Top 10 Mountain Dogs for the mountains, snow and cold. St. Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dog, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Siberian Husky, etc...



Top 10 Mountain Dog Breeds


#1. St. Bernard

The breed that has been credited with saving more than 2,500 travelers lost in the snow was named for the Hospice du Grand St. Bernard in Switzerland, where the monks have bred these large dogs since the 17th century. The Saint needs lots of room indoors and out for regular daily exercise. This dog is great for children who won’t be bowled over by its size, and it’s an excellent watchdog.

Country of Origin: Switzerland
Group: Working
Use today: Companion
Life Span: 8-10 years
Color: White with red or red with white, sometimes red-brown.
Coat: Short and close-lying or medium length and wavy.
Grooming: Brushing several times a week to reduce shedding – and, for the longhaired variety, to keep free of mats.
Height: Males, 27.5 inches; females measure 2 inches less.
Weight: 120-200 lbs.


#2. Bernese Mountain Dog

Regarded by many as the most beautiful of the four breeds of Swiss Mountain Dogs, the Bernese is the only one with a long coat. Its ancestry traces to mastiff-type dogs of Roman times, which crossbred with local herding dogs to produce offspring smaller in stature but just as trustworthy and devoted.

Country of Origin: Switzerland
Group: Working
Use today: Herding
Life Span: 7 to 10 years
Color: Black with tan and white markings.
Coat: Long, slightly wavy outer hair; profuse, soft undercoat.
Grooming: Weekly brushing; bathe weekly to monthly. Regular ear cleaning. Clip nails every two weeks. Clean teeth to remove plaque.
Height: 23 to 27? inches.
Weight: 75 to 110 pounds.

#3. Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees is an elegant, longhaired, gentle giant. Owners credit the Pyr with the ability to sense danger, thus determining the trustworthiness of individuals it encounters. A calm dog with dignity, the Pyr has guarded families and flocks in the Pyrenean mountains for centuries.

Country of Origin: France
Group: Working
Use today: Livestock guardian, companion
Life Span: 10 to 12 years
Color: White with or without wolf-gray, badger or tan markings. Black eye rims
Coat: Profuse, thick double coat
Grooming: Brush weekly, bathe when needed. Regular teeth cleaning. Special attention to nail cutting.
Height: Males 27 to 32 inches; females, 25 to 29 inches.
Weight: Males 100 to 125 pounds; females, 85 to 115 pounds.

#4. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

he Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, or Swissy to its friends, is one of the four breeds known as the Swiss Sennenhunde (others being Bernese Mountain Dog, Appenzeller and Entlebucher). The versatile Swissy drove cattle, protected their people and even fought in battle.

Country of Origin: Switzerland
Group: Working
Use today: Companion, herding dog
Life Span: 10-12 years
Color: Tri-color: black with bronze markings on cheeks, above the eyes and on all four legs, a white blaze on the face and chest, and white feet and tail tip
Coat: The top coat is dense, 1½ to 2 inches long. The undercoat may be thick and sometimes showing.
Grooming: Brush weekly
Height: Stands 25.5 to 28.5 inches at the shoulder.
Weight: 120 to 140 pounds.

#5. Siberian Husky

Believed to have descended from the Chukchi sled dogs of the Siberian Arctic, which had bred true for 3,000 years, these quick dogs were used to haul sleds and herd reindeer. They were able to travel great distances and work for long periods on little food.

Country of Origin: Siberia
Group: Working
Use today: Sled dog racing
Life Span: 12-plus years
Color: Black and white, gray and white, red and white, or solid white.
Coat: Thick outer coat with plush undercoat.
Grooming: Twice annual shedding requires extensive bathing and brushing to remove fur.
Height: Males, 20 to 23.5 inches; females, 20 to 22 inches
Weight: Males, 45 to 60 pounds; females, 35 to 50 pounds

#6. Icelandic Sheepdog

The only dog native to Iceland, the Icelandic Sheepdog (also known as the Iceland Dog or Icelandic Dog) was brought to the country in the 9th century by the Viking settlers. This herding dog has adapted to the cold climate and extreme terrain of Iceland, making him invaluable to the people who live there.

Country of Origin: Iceland
Group: Herding (United Kennel Club), Miscellaneous Class (American Kennel Club)
Use today: Herding.
Life Span: 10 to 15 years
Color: Chocolate brown, gray, black, and various shades of tan, ranging from cream to reddish brown. White markings always accompany the predominant color, usually a blaze or partially white face, collar, chest, socks, and tail tips.
Coat: Short- or longhaired, weather-resistant double coat with a straight or slightly wavy outercoat and thick, soft, dense undercoat.
Grooming: Brush once weekly; more often during shedding.
Height: Males, 18 inches; females 16 1/2 inches
Weight: 25 to 35 pounds

#7. Entlebucher Sennenhund

The smallest of the four Swiss Mountain dogs, the Entlebucher is smooth-coated and bobtailed. Its good herding instincts make the Entlebucher is a trustworthy watchdog and companion with a lively and attentive character.

