Best Small Hiking Dogs: Lifestyle and Compatibility

By Roxi & Huck •  Updated: 03/18/24 •  20 min read

man and woman hiking in backpacks with their small hiking dogs The best small hiking dogs can keep up with you mile after mile without tiring out too soon.

Many people get small dogs that typically weigh 25 pounds or less because they are cute and cuddly or because they have a small home.

So, here are the top two questions hikers looking for a small dog want answered:

Is it safe to take my small dog hiking?

What breeds make the best small hiking dogs?

However, not all small dogs are cut out for hiking. Only a select few have the right combination of traits.

Best Small Hiking Dogs Preferred Lifestyles & Compatibility

If you’re thinking about taking your Chihuahua hiking, think again. Instead, consider breeds like the ones mentioned before. The reason behind this is simple: these breeds have been bred for tasks like hunting or herding, so they have the energy and athleticism needed for hiking. However, don’t be fooled by size.

A seemingly counterintuitive method works better than the prevailing thinking that big dogs are always better for hiking. Smaller dogs often have more agility and can maneuver through rough terrain more easily than larger breeds.

The five best small dogs for hiking all have different preferences when it comes to lifestyle, but they generally enjoy an active and engaging environment. Here are the 5 best small hiking dogs:

Jack Russell Terriers Lifestyle Requirements

Jack Russell Terrier running through a fieldThese energetic little dogs are known for their love of adventure and activity. They thrive in homes where they have plenty of opportunities to run, play, and explore. Jack Russell enjoys being part of an active family and excels in hiking, agility, and flyball activities.

Jack Russell Terriers are small but mighty, with an abundance of energy that can keep them going for miles. Originally bred for fox hunting, their strong prey drive and determination make them natural explorers. Training is essential to manage their boundless energy and ensure they stay on track during your outdoor adventures.

Hiking Compatibility of Jack Russell Terriers

Jack Russell Terriers are excellent hiking companions due to their energetic nature, agility, and adventurous spirit.

Here’s what makes a Jack Russell Terrier a good hiking dog:

  1. High Energy Levels: Jack Russell Terriers are known for their boundless energy and enthusiasm for outdoor activities. They have the stamina to keep up with long hikes and enjoy the challenge of exploring new trails and environments.
  2. Agility: Jack Russell Terriers are agile and athletic dogs, making them well-suited for navigating rough terrain and obstacles on the trail. Their compact size and muscular build allow them to maneuver through challenging terrain easily.
  3. Curiosity: Jack Russell Terriers are naturally curious and love to explore their surroundings. They enjoy sniffing around, investigating new scents, and discovering new sights and sounds along the trail. Their curiosity makes hiking an enriching and engaging experience for both the dog and the owner.
  4. Bonding Opportunity: Hiking provides an excellent opportunity for bonding between Jack Russell Terriers and their owners. Spending time together in nature strengthens the bond between humans and dogs, fostering trust and companionship. Hiking also allows Jack Russells to fulfill their natural instinct to be part of a pack, strengthening their connection to their owner.
  5. Versatility: Jack Russell Terriers are versatile dogs that excel in a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, running, and agility. They are adaptable to different environments and weather conditions, making them suitable for hiking in a wide range of settings, from wooded trails to mountain paths.
  6. Weather Tolerance: Jack Russell Terriers have a dense double coat that provides insulation against cold weather, making them well-suited for hiking in cooler temperatures. They can also tolerate hot weather, provided they have access to shade and plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Overall, Jack Russell Terriers make excellent hiking companions for owners who enjoy outdoor adventures and are looking for a lively and adventurous companion to join them on the trail. With proper training, supervision, and consideration for their needs, Jack Russell Terriers can thrive in hiking environments and create lasting memories with their human companions.

Shiba Inus Lifestyle Requirements

Shiba Iinus sitting outside on the grass Shiba Inus thrive in a lifestyle that provides them with structure, mental stimulation, and opportunities for exercise. These independent and spirited dogs enjoy having a routine and thrive when they have clear boundaries and expectations.

