Camping with your dog can be a lot of fun. But some dog breeds are much more suited to outdoor adventures than others.
You don’t want to get halfway up the mountain and realize that your dog is totally exhausted or struggling to breathe, especially if they weigh 100 pounds and need to be carried back to the trailhead.
Of course, every dog is an individual.
So, while some dog breeds might be more suited to camping than others, you’ll just have to play it by ear when the time comes.
But if you’re looking for general pointers, this article will tell you which dog breeds are likely to enjoy an adventure on the trails with you (and which would rather be left at home on the sofa with a dog sitter).
Backpacking vs. car camping
Before we go any further, I want to point out that backpacking and car camping are completely different.
If you’re backpacking, your dog needs to be fit enough to manage the hike to your camping spot and small enough to fit inside a lightweight tent.
If you’re car camping, pretty much anything goes.
You aren’t going to be hiking anyway, and you can easily bring all the extra kit to make your dog more comfortable. Plus, you’ll probably have a bigger tent where everyone can spread out.
So, don’t overthink it when it comes to car camping. I’ve seen anything from Chihuahuas to Pugs to German Shepherds and Border Collies having the time of their lives at registered campsites. Just make sure in advance that your campground allows dogs.
Why should you take your dog camping?
The main reason you’ll want to take your dog camping is that it is tons of fun! You guys will have a blast, and you’ll find that your relationship gets even stronger as you explore the world together.
But there are plenty of other good reasons to take your dog along for the ride:
Long hikes are great physical exercise but dogs also need mental stimulation to burn up their energy.
If you have a high-energy dog like a border collie, you’ll probably find that they are much calmer when they get to explore new places regularly. This can also prevent some types of aggression that are triggered by boredom and excess energy.
It can be easy to get stuck in the same habits with our dogs. Before we know it, we can find ourselves in quite a rigid schedule of walks and mealtimes.
Shaking up the routine can help create a more optimistic and resilient dog because they are exposed to different situations.
Don’t go from 0 to 100 mph at once. Build up to a big adventure with some longer walks and one-night camps. You can even do a practice run in the yard.
If you teach your dog that every day can be different, they’ll be able to cope with life’s disruptions a lot better.
I’m a woman who hikes and camps alone, so I feel much safer when my dog is with me.
He’s 65 pounds and looks pretty intimidating. He’s also the worst guard dog in the world and dribbles over anyone who approaches, but just having him with me makes people think twice before approaching!
Some dogs cannot stand being left alone. That makes perfect sense!
Dogs are pack animals that hunt together and protect one another. Being on their own would pretty much be a death sentence in the wild. Of course, they aren’t going to die on their fluffy blankets back home, but the instinct to be with their pack still runs deep.
If like me, you make an effort to not leave your dog alone, it makes sense to bring them with you on your adventures.
8 best dog breeds to take on a camping adventure
The kind of dog that you want to take camping is:
- High-energy — or at least fit enough to manage the hike.
- Obedient and with perfect recall — or kept on a leash at all times for the sake of wildlife and their own safety.
- Small enough to fit in your tent comfortably (or just be prepared to spoon).
- Hardy enough to deal with the weather — but dog coats and sleeping bags are a good idea.
- Curious and brave — the experience might overwhelm fearful dogs.
You can find these traits in all kinds of breeds, but here are some specific suggestions that fit the bill.
1. Border Collie
Border collies are incredibly intelligent and athletic. This can lead to aggression if they are bored and understimulated, so they particularly benefit from outdoor adventures.
They aren’t too big and they’re known for their obedience. Just be careful if you encounter any livestock, which can trigger their instinct to herd. (In fact, all dogs should be on leads at all times when livestock are close by!)
Australian Shepherds also are excellent herding dogs with traits similar to those of Border Collies, though Australian Shepherds are a bit bigger and can be a bit more aggressive (though it massively depends on their education).
2. Siberian Husky
Siberian Huskies are particularly great dogs for winter camping adventures.
They will love exploring in the ice and snow, and you won’t have to worry about them getting too cold. Huskies are active dogs that need a tremendous amount of exercise, so those long hikes will do them good.
They are also quite mischievous and known for being escape artists, so most huskies should be kept on a lead at all times. Otherwise, they might disappear over a distant hill. (Good luck running after them with your heavy pack).
