Pomeranians (3 – 7 lb) are far from being only lap dogs! Yes, they love to be the center of attention. But they are also very alert and curious and love to explore their surroundings.
This is another small dog with a big personality! He thinks a lot of himself. While Poms are not as energetic as some of the other breeds on this list, they can still come hiking for hours with ease.
They also are among the best in their size class in agility and obedience training. They’re usually very friendly towards people and other animals. This charming little dog is also very trainable if he thinks you’re the one in charge and hence make good action companions.
To be aware of
Pomeranians are not the easiest to train. They are quite bossy and stubborn and by far not as admiring of their owner as e.g. a Miniature Poodle or a Papillon.
Of course, also a Pom can be trained. But if you’re a first-time owner, it’s not gonna be the easiest dog to start with. You have to earn his respect. Don’t make the mistake to think that this cute little fluff ball doesn’t need any training! That way he’ll make you obey him without you even noticing it.
If you want to take your pup on adventures, some basic obedience should always be trained. This breed is also a little barker which will need a lot of patience to get rid of.
While being super cute, Poms aren’t necessarily the best beginner dogs if you want to train them. Once you’ve earned their respect they’re highly trainable and have a high endurance. They will love your backpacking and hiking trips.
For more information on his character, look here.
5. Miniature Pincher
If you’re thinking about getting yourself a Miniature Pincher (8 – 11 lb), be prepared to get a very strong character in the house!
While being another really small breed dog, Miniature Pinchers are incredibly active breeds! They are basically a miniature watchdog and take their role very serious!
This pooch will have no problem running or hiking with you. He’s probably the most active and energetic of all toy breeds. And he’s one of the best examples of a small dog thinking he’s a big one. He’s fearless and will clearly try to be the boss in the house.
On the other hand, he’s also a cuddle lover. But he’ll tell you when and how he wants it. So, he has a bit of a cat character…
To be aware of
Having such a strong character and being so sure of themselves, they like to live on their own terms. Meaning training can be tricky and needs a lot of knowledge and consistency.
It’s recommended to keep any Miniature Pincher on leash at all times. Otherwise he’s probably not coming back even when called! He’ll probably be coming back when he’s done with whatever he was dealing with.
Miniature Pinchers are also really clever, good climbers and very quick to react. So, you’ll have to be alert for any kind of trouble at all times!
This definitely isn’t a beginner dog.
If you’re looking for a highly energetic small watchdog, this is the ideal breed for you! But you’ll have to provide lots of activity and mental stimulation to keep this little one from taking your house apart.
If you’re backpacking and hiking for half of your life and also need a portable alarm system, a Min Pin is your dog! For more information on his character, look here.
Character wise and on the energy side, Papillons (7 – 9 lb) can be compared to Miniature Poodles. They’re very intelligent and have a high energy level.
Their small size also makes them a perfect fit for life in an apartment. It’s a very good first-time dog for an active person. But be aware that this intelligent little guy will also find himself some kind of entertainment if not provided enough by you.
They love and excel at dog sports such as Agility and Obedience. They’re also very fixed on their owner. They will adore you more than anything and will try to please you. So, training isn’t too hard. Same as for Miniature Poodles, they can seem a little stubborn if they don’t understand your commands. Consistent training is key.
To be aware of
Because of his undeniable love for his owner, Papillons tend to develop separation anxiety. Slow, patient and consistent training is essential. If you give a Papillon enough time, this should be manageable.
Like other toy breeds, Papillons are barkers. This can also be trained so that he doesn’t feel like he has to let you know every what so little thing. They’re not very fond of children. Better to keep them in an adult-only household.
A perfect small beginner dog for active people. But you have to be willing to work with him or he can soon become a little tyrant! But that goes for pretty much all of the small active breeds. For more information on his character, look here.
Corgis literally are big dogs on small legs! There are two different kinds of corgis, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Pembroke Welsh Corgis tend to be the more active kinds, while Cardigan Welsh corgis are more laid-back.
Both breeds love to be around people and to please their owners. They are also a fairly intelligent and easy to train breed. Overall, they make perfect family dogs and are quite adaptable, as long as they have their favorite humans with them.