Country of Origin: Switzerland
Group: Herding
Use today: Herding, carting, companion
Life Span: 10 to 14 years
Color: Traditional tricolor of black, white and tan.
Grooming: The Entlebucher’s needs are easily met with a weekly brushing of the smooth coat, plus regular nail clipping and ear cleaning.
Height: 16 to 20 inches
Weight: 55 to 65 lbs

#8. Karakachan Bear Dog

This Nordic hunting dog originated in the province of Karelia, which is divided by the Russian-Finnish border into two almost equal parts. For centuries, it has been used by local farmers to hunt squirrel, partridge, mink, duck, lynx, wild boar, moose and more, but it is this dog’s ability to hunt the brown bear that won the breed its fame and name. The Karelian Bear Dog is courageous, independent and self-sufficient, yet it forms a strong bond with its owner.

Country of Origin: Finland, Russia
Group: Northern Breed (United Kennel Club); Foundation Stock Service (American Kennel Club)
Use today: Sled dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, hunting companion.
Life Span: 10 to 12 years
Color: Black, usually with sharp-edged white patches or marks on the head, neck, chest, belly, and legs. Brownish-black, matte black, and shiny black are all acceptable.
Coat: Double coat of medium length, with the hair on the neck, back and buttocks slightly longer, and the hair on the head, legs, and ears slightly shorter. The outer coat is coarse, straight, and stands somewhat away from the body. The undercoat is thick, soft, and dense.
Grooming: Comb the all-weather coat regularly to reduce shedding and to remove loose hair from the undercoat.
Height: 22 to 24 inches for males, and 20 to 22 inches for females.
Weight: Males, up to 65 pounds; females, up to 50 pounds.

#9. Tibetan Mastiff (The World’s Most Expensive Dog)

This dog was bred in the Himalayan foothills to guard flocks, and it has remained relatively unchanged because of its isolation and the need to produce a large, strong working animal. Because of its inborn protective instincts, the Tibetan Mastiff was also used as a guardian for mansion and monastery.

Country of Origin: Tibet
Group: Working (AKC), Guardian (UKC).
Use today: Pet, show, flock guardian.
Life Span: 10 to 12 years.
Color: Black, black and tan, brown, brown and tan, blue-gray, blue-gray and tan, and various shades of gold. Tan markings above eyes, on lower part of legs, and tip of tail; white star on chest and minimal white markings on feet accepted.
Coat: Long, straight, and thick with heavy undercoat.
Grooming: Weekly brushing to keep mat-free; daily brushing during heavy shedding season.
Height: Males, a minimum of 26 inches; females, a minimum of 24 inches.
Weight: 90 to 150 pounds.

#10. Maremma Sheepdog

The Maremma Sheepdog has all of the attributes essential for an effective guard: strength, independence, stamina, courage and a strong sense of “ownership.” It is an independent dog that enjoys plenty of exercise and is best suited to a country home.

Country of Origin: Italy
Group: Guardian (United Kennel Club)
Use today:
Life Span:
Color: The coat color is white with some yellow or pale orange permitted on the ears only.
Coat: Profuse and long, never curly.
Grooming: Brush two to three times weekly to keep clean and mat-free.
Height: Stands 23.5 to 29 inches.
Weight: 65 to 100 pounds.

Facts and Information provided by

  • Hristo Ivanov

    The Karakachan dog is a Bulgarian breed. The picture you have is false so is the information you are advertising. If you do not do some research and change the “facts” you are advertising I will take you to court. Tons of careless people such as yourself are responsible for misrepresentation of fact and abuse of animals. I repeat I will take you to court if this false light information is not stripped by the end of this week.

  • Philip

    What about Akitas? I have one myself and he’s a great companion. Well built for cold temperatures.I reckon they’d bee great guard dogs. And they are bred for hunting. Very very intelligent and so loyal. Love them

  • Robert Scalzi

    sorry the St. Bernards originated in ITALY bred by the monks at the ITALIAN monastery at the St Bernard pass on the Swiss/Italian border – over time this breed has been more associated w/ Switzerland but the breed Originated in ITALY

    • Anonymous

      First of all–you’re wrong. The Great St Bernard Hospice is a hospice or hostel for travellers in Switzerland, at 2469m altitude at the Great St Bernard Pass in the Pennine Alps. The frontier with Italy is only a few hundred metres to the south.

