Everything is more fun when you’re doing it with friends, and exploring the wilderness is no exception. To some, though, just one friend is more than enough. Sometimes, a friend you don’t have small-talk or argue with ― an exploring dog is simply the ideal companion for adventure junkies all around the world. But while every breed has the same potential to be a lifelong friend, some are better suited than others for exploring the wild.
Up for work and adventure
The main trait for an adventuring and exploring dog is excitement for the unknown ― curiosity, courage, a desire to smell and see new things. A breed that sits at the top of the list where these characteristics are concerned is the ever-popular German Shepherd. This breed is beloved around the world, and for good reason. Few dogs are as versatile and adaptable as the German Shepherd, and this translates well when it comes to exploring new terrain. They’re intelligent, as well as friendly, and thrive in any weather. They enjoy working and wandering as much as they value protecting their human.
Another breed well-suited as an exploring dog is the Labrador Retriever, as ever-popular as the German Shepherd. They love to swim ― they even have webbed toes ― and are originally bred as bird dogs, just like other retriever breeds. This makes them intelligent, adaptable, and athletic, and they love the outdoors. The Viszla is a lesser-known but just as capable bird dog, who loves to swim as well as hike and climb wherever you go. This pup is susceptible to cold, though, so make sure they have a coat if it gets chilly.
The Siberian Husky is an obvious choice for an exploring dog. Primarily bred for work and sled-pulling, they have a thick coat and independent disposition, well-suited for cold weather in particular. Like with most types of exploring dogs, they like to carry their weight, so giving them a backpack for the hike will be both useful and gratifying. The Rhodesian Ridgeback, a big, strong dog originally bred to hunt lions, is perfect for adventuring in hot, dry climates. So if you feel like exploring the desert, this is the perfect dog for you.
How about an unexpected exploring dog?
Not every exploring dog is assumed to be the adventuring type, on the surface. A good example of this is the Standard Poodle, known to most people as that fluffy show dog that always carries the typical poodle cut. Little do they know that the Standard Poodle ― as well as the smaller varieties ― is one of the most intelligent breeds around. They love learning and exploring new things. They’re courageous, adaptable, and athletically built, so they’ll easily keep up with you wherever you go. Other dogs the same size that share these traits are the Collie, the Australian Shepherd, and the Australian Kelpie. They have the brains and the stamina to keep going for hours on end, as well as many pointer breeds.
Who says an exploring dog has to be big, though? The Jack Russell Terrier, for one, loves adventure and the outdoors. Intelligent and agile, they may not be able to make big jumps and leaps, but they’ll find a way to climb or swim over the obstacle, instead. They love discovering new things ― the Jack Russell will be just as happy joining you for a daily run as going rock climbing.
Another unexpected adventuring breed is the Portuguese Water Dog. They’re a herding dog, but unlike most herding breeds, they’re unconventionally meant for herding a particular type of animal. Namely, fish. Obviously, this makes them excellent swimmers and water-lovers, and their intelligence makes them trainable and adaptable. They also ― like the Poodle ― barely shed at all, and are considered a hypoallergenic breed.
Less well-suited dogs for exploring the wilderness
Of course, most dogs have the sheer enthusiasm needed for adventure, but not all are physically suited. For example, lapdog breeds are bred to be just lapdogs, and aren’t a good choice for hiking. They’re too small, too frail, and would easily get injured or overexerted on the trail. Other breeds that should stick just to shorter walks are snub-nosed breeds. Such breeds include the English Bulldog, the Pug, the Boston Terrier, and the Brussels Griffon. Their noses make it harder to breathe, and as a general rule, these breeds should be spared from hot weather and swimming, when possible.
Another ill-suited group is hunting dogs, which may be surprising. But while bird dogs usually work well, other breeds can be trickier. Bird dogs are mostly meant to retrieve prey, rather than hunt it. Hunting dogs with a stronger prey drive, ones that hunt by sight or scent, aren’t ideal for the wilderness. They simply get too excited. Proper training is all well and good, but some breeds’ instincts are just too strong to trust the dog not to run off after an animal or follow an intriguing smell. Keeping your dog under control is key when it comes to hiking and exploring with a dog. This simply isn’t something all breeds can promise ― it doesn’t matter how physically suited they may be for the trip.
Things to keep in mind
There’s a lot to keep in mind when hiking with your dog, regardless of breed. Trail etiquette, training, hygiene, and safety ― your dog’s health is also paramount, of course. But some breeds are definitely better suited. Their history and purposes make them ideal for the exciting, exerting, and ever-changing experience of hiking through the wild. Aside from picking a breed that suits you and your outdoorsy needs, remember the basics. You need to keep your dog properly trained, leashed, and protected. With all the right things in place, your dog just might become the best hiking companion you’ll ever have.