Choosing the right breed for a new dog can be one of the most difficult decisions for a dog lover to make. There are benefits and drawbacks to all kinds of dog breeds, and it’s always best to choose one according to your current living arrangement, how much time you have throughout the day to dedicate to your dog, and your economic status in order to ensure that you can afford to take care of your dog. However, more and more people are looking to large, mountain dog breeds to provide them with the companionship and protection that they need within their home.
Lumbering giants, these dog breeds can not only help you feel safe, but there’s nothing more satisfying than a slobbery wet kiss when you come home from a day of work. Here are the top ten mountain dog breeds that more and more dog lovers are starting to become interested in.
Known as the gentle giant, this French dog is known for its luxurious, long white coat and playful expression. It’s typically a calm dog, but has been credited with the ability to sense any kind of danger. This makes them wary of new strangers that enter the home, but with time and patience, they can learn to trust guests within the home.
As part of the working dog group, they were bred to watch over and protect livestock, such as sheep, cattle and goats. They were also bred to be companion dogs, providing shepherds and livestock farmers with their friendly disposition once the work day was over. They’re a sturdy stocky dog, weighing anywhere from 100 to 125 pounds. Their double coat provides all the warmth that they need, and should be brushed at least once a week. Special attention should be paid to trimming their nails, especially if they’re not very active outside. For more of this stunning breed, read our article on the Great Pyrenees.
Bernese mountain dog
This dog breed is considered one of the most beautiful out of the Swiss mountain dog breeds that exist. It has quite a long coat that does require grooming on a weekly basis, and should be bathed weekly or monthly, depending on the amount of outdoor activity.
Ear cleaning is required to prevent the onset of infection and eliminating any parasites that may have taken roost from the animals that they herd. The wonderful pattern of their markings certainly makes them stand out from the other mountain dog breeds.
With very alert eyes and a playful smile, the Bernese mountain dog can be traced back to its Mastiff heritage during the times of the Romans. It was bred in Switzerland to be a herding dog, ensuring that the livestock never roamed too far from the rest of its herd to be taken by predators. They live for roughly 7 to 10 years, and can weigh up to 110 pounds. Check out our profile of the Bernese Mountain Dog to learn more about this adorable dog.
This is the infamous dog breed that has saved several people from the avalanches of the Swiss Alps. Named after the Hospice du Grand St. Bernard that resides in Switzerland, they were trained by the monks that have lived there since the 17th Century.
They’re known for copious amounts of drooling, but also for their wonderful sense of smell. They make excellent watchdogs and are quite gentle with children. Supervision should still be paid, however, as these dogs aren’t aware of just how big they are or how easily they can bowl over other people and children. After all, they can weigh anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds. They come in short-coat and longer-coat varieties, and should be brushed on a regular basis in order to minimize shedding and keep mats away. Is this dog suited for you? Why not found out in our profile of the Saint Bernard.
Legend has it that they’re descended from the Chukchi sled dogs that used to reside in the Siberian Arctic, which is a dog breed that has existed for over 3,000 years. Bred for herding reindeer and pulling sleds, these broad-chested dogs are not content with simply sitting around and doing nothing. This active member of the Spitz family loves having a job to do, and can become quite bored if they’re not kept active. However, they’re also known for being goofs when they’re ready. Our information on the Husky will give you more insight, check it out to see if this dog is for you.
They come in a wide array of colors and live for longer than twelve years. They shed twice a year, and require extensive amounts of bathing and brushing in order to remove all of the fur. This is not a dog breed for those who are prone to pet dander allergies. Despite being a mountain dog breed, they don’t get much larger than sixty pounds, but that weight is typically all lean muscle.
Karakachan bear dog
The name alone speaks volumes about the size of this dog. A Nordic hunting breed that was created to combat bears in the forest and protect the home certainly has a lot going for it. Any dog that can take on a bear is quite courageous, and this mountain dog breed is well known for it. Along with serving as a protector, the intention was to breed them to hunt mink, lynx, duck, partridge, moose and wild boar.
They were also used to pull sleds, making it easier for hunters to take their kills back to their home instead of lugging it back through miles of thick snow. Their extremely thick fur, which keeps them warm and weatherproof, should be brushed on a weekly basis to reduce shedding.
Greater Swiss mountain dog
A Swiss breed of dog, they’re known for being quite versatile when it comes to driving cattle, protecting your home, and being the winner in any fight. Herding is the main focus of this breed, and they’re not against herding small children in the yard if they’re roaming around free.
