Are Pit Bulls Good Hiking Dogs?

It's undeniable that hiking is a fun way to get outdoors and get some exercise. It can even be a huge boost to your mental health. 

Whether alone or in a group, on a short hike or a long trail, it's always better to have your dog with you. And the good news is that more and more trails are becoming pet-friendly nowadays.

However…are pit bulls good hiking dogs? 

To find out, we will examine two important aspects: Can your dog handle the environment? And, can the environment handle your dog?

Pit Bull vs. Environment

a pit bull on a hike

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The Health of Your Pit Bull

Generally speaking, pit bulls are a strong, active, and muscular breed. They have pretty good endurance, making them an easy choice for both short trails and long endurance-testing hikes. A healthy pit bull is a great hiking companion.

However, this might not be true for every dog. You know your dog and its limitations. Do they tire easily? Do they have an ailment or disability? Do they become stressed out in a new environment?

You first want to consider their age - never take a small puppy on a hike, especially if they haven’t received their vaccines. In addition, while a puppy of six months may handle a small trail, it may easily become overexerted on a long trail. This overexertion can damage the joints of a developing pup. In the same way, an older, slower dog may also just not be able to cope.

Never bring a pit bull on a hike that is-

  • Limping
  • Pregnant
  • Excessively overweight
  • Arthritic
  • Sick
  • Exhausted
  • Nervous or Reactive
  • Temperature

    Pit bulls tend to do better in warm weather climates.

    They have short hair and generally do not get too hot. However, even then, they can get their paws burned on hot pavement or get sunburnt. 

    The general rule of thumb is to be cautious in any temperature exceeding 75 degrees or going below 40 degrees. Higher or lower than that, and you may need a coat, boots, or some other type of protective garment to make sure your pit bull stays safe.

    Heatstroke [1] - Results in excessive panting, drooling, vomiting, exhaustion and fainting. Immediately get your dog to a cool area and lightly douse them with cool water. This is a medical emergency and requires veterinary attention.

    Hypothermia [2] - Results in sluggishness, paleness, dilated pupils, and confusion. Mild hypothermia can normally be treated by warming up your dog with blankets and coats, but moderate and severe hypothermia requires emergency veterinary care.

    Allergies and Bugs

    Since they have short coats, pit bulls can also be more vulnerable to things such as insect bites, skin irritants, and parasites.

    It's normally best to make sure you have some insect repellent with you and to do a regular tick-check after your dog has been walking in long grass or brush.

    If your pit bull starts wheezing or developing a rash, then it may have an allergy of some sort. If this happens, you should probably cut the hike short or move to a different area. Never let your dog eat a plant, fungus, or animal corpse that you find on the trail.

    a pit bull on a hike


    Pit bulls tend to be fun-loving dogs, and an outing with you will normally be a source of great enjoyment. 

    However, hiking can be overstimulating for a dog. There are thousands of unknown smells, unknown places, and other animals, and their hearts are beating faster from the exercise. This can be perfectly fine, and most dogs will not have a problem…

    …but it can be an issue.

    If your pit bull is aggressive towards other people or dogs, or if they're very anxious and reactive, then it's best to let them stay home. An overexcited dog can be unpredictable. Nobody wants a hike to end in tragedy because their dog was overwhelmed.

    Any dog can have a bad day, and maybe you have confidence that you can contain and control them in a tense situation. As long as you know your dog and what triggers them.

    Environment vs. Pit Bull

    Where you plan to go is another big factor. Once you’re sure you can trust your pit bull, hiking with them becomes the same as with any other breed. With a few exceptions…

    Prey Drive

    It is common knowledge that pit bulls have some terrier blood in them. This means they have a higher prey drive than other dog breeds, especially in some bully breeds like the American pit bull terrier.

    This is why it's very important to ensure that they have a harness and remain leashed. An encounter with wild animals could get your pit bull banned from that trail or result in injury, loss, and even serious diseases.

