10 Mountain Dog Breeds That Can Endure Tough Terrain

Skilled canines perfect for search parties and guarding sheep

Bernese Mountain Dog standing in a meadow

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If you've ever come across the lovable, tricolored Bernese Mountain Dog or admired the Great Pyrenees with its extra-large stature and signature white fur, you may already be familiar with other types of mountain dogs. While these unique breeds usually work on farms to protect herds of cattle, sheep, and other animal herds, they can also make great family dogs for the right owners.

What is a Mountain Dog?

Mountain dogs are breeds that either originated in or work in mountainous regions. Most mountain dogs were bred to be livestock guardian dogs, and others may work as search and rescue dogs in the frigid, snowy mountains.

Many of these breeds today are raised to live as household companions. Here, find 10 dog breeds that are right at home living in the mountains.

Breed Characteristics

Most mountain dogs are large, powerful, and protective. They are considered expert-level breeds best left in the hands of experienced dog owners who know how to train and handle guardian breeds. Some breeds are so stocky and powerful that they historically pulled carts loaded with goods to sell at the market.


Most mountain dogs were bred to be protective of their families and property. These dogs require extensive socialization in puppyhood to ensure they don't become overly wary or aggressive around new people. 

  • 01 of 10

    Appenzeller Sennenhund

    Appenzeller Sennenhund sitting

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    The Appenzeller Sennenhund is one of four related Swiss mountain dog breeds developed to work on farms, herd livestock, and pull heavy carts. The other three are the Bernese mountain dog, the Entlebucher mountain dog, and the greater Swiss mountain dog. All four breeds are similarly tricolored (black and white with tan markings), but their coat type and size vary. The Appenzeller Sennenhund, also called the Appenzeller mountain dog or Appenzell cattle dog, was primarily used to herd cattle and guard the farm. They have high exercise and training needs, are apprehensive of strangers, and are best left to expert-level owners. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Foundation Stock Service (AKC); not grouped

    Height: 20 to 22 inches at the shoulder

    Weight: 50 to 75 pounds 

    Coat and Color: Short, straight double coat is a tricolor combination of black or brown with white and tan markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 02 of 10

    Bernese Mountain Dog

    Bernese Mountain Dog

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    The Bernese mountain dog is the only one of the four related Swiss mountain dog breeds to have a long coat; it is the largest. It originated near Berne, where it was a general-purpose farm dog used as a watchdog, property guard, and carting dog. Intelligent and devoted to family, the Bernese mountain dog gets along well with children and most other pets. Although Berners are naturally protective, they are rarely aggressive. This breed needs moderate daily exercise, and you will need to brush out the thick coat at least weekly to keep shedding under control. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 23 to 27.5 inches at the shoulder

    Weight: 70 to 115 pounds

    Coat and Color: Thick, moderately long, slightly wavy, or straight coat is tricolored (jet black with white and tan markings)

    Life Expectancy: 6 to 8 years

  • 03 of 10

    Caucasian Shepherd Dog

    Caucasian Shepherd Dog sitting

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    The Caucasian shepherd dog originated in the Caucasus mountain range, an expansive region between Europe and Asia. The breed guarded livestock and protected the homestead. It takes a bold, fearless, self-confident, and fierce stance when defending its flock. It is a teddy bear with family and other family pets. They can be challenging to train. Caucasian sheepdogs are a powerful breed best left to expert-level dog owners who have experience with large guarding breeds. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Foundation Stock Service (AKC); not grouped

    Height: 23 to 30 inches at the shoulder 

    Weight: 99 to 170 pounds

    Coat and Color: Double coat ranges from short to heavy and comes in solid, brindle, or spotted colors

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 04 of 10

    Entlebucher Mountain Dog

    Entlebucher Mountain Dog standing

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    The Entlebucher mountain dog, also called the Entlebucher Sennehund or cattle dog, is the smallest and fastest of the four related Swiss mountain dog breeds. It needed speed for its primary job as a cattle drover. The breed was also used as an all-purpose farm dog and property guard in the Entlebuch valley, where it originated. Entlebuchers are intelligent and independent but also utterly devoted to their human families. They love to play and generally get along well with gentle children. Though on the smaller side, Entlebuchers need a great deal of exercise to be content. Training is challenging for these strong-willed dogs. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Foundation Stock Service (AKC); not grouped

    Height: 16 to 21 inches at the shoulder

    Weight: 40 to 65 pounds 

    Coat and Color: Short, dense, coarse coat is tricolored (jet black with white and tan markings)

