Selecting a new canine companion? Here are a few dog breeds that are built to go the distance.
There’s an old adage that dogs and people begin to look alike after years of living together. But have you ever noticed that people also tend to have dogs that segue into their lifestyle? Does a person adopt a Weimaraner because of a personal love of running, or does the desire to knock off multiple miles on the trails come with your relationship to your canine companion? While almost any dog can hike, swim, and camp with you, some are better suited than others to specific sports.
There are breeds who dig, and others that herd. Swimming dogs? Check. Ski dogs? Of course. What type of dog is best for tent camping? We’d go with a small dog that doesn’t bark, but that is a controversial subject we won’t broach in this column. However, here are some dogs that will be terrific companions for your next outdoor adventure.
Snow Sports: If you love being out in the snow, you’ll want a canine companion who is built for cold weather. The iconic St. Bernard is best know for the breed’s ability to go the distance in heavy powder—in fact, these super-heroes of the dog world have a long and decorated record of rescuing people lost in the snow or buried in an avalanche. The name comes from the Great St. Bernard Pass that’s nestled between Switzerland and Italy. Folklore from this beautiful but snow-laden area in the alps has it that more than 2,000 lives were saved over a 200-year period by St. Bernards.
The most famous St. Bernard was named Barry—he’s credited by the monks who trained him with saving over 200 lives. (Barry was so beloved that after he died, the monks had him stuffed). However, the breed has evolved since the late 1800s, and while these big beasts of burden (some weigh nearly 300 pounds) are still wonderful snow companions, there are other dogs who have stepped up in the mountain rescue category. Breeds such as Border Collies, Giant Schnauzers, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are now trained for avalanche rescue teams.
If you are looking for a dog who just plain loves living in snowy conditions, consider the traditional sled dogs like a Siberian Husky or Malamute. They have super-warm double-layer coats. Both of these dogs are great runners—so consider investing in a sled!
Hiking: Almost all dogs love to walk, but some are better for going the distance on day hikes and multi-day trips. With a leash, you can take a dog most anywhere, but there are plenty of places where leash-less travel is permitted—in this case you’ll want a breed that is good with commands and will stay by your side and not run off after rabbits or deer.
Labradors are terrific for their ability to go the distance and leap over fallen logs with a single bound, plus they are loyal and easily trained. Dalmatians and Rhodesian Ridgebacks are other awesome trail dogs—their short hair isn’t as susceptible to collecting stickers and grass seeds as four-legged companions with longer coats.
Dalmatians were bred to run in front of carriages—they can cover long distances with ease. Rhodesian Ridgebacks got their backcountry beginnings in Zimbabwe where they were trained by the Boers to hunt lions. These dogs can be fiercely protective—you’ll sleep well at night in your tent knowing they are watching over you.
Swimming: There are a lot of water-friendly dogs, but one of the best for fast and rough water conditions is the Newfoundland. These big, friendly pets come from the east coast of Canada where water is plentiful (and cold and choppy). The breed is not only known for its swimming prowess, but also for its willingness to rescue sailors, swimmers and fishermen.
In fact, Newfoundlands have historically been put to work on lifeguard duty—for many years, life guard stations in Britain each had Newfoundlands on staff where they stood by, ready to plunge into the treacherous tides and cold currents of the Atlantic to aid floundering swimmers or to tow boats to shore in angry seas. Portuguese Water dogs are also great wet condition companions.
For kayaking and paddleboarding, we prefer small dogs that won’t move around and cause you to tip, or jump off the board in pursuit of ducks and geese. Sure you can paddle with any dog on your board or kayak, but consider a Dachshund for their sleek design and low center of gravity.
Most Dachshunds don’t really like water, so they are less likely to leap off the board while you are not looking! Bigger dogs can cause the board or boat to shift when they decide to explore, but smaller dogs don’t cause so much commotion. We recommend a life jacket (float-coat) for your four-legged friend—it will give you more peace of mind when the water is cold and rough.