      Second–Who cares whether it was Italy or Switzerland? They BOTH have the Alps (so do Germany and Austria, btw), and this is a post about MOUNTAIN dogs.

  • Walter Kronkite

    Ok so if this list was truly accurate…how comes you wont find a single one of these breeds working as an Avalanche Rescue dog anywhere?

  • Jude

    We have a Bernese/Golden Retriever cross – he’s big, with as mega-long waggy tail and is a medical alert dog for diabetes. His 2 sisters are also medical alert dogs. Wonderful kind, big-hearted dogs.

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  • squaw dog

    german shepard wolf mix. smart, protective, loves snow, doesn’t bark much, top speed 25 mph (in snow), amazing swimmer. chick magnet.
    down side- wants to dominate every male dog he sees!
    f&b manager at squaw is getting paid way too much, owns the most expensive dog in the world.

  • zippy

    The two Akita’s I’ve had here in the Selkirks for the last 20 years have been the best snow dogs I can imagine. They love the snow and are the most mellow, loyal freinds to be around. I would pass on any of those ten for another Akita.

  • Anonymous

    my husky/rhodesian ridgeback mutt is the best mountain dog in the world. BELIEVE DAT. rescue ’em, bros.

  • Meat Haus

    … oh and he has never been sick in the car. Neither did my pedigree St Bernard that I had in college. In fact, they live for car rides. You car/truck must smell like corn ridden shit.

    • Geriatic S Gurl

      And he doesn’t drool and he poops in perfect tootsie-pops, too, right ?

      My car smells fine. Pity yours.

    • stbernardlover

      My 2 year old loves the car so much! like you said, she lives for it. Her parents also did.. what is this carsickness about? never seen it happen with the 3 ive had.

  • Meat Haus

    I have a 1/2 St Bernard 1/2 American Bulldog mix. He would school any of your clown dogs running trails in the summer … or tackling 9ft snow drifts in the winter.

    I bought him off a crackhead in the high desert for $20. Don’t hate the hater. Rescue a dog and spend time training him/her. That’s all they want.

  • Adopt a mutt from a shelter

    I have a Husky / Pit Bull mix from the shelter that is a kick-ass mountain dog. No way could I buy a purebred when there are tons of rad dogs just waiting to be adopted at the shelter.

  • Brian Horton

    I gotta say dogs like Pyrenees are awesome dogs but not great to play with in the mountains. They just dont have the agility or energy. I’ll probably get a dog like that in a few years but while I’m really active I think my Shepherd is the perfect mountain dog. He can still ski big lines at 8

    • nonamous

      I doubt that your pit can be out in the snow all day then sleep in it at night, get up the next day an do it all over again. It may love the snow just as much as any dog but it can spend time in it like husky’s an all these real mountains dogs can. running hotlaps in your yard after a pow storm doesnt count fool.

  • Garry S.

    Healers, border collies, or Aussie Shepherds. Best year round mountain dogs. Endurance, good size, no fear, can handle both hot and cold weather. Try taking a Husky or St. Bernard on a 25 mile bike ride in the summer.

    • Anonymous

      personally, I appreciated the details, as I’m trying to rule out dogs that wouldn’t be a good fit for me. I came here because it was titled “10 dogs like the St.Bernard” (obviously had a name change as it went thru the links). Even so, it’s a list of dogs that share working job characteristics–not a “Top 10 favorites list” as some are lamenting the absence of their favorite dogs. A few words of praise doesn’t give me any help or info. THANK YOU, Geriatric S Gurl–the suggestion of Newfies was helpful, as was car-sickness for St.Bernards, and super barkiness of Great Pyrs. I will be ruling both of those out for me and looking more into the Newfies.

  • Geriatic S Gurl

    What, no Newfoundlands ? They love the cold weather, eat little for their size, and are good with kids (and adults) being very loyal, velcro dogs, yet they make great watchdogs.

    The only problem with St Bernards is that they are car- pukers which are prone to motion sickness every time they go anywhere, no matter how carefully you drive, or if they are up in front or in the back. They can’t help it, but you have to have towels and a rubber cargo bed liner to go anywhere.

