Strangely enough, it’s not that silly of a question. Animals are physically versatile and fit to do a lot of activities we don’t typically associate with them. It might be generally accepted that dogs are ground animals and yet, they can also be exceptional climbers.
So, can a dog climb tree like a monkey? Actually, yes. Most common domestic dogs aren’t much for climbing trees, but there are a few breeds that excel at it.
A bulldog named Flatnose got his fifteen seconds of fame back in the 80s on the Johnny Carson show for his tree scaling skills. While it may not be with the same proficiency professional climbers like monkeys display, dog breeds can quickly scale and traverse through trees
Some dogs are bred and trained specifically to climb trees like the treeing walker coonhound. The best dog climbers appear to be naturals at it like the rare New Guinea singing dog or the more common Jack Russell Terrier.
Dog That Can Climb Trees
Not all dog breeds are able to climb trees. However, here are a few different breeds that can climb trees. New Guinea Singing Dogs, Louisian Catahoula Leopard dogs, Treeing Walker Coonhounds, Jack Russell Terriers, Belgian Malinois, and Pit Bulls can all scale their up a tree.
New Guinea Singing Dog
New Guinea singing dogs are the rarest breed of wild dogs in the world. It was once found in the New Guinea Highlands but has not been seen in the wild since 1957 when they were discovered and two were delivered to the US.
Most of the singing dogs known about are housed in zoological reservations and animal sanctuaries and are descendants of the couple taken from the New Guinea Highlands. They get their name due to their unique tuned howls that sound like a song.
These dogs have an amazing natural ability to scale heights. They are agile enough to climb trees in a similar manner to cats. When they were discovered, New Guinea natives claimed to hear the dogs mostly coming from the tops of the trees.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough known about their behavior in the wild. What has been learned comes from the small amount of New Guinea singing dogs bred in captivity.
Even with so few examples around, they have a reputation for scaling heights. Whether it’s the backyard fence or trees in the forest, singing dogs will climb up to heights for fun. Knowing their personality and wild traits, it’s not hard to believe that they live high in the trees away from other animals.
Louisian Catahoula Leopard
The Catahoula cur, or Louisian Catahoula Leopard, was first bred by the French when they settled around Catahoula lake in Northern Louisiana.
Northern Louisiana was already home to a mix of European mastiffs, bloodhounds, and greyhounds bred with a Choctaw domesticated wolf-like dog. These “wolf dogs”, as they’ve been called, were bred with French hounds.
The result was a breed with up to five different colors, usually made of one base color and multicolored spots or trim, that has a natural ability to scale to the top of trees. Even though the ‘leopard’ part of their name refers to the spots, some people think it’s because they climb trees like a leopard.
Treeing Walker Coonhound
Treeing Walkers are bred to hunt. They are popular around the Appalachian forest in Kentucky and Tennessee for hunting down raccoons and squirrels.
This breed doesn’t have the same ease in climbing trees, but they are trained from an early age to scale the lower branches of trees they corner their prey in.
Their climbing is not as graceful as the Catahoula. Treeing walkers tend to jump a decent vertical and attempt to latch onto a branch with their mouth.
If they are successful, they use that leverage to pull the rest of their body to the nearest branch big enough to support themselves.
Since treeing walkers hunt in packs, they don’t climb as much as they corral and sniff out prey. Hunters tend to keep their hounds well trained and waiting for their commands.
Hunters don’t want any harm to come to their pack either. So generally, treeing walkers aren’t asked to scale a tree unless the conditions are favorable.
Jack Russell Terrier
Jack Russell Terriers are a breed that almost everyone has heard of. These small breed dogs are full of energy and personality. They were also bred for hunting, only they were targeted at foxes. They are mostly white-coated but can be any color with smooth, rough, or broken coats.
These little guys are strong and have incredible balance. They can climb trees and steep rocky slopes. They utilize all four legs for balance, their claws for grip, and their muscle strength for lift.
With a quick jump and pull, terriers can be halfway up a nice tall tree in seconds. Though, it may take them a little longer to get back down.
