Can dogs climb trees?

Can dogs climb trees?

When we think of animals capable of clambering up trees, dogs definitely aren’t the first that spring to mind. We’re much more likely to have witnessed a pussycat effortlessly run up a tree trunk (usually in pursuit of a squirrel or bird). And then, of course, there’s the odd story about the feline who ventured too far up a tree and got stuck.

But just because we don’t think of dogs as natural climbers, doesn’t mean that they can’t scale a tree. In fact, there are many owners that will report their hound having great tree-climbing abilities. Cats, beware!


Barking mad!

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Natural born climbers

So, why is it more common for cats to climb trees? In a blog, Dog Discoveries explains that cats are able to climb up trunks so well because of their sharp, retractable and curved claws. These claws are essentially like mountaineering crampons, making them perfect for climbing up trunks.

Yet, those same ‘crampon’ claws aren’t designed for climbing down – hence why cats tend to get stuck in trees.

As well as their claws, cats’ bodies are extremely nimble, with mobile hip joints and shoulders which help them to climb. It’s been suggested that cats have evolved to climb trees due to their preference to live in wooded areas.

Dogs, however, have mainly lived in flat, open plains, so their bodies are built for this environment, explains the book ‘Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History.’ Neither their claws nor their bodies are built for climbing. Dogs’ ancestors were social hunters, with bodies built for long-distance endurance running as opposed to short bursts of speed.

However, there are plenty of dogs out there bucking the trend and heading for the tree tops...


Meet Ringo

If you need proof of a pooch’s ability to climb trees, check out this video of Ringo. Ringo is a rescue pup whose passion for trees helps him deal with his troubled past. His owner says that when he’s up a tree, he’s the ‘happiest dog in the entire world.’ She goes around scouting out the perfect trunks, and when she spots one, she shouts ‘SQUIRREL’!

Now, Ringo’s not the only doggy tree climber. Cockapoo puppy Fern’s owner, Margaret Robb, was astonished when her pup scrambled up a pine tree for the first time. She took a run up to the trunk, tucked her hind legs under her body for grip, and started to climb. She tried it once, loved it, and is now a regular tree climber!


Breeds prone to tree climbing explains that there are certain types of breeds who enjoy tree climbing, which include the Louisiana catahoula leopard dog, Jack Russell, treeing walker coonhound and New Guinea singing dog. But that’s not to say other breeds won’t take to tree climbing, too.

As the article explains, dogs are most likely to climb a tree when they’re excited and hunting prey. This means that hunting breeds are most likely to bolt up a tree, but herding dogs are likely to show interest, too. This is because herding dogs have a strong hunting instinct, which makes them good at rounding up sheep in a field.


The desire to climb

A dog’s desire to climb a tree is all to do with basic instincts. Dogs are natural hunters; before they were domesticated, they had to hunt to survive, and this instinct is still very much embedded in dogs today.

The breeds known to climb trees all have very distinct environmental experiences, breeding and physiology. They all share the drive to hunt and have high energy levels.

Take the Jack Russell, for instance. Jack Russells, described by the Kennel Club as being ‘extremely brave and tough’, were initially bred to hunt foxes as they could fit into small foxholes. They are also known to be fearless and curious – two traits that may very well inspire the dog to climb a tree!

A Jack Russel sitting in a grassy field with trees in the background

Barking up the wrong tree!

Has your pooch ever got itself into a bit of a predicament chasing a squirrel or cat? Perhaps their hunting instinct has caused them to bolt up a tree trunk, but they soon regretted their decision and couldn’t get down!

The Spruce Pets writes that dogs are naturally wired to chase moving objects, but it can get them into trouble – and potentially cause them harm. The article shares some tips on how to stop your pup chasing, which include:


  • Make sure they understand the ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ commands, and are trained to walk nicely on the lead.


  • Expose your pooch to staged scenarios – i.e. have a friend slowly ride a bike or jog past the pup, while you continue to enforce the sit/stay command.


  • Distract your dog with a food reward and praise it for not chasing. As soon they start to whine or growl, walk the other direction of the bike/jogger while praising and offering treats. This will help your dog understand that walking away is the right thing to do!


  • Provide safe environments for chasing – for instance, play interactive games like fetch to control your dog’s desire to chase.


You can’t totally eliminate your pooch’s urge to chase, but you can control it at least. And remember, whether your dog is a tree climber or not, you need to protect them against potential accidents with dog insurance.

If you’re looking for the best price for your needs, compare dog insurance with Go Get It today. Get a quote!

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