Shiba Inus are independent, spirited dogs with a strong sense of self. They prefer a structured routine and thrive in homes where they have plenty of mental stimulation and exercise opportunities. Shiba Inus enjoy activities like hiking, obedience training, and puzzle games that challenge their intellect.

Shiba Inus Hiking Compatibility

Shiba Inus can make good hiking companions under the right circumstances. While they may not have the same endurance as some other breeds, their intelligence, agility, and independent nature can make them enjoyable hiking partners for certain types of trails and environments.

Here’s what makes a Shiba Inu a good hiking dog:

  1. Agility: Shiba Inus are naturally agile and sure-footed, making them well-suited for navigating uneven terrain and obstacles on the trail. Their nimble movements allow them to easily maneuver through rocky paths, tree roots, and other challenging terrain.
  2. Curiosity: Shiba Inus are curious by nature and enjoy exploring new environments. They thrive on sensory experiences and will appreciate the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors during a hike. Their curiosity can make hiking more enjoyable as they eagerly investigate their surroundings.
  3. Intelligence: Shiba Inus are intelligent dogs that enjoy mental challenges. They can learn to navigate hiking trails and respond to commands with proper training and guidance. Their problem-solving abilities and quick wit make them adaptable to different hiking situations and environments.
  4. Bonding Opportunity: Hiking provides an excellent opportunity for bonding between Shiba Inu and their owners. Spending time together in nature strengthens the bond between humans and dogs, fostering trust and companionship. Hiking also allows Shiba Inus to fulfill their natural instinct to be part of a pack, strengthening their connection to their owner.
  5. Moderate Exercise: While Shiba Inus may not have the same endurance as some larger breeds, they still benefit from regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. Hiking allows them to get moderate exercise while exploring new surroundings and enjoying quality time with their owner.
  6. Weather Tolerance: Shiba Inus have a thick double coat that provides insulation against cold weather, making them well-suited for hiking in cooler temperatures. However, it’s essential to be mindful of hot weather, as Shiba Inus can be sensitive to heat due to its dense fur coat.

Shiba Inus can make good hiking companions for owners who understand their unique characteristics and limitations. With proper training, supervision, and consideration for their needs, Shiba Inus can enjoy outdoor adventures and create lasting memories on the trail with their human companions.

Miniature Pinschers Lifestyle Requirements

Miniature Pinscher standing outside in the grassMiniature Pinschers thrive in homes where they have opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation. They are lively, playful, intelligent, and affectionate dogs with big personalities. They enjoy being the center of attention and love to participate in activities that allow them to show off their athleticism and intelligence.

They may be tiny but are built with an athletic frame that craves activity. Their fearless nature and high energy make them eager to take on any trail. Remember, their curiosity can sometimes get the best of them, so keeping them on a leash is a must.

Miniature Pinschers Hiking Compatibility

Miniature Pinschers can be good hiking dogs due to their energetic nature, agility, and adventurous spirit.

Here’s what makes a Miniature Pinscher a good hiking companion:

  1. Energetic and Active: Miniature Pinschers are lively and energetic dogs that enjoy being active and engaged. They have the stamina to keep up with moderate hikes and thrive on physical activity.
  2. Agility: Miniature Pinschers are agile and athletic dogs, making them well-suited for navigating uneven terrain and obstacles on the trail. Their small size and muscular build allow them to maneuver through challenging terrain easily.
  3. Curiosity: Miniature Pinschers are naturally curious and love to explore their surroundings. They enjoy sniffing around, investigating new scents, and discovering new sights and sounds along the trail. Their curiosity makes hiking an enriching and stimulating experience for both the dog and the owner.
  4. Bonding Opportunity: Hiking provides an excellent opportunity for bonding between Miniature Pinschers and their owners. Spending time together in nature strengthens the bond between humans and dogs, fostering trust and companionship. Hiking also allows Miniature Pinschers to fulfill their natural instinct to be part of a pack, strengthening their connection to their owner.
  5. Versatility: Miniature Pinschers are versatile dogs that adapt well to different environments and activities. They enjoy a variety of outdoor adventures, including hiking, running, and exploring. Their small size makes them portable and easy to transport, allowing them to accompany their owners on a wide range of hiking excursions.
  6. Weather Tolerance: Miniature Pinschers have a short, smooth coat that provides minimal insulation against cold weather. However, they can tolerate moderate temperatures and enjoy hiking in mild weather conditions. It’s essential to provide them with shade and plenty of water to stay hydrated in hot weather.

