5 of the Best Dog Breeds for Hiking (for Those Who Want a Small Dog)
While I own and hike with Dachshunds, I’ve also researched other best breeds for hiking in the small dog category.
There are a lot of advantages to hiking with a small dog so I want to help spread the word that they can make great adventure companions.
The Best Dog Breeds for Hiking That Are Under 30 Lbs
Jack Russell Terrier
This is the dog that everyone thinks of when they picture a small hiking dog.
Given that there are so many mixes (the dog above is a mix), and there can be so many different colors, you might run into them on the trail all of the time and not know it.
They are very high-energy dogs that desperately need rigorous active periods, which is why they can make exceptional hiking partners.
Jack Russell Terriers are remarkably athletic, and will do their best to keep up at all times, likely out running, out balancing, or out jumping you.
Jack Russell Terriers (14–18 pounds), or JRT for short, were developed in the 19th century to be fox hunters. They are some of the most hard-working, and intelligent dogs within the terrier group.
Of course I am going to say Dachshunds because that’s what I own. However, it’s not just me that enjoys hiking with their wiener dogs.
Dachshunds happen to be a popular breed around Seattle in general but they are also one of the small breeds I encounter on the trails most often.
I started a Dachshund Club to encourage more people to be active with theirs and 5-10 people show up with their wiener dogs each time I schedule a hike.
The standard Dachshund (16-32 lbs), which is a type of hound, originates from Germany, and was bred to scent, chase and flush out badgers from their dens. The miniature Dachshund (5-11 lbs) was bred to hunt smaller animals, such as rabbits.
Because they were bred to cover a lot of ground through the forest while hunting, they have the drive and stamina to tackle most hiking trails.
Of course, most Dachshunds today are not used for hunting purposes.
If you want to hike with your Dachshund, I suggest you start getting them used it early (But not too early. A dog needs to be at least 6 months old before doing any hard exercise so their joints have time to form properly).
In my experience, most Dachshunds will take to hiking no matter what age you start them at.
However, they are stubborn. If they have lived a dry, sedentary life of leisure, they can be more likely to dig in and convince you they hate hiking or getting dirty.
Next to Dachshunds, Yorkies are probably the most popular very small dog for hiking (although they may tie with Chihuahuas). At least, that is what I gather from reading online forums and have experienced myself.
They seem tiny and frail but they were also bred for hunting so they have drive and stamina.
Despite their size, they have big personalities and need plenty of regular exercise (and mental stimulation).
The Yorkshire Terrier (7-15 lbs) was developed in Yorkshire, England during the 19th century as ratters to control rodents in textile mills and coalmines.
They are known to be brave, adventurous, light-footed and fast, and at times carry a certain air of “importance” in their demeanor.
When I first started writing about hiking with my Dachshunds – and small dogs – the first non-Dachshund-owning person to reach out to me owned a Chihuahua.
I see Chihuahuas, and Chihuahua mixes, on the trails pretty often. I have several friends that hike with theirs and they have energy and a love for the sunny outdoors just like any other dog.
Chihuahuas (4-6 lbs) have somewhat unclear origins, however it’s believed that they date all the way back to the 9th century in Mexican culture.
They come in all different shapes and colors, and come in both long and short coat types.
Recognized as the smallest dog breed by many kennel clubs, these little pups have a reputation of being feisty, entertaining, and comically quirky.
If you’re considering taking your Chihuahua along for a hike, do note they will likely need an outdoor jacket during fall and winter months. The breed originates from a warmer climate, they have minimal fur to keep them warm, and their small body mass doesn’t generate a lot of heat.
Yay for another long and low breed on the list!
Whether you go with the Cardigan Welsh Corgi with the long tail, or the Pembroke Welsh Corgi with the bobbed tail that makes their fluffy butt stand out, Corgis can make great hiking companions.
Next to Dachshunds and Yorkies, I probably see them out on the trail most.
Also bred to be a working dog, These fun-loving and intelligent dogs have no problem keeping up on the trail.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi (20-25 lbs) is a herding dog that originated in Wales and was used to herd or drive cattle in rural areas.