    Running can also trigger a prey drive. This is why it's a good idea to keep your pittie on a leash, even in areas where other dogs may be roaming.

    a pit bull wearing a harness while on a hike

    Pit Bulls as Guard Dogs

    Many hikers choose pit bulls as hiking companions because they hope they will make good guard dogs. While they can look intimidating, which may be enough to make you feel safer, the pit bull is actually not a very good guard dog. They tend to be too friendly and curious.

    However, they can be quite protective as well. So they may respond if they think you are being threatened. And let’s be honest, just the look of a stocky pit bull is generally enough to scare away any potential threat.

    No Trace Waste

    One of the most difficult tasks that you’ll face when hiking with any pet is leaving the environment exactly how you found it. [3]

    We’ve already covered leashing your dog to keep both them and the local wildlife safe, but it goes further than that. Always make sure to research the area you’re planning to hike. Some trails do not allow any animals, and some may have specific leash requirements.

    A responsible pit bull owner will always follow these laws - making life easier for future dog walkers.

    Waste management is also a big issue. At Sparkpaws, we offer a number of ‘Poop packet’ holders that can attach to your leash and make it easy to carry and ethically dispose of dog waste.

    a pitbull hiking

    If you HAVE to dispose of your waste, and there are no bins, some National Parks recommend the ‘No Trace’ method - where you must ensure that all dog poop is buried in a 15-inch deep hole that is  200 feet from any water source or campsite.

    We can’t always control where our dog is about to pee, but if you do see them getting ready to go near a water source, then it's better to try and move them away if possible.


    The best thing you can do is ensure your dog is well-trained.

    An obedient dog who will respond to a quick ‘recall’ command and who knows when to sit and wait for its owner can be the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. 

    Never leave your dog unattended - even in a campsite or rest area.

    Patience…With Other Humans

    The big downside to hiking with pit bulls - is the misconception that they are a dangerous or aggressive breed.

    At times you may encounter other hikers who are nervous or upset about seeing your pit bull with you on the trail. Try to remain calm and respectful. Know your rights, but calmly assure the person that your dog is not dangerous and move them out of the way of walkers.

    Remaining calm and respectful will show them that you trust in your dog and their right to be there. Occasionally this may involve moving to another area or quietly bypassing the scene.


    Your pit bull will require food and water, so make sure that you pack enough for them. Ensuring that you have a good sturdy harness and leash, a poop-bag holder, and a dog coat for cold situations will go a long way to having a good time, all of which can be purchased here at Sparkpaws.

    In addition, you may want to bring some dog boots for rough terrain, protecting your dog from burns and frostbite. 

    a pitbull wearing dog boots

    You will probably already be carrying some insect repellant and a first aid kit for your own use, but packing some extra for your dog, as well as some dog-safe medicine, will make sure that your dog stays healthy on the trail. [4]

    A good first aid kit should contain bandages, adhesive tape, boric acid powder, gauze, ointment, cotton wool, and any necessary anti-inflammatory or anti-allergy medication.

    Some larger pit bulls may be able to carry their own pack. Saving you space. But beware of over-encumbering and exhausting them. This should be less than 25% of their body weight for grown adults.

    Make sure that your dog is microchipped or has some form of identification on them in case of an emergency. Carrying around a recent photo of them will also help in case they run off or get lost.


    A healthy, well-trained pit bull is a wonderful companion to have on a hike. They can easily handle your adventures and enjoy some time outdoors.

    However, they need to be well-trained and monitored. Their prey drive can make them a danger to small wildlife, and their waste can cause pollution. Make sure that you leave an area as you found it.

    If in any doubt, keep them on a leash. Always obey the leash laws inside a park, and keep a close watch on your dog’s behavior.

    Make sure your dog is safe by ensuring that they have the right equipment for the temperatures you're going to be walking in (Remember! Temperatures can drop rapidly at night, even in a temperate environment) and that you have solid identification, supplies, and a first aid kit.

    At the end of the day, it is the owners that will make the biggest difference in deciding whether it is a good idea to hike with your pit bull. Take the time to weigh up the pros, cons, and responsibilities and make a wise choice. 

    Happy trails!

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