Because I hike with my own small dogs, I am extra aware of other small dogs on the trails. While I own and hike with Dachshunds, I’ve also done a lot of research into other small dog breeds. Based on that research, and my experience, these are the 5 most popular small dog breeds for hiking.
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 name “Corgi” literally means “dwarf dog” in Welsh. 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.