    Life Expectancy: 11 to 15 years

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  • 05 of 10

    Great Pyrenees

    Great Pyrenees dog

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    With its great size and white coat, the Great Pyrenees is magnificent to behold. The breed gets its name from the Pyrenees mountain range between Spain and France. These dogs worked high on the slopes of the mountains, guarding over flocks of sheep and protecting them from bears and wolves. The Great Pyrenees is deeply devoted to its family and watchful over its home. Though large, they are calm in the house and need only moderate daily exercise to be happy. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 25 to 32 inches at the shoulder

    Weight: 100 to 150 pounds (males); 85 to 110 pounds (females)

    Coat and Color: Thick double coat is always white, though it may have markings of gray, tan, badger, or reddish-brown

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 06 of 10

    Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

    Greater Swiss Mountain Dog sitting

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    The greater Swiss mountain dog is the largest and oldest of the four Swiss mountain dog breeds. The Swissy was a hardworking farm dog that did it all: herding livestock, working in the pastures, guarding property, and pulling heavy carts to the market. They are excellent watchdogs that sound the alarm in the presence of suspicious strangers near the home. Swissys are highly devoted to their family. These dogs need moderate daily exercise, and many enjoy pulling carts. They need extensive socialization as puppies to avoid shyness in their adulthood.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 23 to 29 inches at the shoulder 

    Weight: 85 to 140 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short double coat that is tricolored (jet black, white, and tan markings)

    Life Expectancy: 8 to 11 years

  • 07 of 10


    Kuvasz dog standing

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    The kuvasz is a large, all-white livestock guardian used in Hungary since the Middle Ages to protect horses, sheep, and cattle from predators and thieves. This breed hails from Hungary but likely originated in the steppes of Siberia’s Ural Mountains. This dog generally gets along well with respectful children; they are loyal, devoted, and protective of their family. The kuvasz needs early socialization as puppies, lifelong training, and much daily exercise. The breed is usually not recommended for novice dog owners.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 26 to 30 inches at the shoulder 

    Weight: 70 to 115 pounds 

    Coat and Color: Thick double coat, usually medium in length; all white and ranges from straight to wavy

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 08 of 10

    Saint Bernard

    Saint Bernard sitting

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    The majestic and steadfast Saint Bernard is famous for rescuing travelers in peril on the snowy slopes of the Swiss Alps. Monks developed the breed at the St. Bernard Monastery and Hospice, which Bernard de Menthon founded during the 11th century. Today’s Saint Bernard is a gentle and faithful companion. They get along great with kids and love to be part of family activities. Saint Bernards are very large, calm, and laidback. A few short walks a day is all they need for exercise, though many are up for more activity. Saint Bernards drool a lot, so if slobber grosses you out, this isn’t the best breed for fastidious dog owners. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 25.5 to 27.5 inches at the shoulder

    Weight: 130 to 180 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short and smooth or long and silky; comes in white with red, brown, or brindle markings

    Life Expectancy: 8 to 10 years

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  • 09 of 10

    Tibetan Mastiff

    Red gold Tibetan Mastiff

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    The Tibetan mastiff is a primitive breed. It's a hardy dog that can survive in Tibet and the high-altitude Himalayan range. Shepherds used it to guard livestock, and, whether tending a flock or not, it remains more active at night than daytime. This breed is not a fan of strangers and needs lots of space to roam. They can be excellent family dogs but require an experienced owner to keep them in check.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 24 to 30 inches

    Weight: 75 to 160 pounds

    Coat and Color: Long double coat in solid black, black and tan, various shades of red (from pale gold to deep red), and bluish-gray (dilute black); often with white and blue markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 10 of 10


    Newfoundland dog close up

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    The native terrain of Newfoundland is hilly and rocky with plenty of perilous cliffs. The Newfoundland is a thick-coated canine that can withstand frigid, snowy winters and icy waters. This breed did not originate in the mountain region but works as a search and rescue dog in water and mountain rescue missions worldwide. Newfoundlands are excellent working dogs as well as calm and affectionate companions. 

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 26 to 28 inches

    Weight: 100 to 150 pounds

    Coat and Color: Thick double coat in brown, black, gray, or black and white

    Life Expectancy: 8 to 10 years

Breeds to Avoid

If you are traveling in the mountains or hiking in rough, snowy terrain, you will need a dog that has endurance; longer legs useful for climbing and navigating uneven ground; and a warm, insulated coat. The best bet is to steer clear of most toy breeds, like Maltese, Yorkies, and Pekingese, and most short-coated breeds, like greyhounds and whippets. They tend to lose body heat faster than larger or longer-haired dogs.