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Soul Dog: How to pick the best breed for hiking

    Wanna know what I think is the best breed for hiking?

    The one you have.

    Your dog could be a chihuahua, a rescue mutt or a fifth-generation purebred German shepherd. If you and your dog love to go on long walks in the outdoors, then you, my friend, have the best breed for hiking.

    Oh sure, there are dogs who have better endurance qualities, but I’ve also seen people hiking with their dogs in backpacks.

    And we don’t discriminate around here. Your “best breed” could be an adventure cat. Or goat. Whatever floats your boat.

    But it’s no secret which breed I love to hike with the most.

    My best breed for hiking is …

    The Maremma sheepdog, of course.

    I’ve written often about the journey to discover my true purpose in life. Adopting a two-year-old Maremma sheepdog in Calgary, Alberta, changed my life.

    Knowing Shep would not thrive in the urban environment in which we lived, we discovered a passion for the outdoors. The Rocky Mountains and their Foothills were at our very doorstep.

    Out went the high heels, in came the hiking boots.

    the writer and her first guardian dog at Banff Ink Pots
    Shep and me at Banff National Park

    We found each other in the mountains. And I found myself. My power. And at the age of 35-ish, the beginning of my true journey in life: a camera, dogs and the stories they create.

    As Shep aged, we turned our attention to ghost-towning, especially in the Badlands of Alberta and then Central British Columbia.

    Our activity wasn’t important. We were together. That’s what mattered.

    Now it’s her turn

    Approaching 8 years old, Bella is in her prime hiking years.

    (Sidebar: I was chatting with a vet last summer who had never laid eyes on my dog. When she learned how old Bella was – 7 at the time – she said, “Oh, your dog is in her geriatric years.” I said nothing but thought, “Clearly you don’t know much about livestock guardian dogs. GTFOH.”)

    She will go until I absolutely cannot anymore. We’ll do the Liberty Lake Loop, estimated around 9 miles, and when she realizes we’re getting close to the parking lot, she’ll try dragging me up offshoot trails to make it go longer.

    We didn’t get here right away. She was a bit of a bitch when she was younger, stopping in the middle of the trail and refusing to go farther.

    We had to start slow, just a few miles here and there, and then she got it.

    Now she doesn’t stop, and she sits forlornly in the front window when she realizes the day does not include an adventure.

    We connect on our hikes – at Mt. Spokane, Dishman Hills or to any of the picturesque lakes in Idaho. We become one with each other, just two creatures living in the moment, in the place their hearts were born to be.

    More than anything, we’re together. And that’s what matters.

    A bit about the Maremma sheepdog and hiking

    My best breed for hiking has a long history of endurance walks.

    The Cane de Pastore Maremmano-Abrusseze, or the dog of the shepherds of the Maremmano and Abrusseze regions of Italy, have been guarding sheep and other livestock for more than 2,000 years.

    They have been written about in Ancient Roman literature and depicted in statues and paintings throughout the centuries. The Maremma sheepdog has an honored place in Italian history.

    Maremmas accompanied shepherds on the transhumance of Europe. The seasonal movement from winter to summer pastures and back again meant long days of trekking and guiding the flocks safely.

    So yeah … a 10-mile hike in the woods ain’t no thing to Princess Bella Bossypants.

    my best breed for hiking is the Maremma sheepdog

    What’s funny, though, is scouring the web to source information on the activity levels of the Maremma sheepdog. You can easily tell many of the pages on search results were written by people who don’t know this breed.

    “High activity, high energy.”

    Hahaha … NO.

    My Maremma sheepdog has two favorite pastimes: hiking and sleeping. When we aren’t out in the woods, she is cutting down on a forest with her snoring.

    The same was true for Shep, although it may not be true for all Maremma sheepdogs.

    But it sure has been my experience.

    The Soul Dog Journey Project 

    These stories of Bella, to be told every Monday in 2022, are part of the Soul Dog Journey Project, an effort by my friend Marika at @dirtiedogphotography in Seattle. After losing her Soul Dog, Kerouac, last year, she’s put together a 52-week project that gets us telling the stories of how we are connected to our dogs and what they bring to our lives. 

    Each week, there’s a new story prompt to get our creative juices flowing. This week’s prompt is all your favorite activity with your dog. 

    That’s no secret, right? I go on and on and on about our days hiking together.

    Now don’t be shy. Tell me in the comments your favorite activity with your dog. Or what’s your best breed for hiking?

    And if you’ve found yourself here because you have a Maremma sheepdog that sleeps all day … well, you just know.


    Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

    2 thoughts on “Soul Dog: How to pick the best breed for hiking”

    1. I loved your article and after reading your article I will now take mine hiking. We live on a farm in Australia and they are kept pretty busy.
      My male is 8 turning 9 and he’s starting to slow down but loves a good walk
      My female is about 20 months and apart from the middle of the day she is hyperactive!
      Thank you so much for the article. I loved Canada and I love maremma so what could be better!
      Enjoy your adventures!

    2. I love this! I don’t hike as much as I used to, and now I mostly just stick close to town and do short desert hikes, but boy do I drool over the locations you share.

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