They are on the bigger side, weighing between 24 and 28 lb, so they don’t exactly fit my list. But I still wanted to add them because they are super friendly and just perfect for medium active beginners.
Similar to Dachshunds, you have to watch out that their long back doesn’t get hurt on jumps. But apart from that they’re happy to join you on a trekking, backpacking or camping trip. Corgis were originally bred for herding. So, they have a very high stamina and will love lots of exercise (with special attention to their long backs).
To be aware of
As other small breeds, Corgis make good watchdogs but can become barkers if not properly trained. They’re also very intelligent and need to get proper physical and mental exercise. Further, they have the ability to make important decisions for themselves. So, you have to watch out that you get his independence under control.
Corgis make lovely furry friends for a medium active family. They’re very friendly and smart and have high stamina due to their original breeding purpose for herding.
Obedience training will require some patience but overall they’re happy to learn. For more information on his character, look here.
8. Yorkshire Terrier
This is a funny breed. A Yorkshire Terrier (3 – 7 lb, larger ones from 7 – 15 lb) is pretty much a mix between a toy lap-dog breed and a terrier. So, it’s pretty unpredictable what you get…
As I’ve just said, there are basically two typical characters: One is a cuddle lover and is happiest on your lap. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t let him walk. He’s still a dog, so let him be a dog. The comfy kind will happily find himself something calm to do, like trot and sniff around the house.
If you get the other character, you have quite a typical but tiny terrier, meaning that he’s chasing everything and anything and alerting you of it as well.
Yorkies are probably not the picture-perfect small dog breed to take backpacking. They’re indeed tiny and while the terrier in them gives them quite a stamina, it’s by no means comparable to a Jack Russel Terrier.
I still included them because if you’re getting yourself a bigger Yorkie with a terrier character, he’ll still be a good companion for more moderate treks or hikes. They’re ideal for elderly people who like to be active but take things a bit slower.
To be aware of
They’re indeed tiny. Leaving them off leash can be quite dangerous as they can very quickly be hurt by bigger dogs or other animals. If they’re insecure, they tend to bark a very high-pitched bark.
Yorkies aren’t made for multi day hikes. But they’re happy to join you on longer walks or moderate treks. And since they’re so small, they’re happy to relax in your dog backpack carrier every now and then. For more information on his character, look here.
9. Norwich Terrier
The Norwich Terrier is the perfect example of a real terrier. Being the smallest of all terriers (11 – 12 lb), he’s a clever little guy with lots of energy to chase anything that’s small and running. He’s also quite a stubborn little one.
Norwich Terriers are very adaptable. They don’t need a lot of exercise but are happy to join you on hikes. They’re really friendly and affectionate dogs. Cuddling and spending time with their favorite humans is more important to them than going on their own adventures.
They’re also really tough, so they will happily join you on your next backpacking trip, even over several days.
To be aware of
Like all terriers, they have a mind of their own. Obedience training needs a lot of patience and consistency. But if you know how to take him, he’ll be a very loyal companion. Also make sure you start to control his barking behavior early on, unless you want a watchdog!
This breed is the perfect mix between a couch potato and an admiring follower. You can take him on hiking and backpacking trips, even for several days. Just make sure to add lots of cuddling and relaxation periods and he’ll be happy. For more information on his character, look here.
Some mutts make the best hiking buddies. Depending on which breeds his parents were, he can be even more robust than a purebred.
So, don’t forget to check shelters as well, when you’re looking for a new backpacking pal. The good thing about shelters is that you can already find out about a dog’s character. While with puppies it’s not evident at all and will usually only show much later.
Check out petfinder.com for shelter dogs.
There you go, these are the 10 best small dog breeds to take hiking this summer.
I’m sure there are other breeds who love adventures just as much. And lots of mutts will make perfect hiking and adventure companions as well.
Which one is your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know. I’m happy to extend the list.
P.s.: have you ever thought about getting pet insurance for your dog? No? Then check out my article on the question “is it worth getting pet insurance for dogs?“. Or go straight to PetAssure for a cheap alternative to get 25% off each vet visit!