    Pyrs (and some Pyr crosses) have double dew claws on their back legs. These extra nails must be regularly trimmed, because otherwise they grow around in a circle and start to pierce the extra toe they are coming out of, which is very painful for them, and it can get infected. They can also catch on things the dog was running through, and then you have a howling dog who may be bleeding all over the floor, and does not want you messing with his foot. These nails are also super strong, and a regular dog nail clipper won’t go thru them if they are full grown adults, so you may have to either use another (cleaned) tool out of the workshop, or have a pro do it. Pyrs, even ones which are fully socialized to humans and are pets, also need some time every day to run around the fenced yard and “bark at shit” which is instinctive for them, to establish territory. If you do not want to drive the neighbors crazy, you try to schedule this ritual during times that people are not sleeping, so they can just get it out of their systems, and then be happy dogs for the rest of the day. This way they are content to sleep, peacefully, IN the house at night, (most of the time) and do not wake you up at 2am with a frantic urge to go outside, and then just bark at more shit at night, which decreases their chance of either treeing something large, like a bear, mountain lion, …. or getting skunked. These dogs do not fit well into the bathtub, not at all into the shower stall, and what is worse, the double haircoat really is water repellant, so trying to bathe them inside without a hose is very futile. It needs to be done outside. (the hydrogen peroxide/baking soda neutralizing mixture really does work). If you come down to lower elevation, try to keep them out of the poison oak, also, same problem, the last thing you want to do is to be bathing a Great -Sized, water repellant dog before you can re- load it into the car, because it can spread the oils all over your gear. People will look at you sort of funny as you beg for soap, then tell the dog to “go swim.”

    Do not ask me how I know this.

      • Geriatic S Gurl

        It was for the benefit of the “Destination Tourist Families” that KSL is trying to attract to the Tahoe area. They may be looking at the adorable little balls of fluff in pic #3 and not realize that when these grow up, “special attention to nails” doesn’t mean nail polish on poodles.

        More Pyrs:

        Other than that, I live in a large-dog zone and we have dueling barkfests when we aren’t trading stories.

    • Loomis Powderdogs

      agreed !! Ive had lab and golden retrievers and the lab is better in snow as the snow does not clump to the hair like little dingle berries. Named him Donner too, after our first lab Jake’s love of donner summit, lake, and the skiing around here. Obviously one of these dogs above are “better” equipped for colder and harsher conditions, but seriously, TAHOE get cold? try utah or wyoming, thats COLD. labs are the best tahoe dogs and i bet if there was a survey NOT on the top 10 dogs for rescue, but the top 10 breeds that populate Tahoe, labs or german shepherds would be 1 and 2.

    • eric

      a fit lab mix is the way to go. energy all day and they even send cliffs/cornices for fun. My brother’s Vizsla Lab mix is the best ski dog ever!!!!!

      the only thing about an 80lbs dog is that life will suck should anything ever happen where you need to carry your friend out of the mountains.

  • beonskz

    Love Samoyed’s ! One of the oldest Northern breeds from Siberia. Kept Eskimo families warm and are said to be family members. Amazing winter white water repelent coats and extremely athletic. Wolf like. I think Truckee even posted a photo in Sierra Sun of Samoyed’s jumping out of planes to then sled and rescue in backcountry back in the day. I’m a proud of owner of two young ones now and lost my almost 17 year old, Cirque a couple of years ago. Love the breed! They are very special dogs. Don’t get one unless you exercise a ton, live in a cold climate and can maintain their coats though.

    • Is it snowing yet?

      I agree, samoyed’s should definitely be on this list. I’ve grown up with these animals….amazing! A bit of work to keep the coat looking good but well worth it. Not to mention they are singers, mine will do it on command. Puppy or not very few girls can resist the “Sammy” smile, that’s how I met my fiancé, she came up to pet my Samoyed and I ended up buying her a ring 2 years later. Now the three of us kill it in the backcountry together, gotta love that

  • Pal

    I grew up with a Maremma Sheepdog and can say from experience that they are one bad ass dog. If you are lucky enough to get a chance and owning one do not pass it up. Good with kids, good for outdoors, wish I could get another one.

    • No kidding WTF

      No doubt. Not sure why German Sheppards are not on this list – one of the top 3 most intelligent breeds, wide ranging temperments ranging from eating bad guys (K9) to leading people that live in darkness – and they arent going to run away like idiot huskies and aren’t hard on the eyes like some of the dogs above.

      • No kidding WTF

        My 6 month old sheppard (2nd sheppard Ive had in life) is creepy smart – he knows how to open our doors that have lever handles. I am not sure he is purposely making the specific connection to drag his paw down on the lever on (hes already jumping into the door) but nevertheless he keeps doing it. Luckily he can only do this coming into the house though since he doesnt know how to pull the door towards him. Yet.

        best mountain dogs ever.

  • midwest transplant

    great post. i have been dying to get a siberian husky for years now, just need an apt/house that allows pets

    • Anonymous

      Don’t get a Husky if you live in an apartment. Huskies need to run/exerciase a LOT every day.

      • Anonymous

        Huskies do just fine in an apt I have a 8 month old Sib and he is the perfect roommate as long as you have regular playdates and take them out for walks and runs with a bike they will thrive!

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