Their large size can be a little imposing to toddlers, but their gentle disposition makes them the perfectly family dog. They resemble a short-haired version of the Bernese mountain dog, and possess similar markings. Weighing as much as 150 pounds, they should be brushed on a weekly basis, as their fur is quite dense and is prone to shedding. Their undercoat is also quite thick in order to keep them warm from the harsh temperatures of the Swiss mountains.
The only dog breed that is actually native to Iceland, this sheepdog was bred for herding, and does an excellent job of it. Living up to fifteen years and thirty five pounds, this plucky little dog is very cheerful and quite energetic. It was brought over to Iceland by the Vikings, and its heritage as a companion dog continues to this day.
They’re funny curly tails, short triangular ears, and striking orange coat certainly make them a good choice of pooch within the home. They are prone to shedding however, due to their naturally thick coat, and should be brushed quite often in order to minimize the hair left on your furniture and carpet during shedding season.
Aside from the complicated name, you could not choose a more loyal and dedicated breed. They’re born with a very smooth coat and are bob-tailed. This makes them a lot more agile than their larger counterparts, making them perfect herding dogs, as well as pulling carts.
They’re quite intelligent and independent, so they do require some training in order to remain obedient, but their self-confidence ensures that they won’t shy away from challenges. Similar in marking to the Bernese mountain dog, their short coats only require weekly brushing, and their ears need to be cleaned on a regular basis. They weigh as much as 65 pounds and can live up to 13 years.
This Italian breed of mountain dog has the reputation of being an excellent guard dog. They embody independence, stamina, strength, and a strong sense of courage that certainly puts them above the rest of other Italian dog breeds. They revel in lots of exercise, so a large country home with a field for them to run in is always best. Their luxurious white coats make it easy to confuse them with the Great Pyrenees, but they’re much smaller and have a different temperament that sets them apart.
While the Pyrenees is gentle, patient and affectionate, the Maremma Sheepdog is more alert, determined and dignified. Weighing roughly up to 100 pounds, training is required to ensure that they are not prone to jumping and knocking you over. Brushing should be done at least two to three times per week in order to keep clean and prevent mats from occurring.
Considered the world’s most expensive dog, the Tibetan Mastiff is certainly a dog breed that can be intimidating at first glance. With a body full of hair and a face that is both alert and fearless, this breed of dog has remained mostly unchanged over the centuries. This is due to the isolation of the breed by the Tibetan monks, who lived in solitude high up in the mountains. This dog breed is quite strong and is dedicated to working on any task it is given. It serves as a guardian of the flock, as well as a companion dog who is always eager to please.
They also served as guard dogs for monasteries, so they can be very protective, but also quite stubborn. Their fur comes in a wide range of colors, from black, to brown to even a deep orange-red, and some are even dark with tan markings.
They have an extremely heavy undercoat that’s designed to keep them warm in winter, and can lead to extremely heavy shedding seasons when the weather becomes warmer. They can weigh up to 150 pounds, so they are quite stocky and sturdy dogs. They thrive best in large, open spaces and though are protective of children, can very easily knock them over. See our profile on the Tibetan Mastiff to learn more about this hardy canine.
Taking care of large mountain breed dogs
Although they were originally bred to be hardy and withstand the pressures of work, large dog breeds do require their own special kind of care. This goes beyond just what you feed them; ensuring that they are happy within your home is very important. Having a large breed means that they need a lot more room to maneuver, so living in an apartment is never the best choice.
Your dog is going to need a lot of space so that they’re not knocking things over and can comfortable sit or lie down. A big yard space is also required so that he can get ample amounts of exercise throughout the day. These were bred to be working dogs which means they need to keep those limbs moving.
Along with physical space, they also require mental exercise. As stated, they’re meant to be working dogs, so they require some mental stimulation in order to feel like they’re achieving an end goal. Take the time to teach your dog new tricks on a regular basis and provide stimulating toys that keep their interest. Taking your dog for walks in new areas such as parks will also get their brain going with all of the new sights, smells and sounds for them to explore. This should only be attempted if your dog is leash-trained and knows how to behave properly in new environments.
Training is a key element during the puppy stages of a large dog’s life, and the lack thereof can result in behaviour that is not only painful but also dangerous. When fully grown, these dog breeds weigh upwards of 100 pounds, and can make any leash walk very dangerous if you cannot exercise the proper amount of control. Curtailing your dog’s need to jump on you or new guests will also eliminate the risk of injury or damaging your property. Exercising a firm hand during training will ensure that your lessons stick, so that your large dog doesn’t believe that he runs the household.
Most mountain dog breeds can withstand cold temperatures, so there are no special measures that need to be taken in ensuring that they remain warm. These breeds, however, tend to develop winter coats, which means that they will start shedding in the spring time. If you’re fascinated by cold weather dogs, see our piece on these dogs that thrive in freezing temperatures to get to know them better.