The Corgi is a herding dog through and through, and loves games that involve chasing and agility.
The Pembroke is slightly smaller than the Cardigan, who also tends to be slightly heavier set, but they both have a sturdy build.
To read more about these breeds, their potential health problems, read 15 Small Dogs Breeds That Make Great Hiking Buddies.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
I can vouch for the Chihuahua!! We certainly hike often enough in both urban hikes and wild. And all terrain too … woodland, mountain … he seems cool with anything we toss at him and … mine is only 3.5 pounds. Talk about tiny but mighty. extra note for tiny Chi’s – bringing high density food is vital they burn their calories faster. Proportionately speaking they have “more work” so to speak to keep up. So glad you included the Chi on your list. I know two hiking Maltese! How they keep that white fur from mess beats me!
That’s a good tip Sonja. Small dogs may be able to keep up but they do often burn a ton of calories while doing so. I can’t imagine hiking with a 3.5 lb dog. I hope I get to meet you and Monte someday in person.
Oh I hope so too! We may just have to plan a trip with “hiking with the Weiners” in mind!
Sounds fun 🙂
I’ve always wanted to have a HUGE dog (although we’ve always had medium size ones), but as we get older, a small dog appeals! I definitely see the benefits of having a dog you can pick up! And we do love to hike, so maybe our next dog will be a small hiking dog. My sis and her hubby are on their second corgi and they are definitely good hikers!
I hear that from a lot of people – as they get older they want to downsize their life (and space) and they started thinking about owning a small dog for the first time. I never intended to have a small dog myself. They weren’t really even on my radar. But I inherited Chester and then discovered they can be great adventure companions 🙂
Yay for hiking Chihuahua love!!!! Leeloo just finished a weekend of hiking almost 20 miles! And she’s 7 years old now!
When I mentioned the first non-Dachshund owner to reach out, I was referring to you 🙂 I’m glad to hear she is doing well 🙂
As you would expect, many people live on boats with small dogs (not everyone is stupid enough to live on a tiny boat with a golden retriever). I was very surprised to see that dachshunds and Jack Russell terriers are among the most popular boat breeds.
I suspect their people are attracted to little dogs with big personalities.
I would also expect both of those breeds to really enjoy exploring on a long hike.
That’s interesting Pamela. I can picture a little Doxie proudly standing on the bow of the boat with ears flapping in the wind 🙂
We took our OES dog ( Old English Sheep Dog) our on our boat. When enroute he always hung out in the galley and everyone just climbed over him.
He loved watching us deep sea fish! The downside of an OES on a vessel is when they jump for the dock and miss you need to be right there. Their hair weighs a lot when wet and we dove it and hauled him on the dock!
That was before dog life preservers were around. We rigged a human personal flotation device on him after that. Awesome family dogs but I definitely would never live with one on a boat!
This was interesting and fun to read! People don’t realize that the original purpose of a breed has a lot to do with the dog of today (provided it is fairly much a purebred dog). The Yorkie surprised me because I’ve always thought of them as strictly lap dogs :).
The Yorkie surprised me too because they seem so frail. Although, once I really thought about it, the full name for the breed is Yorkshire TERRIER. Pretty much all terriers make good hiking dogs 🙂
Clara (our Chi mix) has energy for days. I’m always hyper vigilant with her though because of hawks and alligators. For this reason (and because she’s not reliable, lol) I always have her tethered to me. I still need to find her a cute tiny pack for her snacks 🙂
I just wrote a draft blog post this morning about backpacks for tiny dogs. They are so hard to find! I hope to have it done next week. I’ll let you know 🙂
Can I chime in with a plug for the Miniature Pinscher? I do not personally have any, however, I have a friend that is a lifelong lover of the breed that has three of them. They are really great on a trail. The have a high pack drive and super people loyalty which keeps them from wanting to run off (like a beagle probably would be tempted to do) which is an important trait to have on the trail.
They are also super agile and athletic. I have heard they can be difficult to train but my buddy has had no trouble with them. Of course, he also doesn’t free feed them, and uses food as a motivator.