Alaskan Malamutes have traits similar to those of Huskies, but they are a lot bigger, so they’ll take up more space in your tent.
3. Jack Russell Terrier
Jack Russell Terriers are perfect for camping. They are small, so you don’t have to sacrifice too much tent space, but they are also athletic and strong.
They are intelligent and loving, which makes them easy to train, and they are brave enough to dive into your camping adventure without a second thought.
Their little legs could get tired on a long hike, but they’re small enough to be carried if necessary.
4. German Shepard
German Shepherds are incredibly loyal dogs, so they’ll be delighted to be invited along for your camping trip. They are territorial and protective, so there is no way they will let anyone into your tent uninvited.
They are also super intelligent and get bored quickly, so they will benefit from the enrichment of outdoor adventures.
Just bear in mind that they have a pretty strong prey drive.
5. Irish Setter
Irish Setters are friendly and energetic. They are a great breed to take camping because they will benefit from the stimulation and physical exercise, and they’ve got wicked stamina.
They were bred to be hunting dogs, though, so you’ll have to keep a close eye on them around wildlife.
6. Border Terrier
Border Terriers may be small, but they have lots of courage and love to give.
They are hardy, so they aren’t going to get freaked out by bad weather on the trail. Plus, they’re small enough to share your sleeping bag!
They are trainable, and they are less aggressive than other terriers, but they do have a strong chasing instinct and are surprisingly fast.
(It seems like most good outdoors dogs are also hunters. I guess it comes with the territory!)
7. Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers are loving and energetic dogs.
They are big enough to keep up, but they aren’t so big that they’ll swallow up the whole tent! They are also super eager to please, so it shouldn’t be too hard to train them to listen to you out on the hills.
Labradors are usually laid back and kind, and they can hike for miles without tiring out. They are the perfect balance between friendly and protective, so you can feel safe without worrying that they’re going to take their bodyguard job a bit too seriously!
Mutts are a combination of different breeds. They could be a mix of two different pure-bred parents or a random blend of hundreds of breeds from many generations!
Don’t overlook mutts, though.
Mutts are fantastic all-rounders because they haven’t been bred for one particular characteristic at the expense of others.
As much as some breeds might be better for camping than others, you might actually find that a mongrel is more resilient and hardy.
Dogs you shouldn’t take camping
No dog breed categorically can’t come camping with you but here are some things to be aware of.
Fitness and energy levels
Some dogs are going to struggle with the trails more than others.
For example, Chihuahuas are probably going to get exhausted halfway through the hike. Then again, they are so small, you can just zip them into the front of your coat and give them a lift the rest of the way.
Just be aware that lower energy dogs might need to be carried, so if your Great Dane isn’t much of a hiker, you’re going to have a hard time helping them out. Plus, good luck getting a 125-pound dog into the tent with you.
While your dog can help keep you safe on the trails, some breeds might be a bit too good at their job.
For example, Malinois dogs are extremely protective. This could make it difficult for them to settle in a tent because they will be constantly listening for threats. That means camping could be exhausting for them.
If your dog has arthritis, you need to think carefully before taking them on a long hike. Too much exercise can cause a big flare-up, and they could wake up in a huge amount of pain.
Dogs with flat faces (think Pugs and Boxers) can find breathing to be more difficult, so you should consider their well-being before heading off for a strenuous hike. (But some of them will be fine — it just depends on the individual!)
Dogs are individuals. Certain breeds tend toward particular characteristics, but their education and upbringing hugely influence their temperament.
If you’re going car camping, you don’t need to overthink it. Pretty much any dog will be OK on a car camping trip, so long as they aren’t too anxious or aggressive around other people.
For a backpacking adventure, you need to think a bit more carefully. Start with a smaller adventure closer to home and build up from there. For the right dog, camping can be a fantastic way to enrich their lives and strengthen their relationship with you.
Rachel Horne is a freelance writer and journalist. When she isn’t writing about camping for publications like The Camper Lifestyle, she’s exploring the great outdoors with her rescue pup, Pirate. She hasn’t quite convinced him with Wild Swimming yet, but he’ll happily keep watch from the shore while she dives into the mountain lakes.