Routine brushing will eliminate the thick undercoat and prevent matting so that your dog will always look his best and won’t suffer from any hot spots in the process. Hot spots occur when a dog’s skin because moist and itchy, which results in scratching and licking. Such hot spots can occur when moisture builds up under the matted fur, and makes it difficult for the skin to breathe. Because of this shedding, those who suffer from allergies to pet dander may find it irritating to their sinuses to groom their dogs.
Due to their build and their status as working dogs, many large dog breeds are prone to hip dysplasia and other forms of arthritis. Although they are not bothered by the cold, the low temperatures can make it more difficult for your dog to be comfortable while he is moving around. Be sure to provide plenty of warm bedding, and introduce pills or treats that have glucosamine in them.
Fish oil added to your dog’s food can also help to lubricate the joints and make it much easier for them to move around. Rigorous exercise should be avoided during the winter months in order to minimize the pain a dog may experience after each session; light exercise is preferred so that he doesn’t start packing on unnecessary pounds.
Given the high rate of growth for puppies of large breeds, your dog should be carefully monitored in order to ensure that the muscles are developing properly. The development of muscle disorders become quite difficult to correct in later years, and can be extremely painful for a dog to cope with. At the first sign that something is wrong, be sure to talk to your vet and schedule an appointment in order to take care of the problem before it becomes too difficult to correct.
Some of the more common muscular disorders include:
- Wobbler’s syndrome: this involves the compression of the spinal cord and nerves within the neck. This can result in weakness or even paralysis in the hind legs, resulting in a wobbly gait. If you notice that your dog may have problems getting up or lying down, or has trouble walking properly, you should see a vet immediately. Physical rehabilitation, medication, and surgical options can help to minimize the symptoms of this disorder.
- Degenerative myelopathy: this is a disease of the spinal cord that starts affecting dogs in their senior years. This involves loss of coordination in the hind limbs, and can result in the complete loss of use. As this affects the nerves in the lower parts of your dog, the loss of bladder and bowel control can also result.
There is no cure or correction of the disease, so treatment involves ensuring a maintained quality of life so that your dog is comfortable. Sufferers of this disorder do require meticulous care in order to protect against urinary tract infections, skin lesions and bed sores.
- Masticatory muscle myositis: this muscle disorder affects the jaw muscles of the dog that are responsible for chewing. It’s an inflammatory disease that results in the swelling of the jaw muscles, consistent drooling, and pain upon opening the mouth. In chronic conditions, the muscles can become atrophied and the muscles can become scarred from fibrosis, making it difficult for your dog to open his mouth.
A biopsy can be done to discover the condition, and can be treated with corticosteroids to reduce the pain. Feeding soft or liquid food is typically recommended.
Along with muscular disorders, the bones of a puppy can be extremely fragile during their growing years. By the time a puppy is five months old, it is roughly half of its adult weight. This is because between the second and eighth month of his life, a puppy grows roughly two centimeters every two weeks. This can be a lot of pressure on a puppy’s young bones, and can even be painful.
Because of its rapid growth, its immune defenses can become compromised, leading to inflammatory diseases as they get older. Their growth isn’t something that can be controlled or altered, but it is necessary that you keep a watchful eye out in order to ensure that the quality of your dog’s life is not being compromised.
When feeding, avoid foods that are high in calories, as this will only speed up your dog’s growth rate and put more pressure on their bones. Large dog breeds are known for having low digestive tolerance, meaning that they cannot handle certain foods. High quality protein is definitely recommended in order to promote the health and growth of the muscular tissues. Our article on the best food for you dog will serve as your guide to Fido’s good health, go read it.
Large dogs do not require as much calcium as medium- or small-sized dogs, and the overabundance of it can lead to kidney disease and urinary stones. Excess calcium in large breed dogs can surprisingly have the opposite effect: it can lead to slow bone and cartilage development during their growing years, and can even stunt growth.
When it comes to introducing a new dog breed into your home, be sure to always do your research beforehand on the needs of your large dog breed. Not only will this prepare you for what you should expect, but your new dog will also be more thankful for your attention to detail. Introductions to dogs you already have in the home should be done in a neutral area, and patience should be exercise throughout the process in order to minimize the already stressful situation between your dogs.
If you’re still deciding whether a mountain dog breed is right for you, find someone you know or a breeder who would be willing to let you meet their dogs and get a feel for what being around one is like. Not a lot of people can appreciate the size of a large dog until they’ve met on in person. Taking the right steps to ensure both the safety and health of your mountain breed dog will definitely pay off in the long run, and you can both enjoy the years of fun and companionship together.