Thanks for posting about the little dogs….too often overlooked for people with active lifestyles. Little dogs travel so much easier than larger ones. Also, packing food for a week for a 10 pound dog is WAY easier than packing for a 70lb dog, lol. High time these little guys get some credit for being great travel companions.
Jack Russell Terriers are most definitely great hiking partners. We have one full blooded, and 3 mixes ranging in age from 3.5 to 11 years. And even the 11 yr old can run circles around most anyone. They never seem to truly tire out went it comes to outdoor fun. They’re always ready to go.
Chester and Gretel have enough energy. I’m not sure I could handle a JRT. Ha, ha. Cute little dogs though.
I recently discover your blog and I must say I love! But I have to ask if your dachshunds are good on hikes with a lot of elevation changes? I meet a lot of people who say that they dogs are wonderful hikers but then it turns out that by hike they mean a 2 mile walk on a flat terrain. 😉 Compared to the other breeds you mentioned dachshunds have really short legs and it is just hard for me to see how could they jump without a problem on bigger rocks? Unless you always just picked them up whenever there are some difficulties on a trail? I have a friend who used to have dachshunds. He still loves this breed but after they died he got Jack Russell Terrier just because two od his dachshunds had a lot of health problems and on top of that one damaged his back on a hike, another damaged his back when he jumped off a couch. Hence me asking what type of hikes do you take with your dogs. My friend loves long and difficult hikes and unfortunately, at least his dachshunds, weren’t good for those type of hikes. His Jack Russell Terrier on the other hand is amazing and even 10 mile hike is nothing for that dog.
Good question! I’ve had a similar experience. Sometimes when I tell people I hike with my Dachshund they say, “I hike with mine too. We hiked 3 miles the other day!” and I’m like uh…. no… that is NOT what we do. Ha, ha. Both of my Dachshunds have hiked over 10 miles in a day. Chester has hiked up to 15 and Gretel did a 30 mile trip with me a couple of years ago that was 10 miles a day for 3 days. They did hike with me a couple years ago that was about 1800 feet of elevation gain per mile! *I* thought I was going to die but they were fine 🙂 There were a lot of roots on that trail they had to jump up/down. I don’t like them to jump anything higher than they are long though so I do occasionally give them a little assistance. You can read about the super steep trail we did here: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/dog-friendly-mailbox-peak-trail-oops-we-did-it-again/
As for your friend’s Dachshunds, I get it. The breed is prone to back injuries and that can be frustrating and heartbreaking. It wasn’t due to hiking or jumping though. At least not exactly. Disk problems in a Dachshund are, almost 100% of the time, caused by a genetic disease called IVDD. It makes their spine brittle so, if they have it, jumping can cause damage. I’ve written several articles about it because people always mistakenly think it’s the jumping or stairs that CAUSED the back injury. You can read the one that explains it most here: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/the-truth-about-dachshunds-and-back-problems/
Thank you so much for answering my comment! Before you answered I read more posts on your blog and I’m so impressed by you and your dogs. And 30 mile trip sounds amazing! That’s great that your dog didn’t have any problems on a hike that long. As for my friend he just didn’t want to go though that ever again because it is heartbreaking. It was hard for him and for his dogs when he had to stop taking them on hikes. I know that people like how Dachshunds look and I personally love their personalities but I wished breeders change that breed to the way they used to look like 100 years ago. Here you can check it, if you want to: https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2015/04/02/dog-breeds-1915-vs-2015.aspx
Love, love your blog! We have been avid backpackers for years. Our dogs are mixed breed, but all under 20 pounds and two are dachshund mixes. People often ask us how the little dogs can handle it. “They do just fine,” we say as we gasp for air while our little dogs are pulling us faster up hill. =)
Ha, ha. The struggle is real. I shot a live video once of Gretel hiking and a couple people asked who that was huffing and puffing (it was loud because the microphone was closer to me). I was actually a little embarrassed but I guess it proved my point – my little dog is in better shape than me 🙂
My Jack Russell Terrier has been my best companion in years. Great article and thank you very much for sharing.