Trees that have more horizontal angles are a playground for Jack Russel Terriers. They can get up vertical tree trunks, but it might take a few good jumps to get a good grip. Split trunk trees and trees with lower branches allow terriers to run across them with just as much ease as they would have on the ground.
German shepherds are known for their physical strength, loyalty, and intelligence. The Belgian Malinois is more aggressive than what’s known as a german shepherd in America today. These dogs are larger and more powerful than shepherds. They are also incredibly acrobatic.
Belgian Malinois are mostly trained as working dogs for search and rescue, personal protection, and law enforcement. They have an amazing vertical and horizontal jump. With a good leap and incredible leg strength, these dogs can scale buildings and trees like a superhero. They also have the balance they need to traverse across branches and move tree to tree.
Some police training facilities even train the dogs to move across tightropes blindfolded. These dogs may not live in the trees, but they don’t see them as an obstacle either.
Pit bulls are another common domestic breed that can climb trees. They aren’t as skilled as the other breeds on the list, but they can get up a tree trunk if need be. Pit bulls have powerful front legs that can wrap around a tree trunk and pull them up.
While they aren’t famous for climbing up things, it’s not uncommon for a pitbull to scale up a tree while playing. With specific training, pit bulls can be trained to leap twelve feet high and even to scale thirty-foot walls.
Pit bulls don’t often stray too far from their owners and won’t typically scale anything unless they see a reason to.
The breeds we’ve already gone through aren’t the only dogs that can make their way up a tree. Some other breeds that have been known to climb include border collies, Rhodesian ridgebacks, Australian shepherds, Siberian huskies, and Labrador retrievers.
Most of these breeds aren’t going to go out of their way to do it. They can do it if they need to though. It’s not recommended to train these breeds for this purpose. The act of getting down from the tree can be dangerous if they fall.
Dog Climb Vs Monkey Climb
Ultimately, the question is “can dog climb tree like monkeys?” If we stop at the ability to climb trees, then yes. However, monkeys can scale, swing, and hang in trees all day. The only breeds that come close to this kind of behavior are New Guinea singing dogs and the Catahoula Leopard. Though it can be argued that Belgian Malinois can climb like a monkey with the right motivation.
The New Guinea singing dog is claimed to be found mostly in the trees of the New Guinea Highlands which might suggest that they live in and climbs trees just as well as monkeys. With so little known, it’s hard to say for sure. There’s enough information to say that yes they can climb trees and rather well.
With the singing dog, Catahoula leopard, and Belgian Malinois leading the effort, it can safely be said that some dogs can climb trees like monkeys.
Why Can’t Dogs Climb Trees?
Not just any dog is ready and able to climb a tree. Labradors, chihuahuas, dachshunds, and other domestic breeds may be able to get around on unlevel terrain, but their vertical scaling is almost non-existent.
The main reason is that a dog’s claws are thick but not sharp enough to grab hold onto the tree trunks. Another reason is that their legs are built for power and running but lack flexibility and natural spring compared to the likes of cats or chinchilla.
How Do You Teach A Dog To Climb A Tree?
Climbing trees can be both a great bonding experience and a great way to exercise a lazy or low confidence dog.
For a start, you may like to find very sloped and low tree trunks for them like a ramp. The main reason is that their legs are not built to climb compared to animals like baby bears or squirrels.
The following step-by-step guide is for dogs in the advanced stage of climbing. If you are doing it for the first time, we recommend starting off from an elevated dog bed to a higher step platform before attempting the tree.
- Slowly lead the dog onto the tree trunk with his/her favorite treat
- Once it has completed the routine, praise and reward with a treat.
- Repeat this action until your dog has no hesitation to jump up on the sloped tree trunk. You can then progress to find a taller sloped tree trunk where it is able to get his front paws into but has slight difficulties with his hind paws.
- Once again, lure him/her with a treat. Try to support by grabbing his/her harness or under the arms if it is struggling
- Petting and feeding it on the tree trunk will make it a rewarding experience
For safety, always clip your dog to you in a harness that is able to hold his weight when climbing tall trees. Look for trees with rough bark so that your dog can grip with his claws until it is very experienced in climbing trees.