Overall, Miniature Pinschers make excellent hiking companions for owners who enjoy outdoor adventures and are looking for a lively and spirited companion to join them on the trail. With proper training, supervision, and consideration for their needs, Miniature Pinschers can thrive in hiking environments and create lasting memories with their human companions.

Beagle’s Lifestyle Requirements

Beagle sitting outside in the grass looking at youBeagles prefer an active lifestyle with plenty of opportunities for exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization. They thrive in environments where they are part of the family and have opportunities to participate in activities catering to their needs and preferences. Beagles are social creatures that enjoy the company of other dogs and humans, which makes them great for group hikes.

Beagles may not be the smallest on the list, but their compact size is perfect for those looking for a dog that’s not too big yet not too small. Originally bred for hunting, they have a keen sense of smell and a sturdy build, making them excellent for tracking trails. However, their hunting instincts can lead them astray, so a secure harness and leash are vital.

Beagle’s Hiking Compatibility

Beagles can make excellent hiking companions due to their friendly nature, endurance, and keen sense of smell. Here’s what makes a Beagle a good hiking dog:

  1. Endurance: Beagles have moderate energy and good stamina, allowing them to keep up with longer hikes. They can easily walk for miles without tiring, making them suitable for exploring various trails and terrains.
  2. Keen Sense of Smell: Beagles are scent hounds known for their exceptional sense of smell. While hiking, they enjoy sniffing out interesting scents along the trail, adding an extra layer of excitement and stimulation to the experience.
  3. Friendly and Sociable: Beagles are friendly, sociable dogs that enjoy being part of the family. They make excellent companions on hiking trips, as they thrive on human interaction and enjoy spending time with their owners in outdoor settings.
  4. Curiosity: Beagles are naturally curious dogs that love to explore their surroundings. They enjoy investigating new sights, sounds, and smells along the trail, making hiking an enriching and engaging experience for both dog and owner.
  5. Versatility: Beagles are versatile dogs that adapt well to different environments and activities. They enjoy hiking in various settings, from wooded trails to open fields, and can easily handle different types of terrain.
  6. Weather Tolerance: Beagles have a short, dense coat that provides some protection against the elements. While they may be sensitive to extreme temperatures, they can tolerate a wide range of weather conditions with proper care and supervision.

Overall, Beagles make excellent hiking companions for owners who enjoy outdoor adventures and are looking for a loyal and adaptable companion to join them on the trail. With proper training, supervision, and consideration for their needs, Beagles can thrive in hiking environments and create lasting memories with their human companions.

Miniature Schnauzers Lifestyle Requirements

Miniature Schnauzer sitting in the grass outsideThe Miniature Schnauzer needs regular exercise, mental stimulation, a structured routine, socialization, proper nutrition, grooming, and safety precautions. Regular exercise, such as daily walks and outdoor activities, helps them stay physically and mentally fit.

Mental stimulation through interactive toys and training sessions prevents boredom and behavioral issues. A structured routine provides stability and security. Socialization from a young age fosters good manners and confidence around people and other animals.

Hiking Compatibility of Miniature Schnauzers

Miniature Schnauzers can make excellent hiking companions due to their energetic nature, agility, and intelligence. Here’s what makes the Miniature Schnauzer a great hiking dog:

  1. Energetic Nature: Miniature Schnauzers are lively, energetic dogs that enjoy physical activity. They have the stamina to keep up with moderate hikes and appreciate the opportunity to explore new surroundings and engage in outdoor adventures.
  2. Agility: Miniature Schnauzers are agile, athletic dogs with muscular build. They excel at navigating challenging terrain and obstacles on the trail, making them well-suited for hiking in varied environments.
  3. Intelligence: Miniature Schnauzers are intelligent dogs that benefit from mental stimulation and enrichment activities. They enjoy the mental challenge of hiking, such as navigating trails, problem-solving obstacles, and exploring new scents and sights along the way.
  4. Size: Miniature Schnauzers are small to medium-sized dogs, making them portable and easy to transport on hiking trips. Their compact size allows them to navigate narrow paths and tight spaces, making them suitable for hiking in areas with limited accessibility.
  5. Weather Tolerance: Miniature Schnauzers have a double coat that provides some protection against the elements. While they may be sensitive to extreme temperatures, they can tolerate a wide range of weather conditions with proper precautions, such as providing shade and plenty of water.
  6. Bonding Opportunity: Hiking provides an excellent opportunity for bonding between Miniature Schnauzers and their owner’s nature, strengthening the bond and fostering trust and companionship.

Overall, Miniature Schnauzers make great hiking dogs for owners who enjoy outdoor adventures and are looking for a lively and intelligent companion to join them on the trail. Miniature Schnauzers can enjoy hiking excursions and create lasting memories with their human companions with proper training, supervision, and consideration for their needs.

This list is not inclusive, and opinions can vary on other breeds that are not listed. Mixed-breed small hiking dogs will be researched soon.

Next comes the training part. To ensure your small hiking dog is ready for the trails, try exposing it to different environments and surfaces. This will make it more adaptable and confident.

Training Your Small Dog for Hiking Adventures

Basic obedience training is important for small hiking dogs. Training exercises and techniques to prepare your dog for hiking include leash walking, recall training, and exposure to different terrains and environments.

Small dogs may face challenges such as large rocks or fallen logs. Encourage and assist your dog when needed, using treats and praise to motivate them. Building their confidence is key to helping them overcome these obstacles.

Tip #1: Proper training and preparation are essential for ensuring your small dog’s safety, comfort, and enjoyment on hiking adventures.

Temperament and Personality

Another important factor is to consider your dog’s temperament and personality. Some dogs are more laid-back, while others are high-energy and always ready for an adventure.

Also, socialization is key. Expose your dog to other canines, people, and various situations. It makes them well-rounded and less likely to be spooked on the trail.

Tip #2: Match your dog’s personality with your hiking style. A calmer dog might be a better fit if you prefer leisurely strolls. But if you’re an avid hiker, look for a pup with plenty of energy to keep up with you.

Getting Your Small Hiking Dog Physically Fit

Before you hit the trails, preparing them for the journey is important. Just like humans, dogs need the right gear and training to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.

Gradually build up your small dog’s fitness level and endurance through regular walks, hikes, and outdoor activities.

While small dogs have shorter legs, many breeds have the stamina to keep up with their human mom and dad. They often compensate with a spirited personality and a zest for life that keeps them exploring for hours. But remember, each dog is an individual, and their physical and mental readiness for hiking varies.

Consider your dog’s physical condition and the demands of the trail you have chosen. A checkup at the vet can confirm that your dog is ready for the challenge.

Tip #3: Gradually increase the length and difficulty of hikes to match your small dog’s fitness level.

Health and Wellness on the Hike

Monitoring your dog’s health and wellness during the hike is paramount. Keep an eye out for signs of fatigue, overheating, or dehydration in your dog.

Signs of Overexertion: These may include excessive panting, drooling, lethargy, or difficulty walking. If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to take a break, offer water, and rest until your dog recovers.

Being Prepared On The Trail

Be prepared for emergencies. Pack a first-aid kit with essentials like bandages, antiseptic wipes, and tweezers for removing ticks. Familiarize yourself with basic first-aid techniques for dogs, including how to treat cuts, scrapes, and minor injuries.

Be vigilant for ticks, fleas, and other pests that may be present in the wilderness. Check your dog for ticks after your hike, especially if you’ve been in wooded or grassy areas. Consider using a tick-prevention product recommended by your veterinarian.

Tip #4: Carry a small first-aid kit and know how to administer basic first aid to your dog in case of emergencies.

Dog Paw Health

Your dog’s paws are their connection to the trail, and rough terrain can be tough on them. Therefore, it’s important to protect them. If you notice signs of discomfort, consider investing in a set of dog booties, especially if the terrain is particularly rugged.

