Which dog breeds are best for backpacking? I know malamutes do well in the cold and on mountains, but what if I'm backpacking in the summer?

Malamute Running

Which dog breeds are good for daily trail runs? I would love a dog that would wake up with me every day and go on a 3 to 7-mile trail run. Somehow, I can't see a Corgi keeping up.

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  • 3
    Did you consider a farm Australian Shepherd?
    – ppl
    Aug 30, 2013 at 21:37
  • @ppl I have never seen one before! I'll Google around. Were you thinking of them for running/backpacking/both? Aug 30, 2013 at 21:56
  • 1
    I don't have experience with them but I was considering the breed for a backpacking companion. I would think they would do just fine running. If you want extreme running there's always a Rhodesian Ridgeback :-).
    – ppl
    Aug 30, 2013 at 21:58
  • 2
    I would recommend any healthy, fit-looking mix. Many races - especially the popular ones - are extremely overbreed. A two-year old dog with hurting joints won´t like trail-running that much... Jun 24, 2014 at 15:38
  • 2
    You need to be careful if selecting a Working dog bread. They tend to be highly intelligent and active dogs, and need a lot stimulation and exercise every day to can become difficult. Depending on home life, a more domestic dog that might not be as good on the trails will make a better pet.
    – user5330
    Mar 20, 2016 at 7:09

5 Answers 5


I'd need to know a bit more about your winter hiking conditions and duration. If you're erring on the side of active, I'd suggest a Labrador. If you're doing colder and shorter, something like a Bernesse Mountain Dog would do amazing.

I love running with my Labrador since she can handle heat decently (I don't run with her when it's very hot), she can handle cold better than I can (has had her whiskers and chest get ice covered), and can handle decent distances in comfort (6-10 miles consistently to age 9).

My only real tips for running with any dogs - be considerate of the heat and make sure you have some good water sources for them.

Update (after 2 years): Our Labrador, now 12, has some hip issues so she's limited to running an easy 2 miles. I never considered Western medicines in the past but acupuncture seems to work wonders for her. We also adopted another dog which we believe is a Lab / Catahoula mix and, holy crap, can that dog run. I have never heard of Catahoula's before but she has no problems keeping up on 15-mile mountain bike rides. My trail runs don't tire her out unless I'm doing 10+ miles, which means she's probably doing 2x that. I'm glad to see them on the list but wouldn't have put them under long slow runs!

As far as running, this article on Runners World should answer; Top Running Dogs

Ref: The Best Types of Dogs for Runners


Australian cattle dog or other types of working dogs. Mine loves backpacking.

  • Cattle dogs have very high energy levels and are bred to travel long distances. Excellent for trail running and hiking long distances.
  • They can carry their own food/water and will do so without whining or stopping (working mentality).
  • They have a very active mind and are very alert, good as a watchdog but have very sweet temperaments.
  • They require very little in terms of grooming. They have a short to medium-length double coat which is naturally rain-resistant but also can be dried quickly.
  • They are medium-sized, in case you need to carry it if injured.
  • Very trainable if you're looking on taking it out off-leash.

Also to note, if you're going to get a long-haired dog for backpacking in the summer, be sure to have its hair cut very short. It's a myth that hair keeps dogs cool-- they get really hot really fast. I also have a long-haired Australian Shepard that goes summer camping in Texas weather with its summer haircut.

  • A little off topic, but would the Australian cattle dog need a lot of attention and things to do, when not on trail? More on topic, how do their feet hold up to long trails? Jun 24, 2014 at 16:43
  • 1
    I take mine for at least a 30 minute walk each day and give them puzzle-type toys that help keep their attention away from being destructive, which they got over after leaving puppy-hood. I think dogs in general will need a lot of attention, but these more so than a Great Dane, for example. As for pads, mine have never had any issues hiking 5-8 miles with several stops. I think training is key-- we go walking on non-concrete paths at least once a week. I've been backpacking with a friend whose German Shepard tore up its feet while my dog had no issues, but that's really anecdotal. Jun 24, 2014 at 17:50

Somehow, I can't see a Corgi keeping up.

I have a 20-pound terrier mutt. She does great with me trail running at distances of 6-7 miles. After we get home, she runs around the back yard in circles like a rocket. Dogs are just much more efficient runners than humans, especially in cool weather. As far as I can tell, humans only seem to be at all competitive with dogs at distances more like 12 miles. (I haven't taken my dog that far, but have seen my running buddy's larger dogs act tired at that distance.) There is a theory that humans evolved for a hunting niche on the plains of Africa, in which we were specially adapted to pursuing prey for long distances in hot weather, but we're talking about really long distances.

For hiking, the problem I've found isn't really my dog's ability to do it physically, it's that she tends to injure her feet. You can get various kinds of booties. It's hard to find ones that fit correctly and that stay on. Keep in mind that if your big dog hurts a foot in the backcountry, you're going to have big problems getting him out. Mine I could carry out if I had to.

  • 1
    I've got a Boston terrier, he's happily walked for 8-9 hours a day and still had considerably more energy than me.
    – user2766
    Dec 18, 2013 at 20:00
  • @Ben What kinds of foot injuries? Is it just the constant friction of trail and rock on paws that aren't calloused because of city life? Something like that? Jun 24, 2014 at 16:44
  • @theJollySin: Usually it's thorns, which can be pulled out and the dog is good to go again. Broken glass can also be a worry, or just sharp rocks.
    – user2169
    Nov 17, 2014 at 16:15

The wolf, the wild ancestor of the dog, has extreme running endurance. According to this article, many wolfs travel more than 50 miles daily searching for food. I've read somewhere, that wolfs can chase moose for a few days, but I can't find that now.

Wolf is very similar to us in that domain, human hunters can also run for days. This can be another reason that two species have formed so special relationship so early.

Looking for great dog runners, look on dogs that are the most similar to their ancestors, such as the German Shepherd (in my country, this race is called Wolfie). If you choose Husky, you can even count for sleight transport if you are tired. Probably it would be you who would have problems to cope with the distance.


A 3 to 7-mile trail run every day is a bit for most dogs. It wears down their cartilage over time. I wore out a couple of labs doing fewer miles than that. At age 8 they had joint problems. I just stay with 1 mile walk a day now.

I would consider a dalmatian coach dog. It is bred for running with the coach. They are also bred to accompany, protect, and warn.

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