Most of us don’t usually think of dogs as being able to climb trees — that skill belongs to animals like squirrels and cats. Dogs were bred to chase animals into trees rather than scale them. Plus, most dogs simply do not have the limber bodies required for agile acrobatics as cats do. But did you know that there are a few special dog breeds that can climb trees? And they don’t just jump up on a tree — these six dog breeds actually climb up trees and branches!
1. Catahoula Leopard Dog
The Catahoula leopard dog breed originated in Louisiana and is named after a Choctaw word that means “sacred lake.” They are beautiful dogs that come in a wide range of colors and unique patterns, with short-haired coats, long bodies, and even webbed feet! These beautiful dogs are both powerful and agile.
In addition to being excellent swimmers, trackers, hunters, and herders, Catahoula leopard dogs are also one of the few dog breeds that can climb trees in pursuit of prey! These dogs were originally bred for hunting wild boars in the forests of Louisiana. Today they still feel right at home surrounded by trees. They are very driven and love a good challenge, so not even a large tree can stand in their way. In addition, Catahoula leopard dogs are extremely energetic and inquisitive. Many excited dogs have been known to jump over 6-foot tall fences in addition to climbing trees.
2. Treeing Walker Coonhound
As an excellent hunting dog, the treeing Walker coonhound was bred to hunt and “tree” raccoons. This means that they track down the animal and try to trap it in a tree. Once the animal is effectively “treed”, the dog releases a distinctive howl that lets human hunters know where they are. In addition to raccoons, treeing Walker coonhounds are also skilled at hunting and treeing cougars, bobcats, and other large predators.
Treeing Walker coonhounds are high-energy dogs with powerful hindquarters and very long legs that allow them to speed through the forest with their streamlined bodies. They can run fast and far without exerting too much effort, which makes it easy for them to climb up trees to catch their quarry.
3. Jack Russell Terrier
Unlike some of the other dog breeds that can climb trees, the Jack Russell terrier is a much smaller dog that only weighs 9 to 15 pounds on average. With its adorable face and small size, this dog may have an innocent-looking appearance, but don’t let that fool you. Jack Russells are some of the most lively and feisty dogs you will ever meet! This breed comes from England where the dogs were bred for foxhunts, making use of their small but powerful bodies. These dogs are lively, eager to work and have a seemingly endless supply of energy. They are extremely intelligent and inquisitive, with “big-dog” levels of confidence packed into their small compact bodies.
Although much smaller than some of the other tree-climbing breeds, a Jack Russell terrier can easily keep up with the best of them, sprinting up trees with unrivaled ease. These dogs may scale a tree in pursuit of prey, or simply just because they are excited! They are sparky little pups with an adventurous nature but are also loyal companions who love their owners unconditionally.
4. New Guinea Singing Dog
Now, this next breed of dog might be a bit unfamiliar to most folks. Although they are occasionally captive-bred as companion dogs, New Guinea singing dogs are mostly wild dogs from the island of New Guinea. These beautiful wild dogs have fox-like faces with powerful golden-red or black-and-tan bodies. These unique wild dogs have shorter legs than you might expect for a tree-climbing breed. However, their spine and very flexible limbs allow them to scale trees without a second thought. Their limbs are very unique and they can spread their legs sideways and even rotate both sets of legs! This makes tree climbing as simple as life on the ground.
Like their name, New Guinea singing dogs have beautiful melodic voices with incredibly unique sounds. Their howls go up and down in tone, similar to yodeling. However, each dog has its own unique and individual voice and pitch. So, when they join together in a chorus they create a very unique song.
5. Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois is a versatile and hard-working herding dog breed that originated in Belgium. These dogs are very active and protective — in fact, several Belgian Malinois dogs currently work as security detail at the U.S. White House! These dogs are incredibly strong and powerful for their size and have amazing lightning-fast reflexes.
Although they have very muscular legs, Belgium Malinois dogs have agile and lithe bodies that are not weighed down by too much bulk. These incredible dogs can jump more than 8 feet into the air and have been known to scale up all sorts of structures. With those powerful legs, a Belgium Malinois can easily climb up tall trees and even the side of a house without breaking a sweat!
6. Honorable Mention: Chihuahua
The ancient ancestors of the Chihuahua are said to have commonly climbed trees and scaled vertical hills with impressive agility. Today many of us picture little Chihuahuas as “purse dogs” that prefer to spend their time snuggled up in their owners’ laps. However, these pups still love to run and play.
In fact, one rather special Chihuahua named Daisy loves climbing trees! In fact, Daisy’s owners posted a sign on the trees near their house to let people know that their feisty little Chihuahua is not stuck — she just really likes climbing trees.
Wild Dogs That Can Climb Trees
In addition to the dog breeds listed above, there are a few more wild members of the Canidae family that commonly climb trees. Typically, canids do not climb trees, but there are three unique exceptions in the wild: dholes, raccoon dogs, and gray foxes.
Native to various regions of Asia, dholes (Cuon alpinus) go by many different names. They are called Asiatic wild dogs, whistling dogs, mountain wolves, red dogs, and Indian wild dogs, just to name a few. These unique dogs are related to other canids but have round skulls with different molars. Although their red fur, tall ears, and long luscious tails give these dogs a rather foxlike appearance, they are more closely related to wolves and dogs.
Dholes are about the size of a German shepherd dog but have long legs and are extremely skilled jumpers. They are incredibly athletic and can run, swim, jump, and climb trees with ease. In fact, dholes are so flexible and balanced, they can even urinate while doing a handstand! Unfortunately, these amazing dogs are also endangered with only around two thousand adults left in the wild.
Technically a raccoon dog is not a raccoon, and it’s not really a domestic dog breed either — but it is part of the Canidae family, just like dogs, wolves, and foxes. Raccoon dogs have faces that look a lot like a raccoon and furry bodies that look like foxes. They are quite unusual canids because they hibernate during cold winters, have curved claws, and commonly climb trees! There are two species of raccoon dogs. The common raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) in Eastern Asia, and the tanuki or Japanese raccoon dog (Nyctereutes viverrinus) in Japan.
With hooked claws that resemble those of cats, gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) can navigate all kinds of terrain and quickly climb up trees. In fact, gray foxes often live high up in the hollows of trees, far from the reach of non-climbing canids like coyotes and wolves. What sets them apart from other fox species is that gray foxes have evolved special rotating wrists and semi-retractable claws that help them to safely ascend up tall trees. However, this can be a rather risky endeavor for a gray fox. While they are very skilled at climbing up trees, they have much more trouble climbing back down.
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