If your dog isn’t keen on wearing booties, a paw balm can help soothe and protect their pads from minor scrapes and the drying effects of the trail.

How To Have a Successful Hike With Your Dog

Plan Your Route: Before you set out, research your chosen hiking trail to ensure it’s suitable for dogs. Some trails may have steep inclines, rough terrain, or obstacles that could be challenging for smaller dogs. Choose a route that matches your dog’s abilities and fitness level.

Check for Hazards: While hiking, look for potential hazards that could harm your dog, such as sharp rocks, thorns, or toxic plants. Avoid areas with known risks, such as cliffs or fast-moving water, and steer clear of wildlife that could pose a threat to your dog’s safety.

Hydration and Snack Tips for Long Hikes

Hydration is key, especially for small dogs that can dehydrate quickly. Bring a collapsible water bowl and a water bottle designed for dogs. Pack high-energy snacks like kibble or specially formulated dog treats to keep their energy levels up.

Trail Etiquette

Practicing good trail etiquette is essential as you venture onto the trails with your small hiking buddy. This means keeping your dog leashed at all times to avoid any run-ins with other hikers or wildlife. Besides that, it’s a matter of respect for the environment and for those who share the trail with you.

FAQ

How do I know if my small dog is ready for hiking?

Pay attention to your dog’s energy level, physical condition, and behavior. If your dog enjoys outdoor activities, has good obedience skills, and is in good health, it may be ready for hiking. Consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s ability to hike.

Are there any specific health considerations for small dogs when hiking?

Small dogs may be more prone to certain health issues like joint problems or overheating, so monitoring their condition closely while hiking and taking precautions to prevent injury or illness is essential.

How can I prevent my small dog from getting tired on long hikes?

To prevent your small dog from getting tired on long hikes, start with shorter hikes and gradually increase the distance and difficulty as they build up their fitness level. Take regular breaks, offer water, and watch for signs of fatigue.

Do I need to follow any rules or regulations when hiking with my small dog?

Yes, it’s essential to know and follow the rules and regulations of the hiking trail regarding dogs, including leash requirements, designated dog-friendly areas, and guidelines for waste disposal, to ensure a positive experience for everyone on the trail.

How can I acclimate my small dog to hiking at higher elevations?

Gradually increasing the elevation and difficulty of your hikes can help acclimate your small dog to hiking at higher elevations. Watch for signs of altitude sickness, such as vomiting or lethargy, and descend if necessary.

What should I do if my small dog encounters wildlife on the trail?

If your small dog encounters wildlife on the trail, remain calm and keep your dog on a leash. Slowly back away from the wildlife and give them plenty of space to avoid any potential conflicts or confrontations.

What are some tips for hiking with multiple small dogs?

When hiking with multiple small dogs, it’s essential to maintain control over all of them by keeping them on leashes and practicing obedience commands. Consider the dynamics between the dogs and be prepared to manage any potential conflicts.

How can I help my small dog recover after a long hike?

After a long hike, provide your small dog with plenty of water, a comfortable resting spot, and possibly a nutritious snack to help replenish their energy and aid in recovery. Monitor them for any signs of soreness or fatigue and adjust their activity level accordingly.

What should I pack for my small dog when hiking?

Essential items to pack for your small dog when hiking include water, food, a leash, a harness or collar with identification tags, a first-aid kit, and possibly protective footwear like doggy hiking boots.

Are certain trails better for small dogs than others?

Yes, smoother trails with gradual inclines are often better for smaller breeds. These trails are easier on their joints and less challenging for their shorter legs. Additionally, trails with plenty of shade and water access are ideal, especially in warmer weather.

Hiking with your small dog can be a fun and rewarding experience that strengthens your bond and provides both of you with valuable exercise and fresh air. By following the tips and advice provided in this guide, you can ensure a safe, enjoyable, and memorable hiking experience for you and one of these five best small hiking dogs.

Roxi & Huck

Hello, we're Roxi and Huck. Our passion lies in researching and understanding the compatibility between various dog breeds, both purebred and mixed, and the lifestyles and housing situations of potential owners. We work alongside Mom and Dad to uncover insights that facilitate ideal matches between dogs and their human companions.