Have you ever seen a dog climb a tree? I would say not! It would be pretty funny if they did and I definitely would pull out my camera for that fiasco. It would be a real sight to see, for sure! Some people often wonder why dogs don’t climb trees. Cats climb trees, but dogs just sit at the bottom of the tree and bark up at it. Does this mean dogs are scared of heights? Or is it that the lack the ability to climb trees? Whatever the reason is, it is definitely worth exploring in a bit more detail.
The Root of the Behavior
Well, let’s start with the obvious. Dogs are just not made to climb. Their body structure was not built that way. They have strong legs that are meant for endurance. They do not have claws like cats or many other animals in the wild. In fact, their wolf ancestors lived in the wild, in wide open spaces so their biology never thought to make them climbers. As hunters in the wild, dogs needed to be fast. This is for two reasons, which are to catch prey and also so that they were not preyed upon. This is a huge reason behind dogs not climbing. Not only that, they are just not limber enough nor do they land on their feet like cats do. A dog's nails are thick, wide, and not meant to grab into things. This may have hindered them a little from catching prey except for the fact that they were fast on their feet and have sharp teeth. But it is also definitely the reason why they are not good climbers.
Another odd reason is that dogs weren’t trained to hide in trees or put objects in trees. The love to bury things but you won’t find them putting bones up high in your oak tree, that’s for sure. So, without that instinct, it just never occurs to them to actually climb trees. This does not mean a dog has never climbed a tree. It just means they don't have the body design or desire to climb. Of course, if they want something bad enough you may catch your dog climbing a tree. So, dogs are probably not afraid of heights at all. This is quite evident if you have a jumper who seems to get through any fence you build. The real reason is they lack the structure to climb.
Encouraging the Behavior
When it comes to trees and dogs. you should not really have to worry about them climbing trees. Most dogs do not even attempt to climb trees. It is just not who they are or what they do. If by chance you do have a climber and you are worried about them climbing, you can always fence off the tree or put aluminum around the trunk of the tree to prevent them from climbing it at all. Other than that, it is perfectly normal for a dog not to climb a tree. Besides, dogs who climb trees are at risk for hurting themselves since their bone structure is not made for it. So we would always encourage you not to let your dog attempt to climb a tree.
There are a few types of breeds that can actually climb trees. These include the Raccoon Dog, New Guinea Singing Dog, Jack Russell Terrier, Tree Walker Coonhound, and the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. They are built differently and were specifically bred to actually run up the tree trunk to get at their prey. They will go up there after birds, squirrels, or whatever else thinks it can hide in a tree. If you have one of these breeds, you may see your dog climbing a tree to get something it sees or hears up there. Otherwise, your dog will probably not even try it.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Like everything else, there are always exceptions to the rule. As described above, there are some dogs that climb trees although, except for the Jack Russell Terrier, they are not that well known or common. However, if you are one of those lucky ones who have one of these rare breeds, do not be surprised to see them climbing trees just like a cat. In fact, if they get out of the yard you may see them chasing the neighborhood cats up the trees, shocking those cats and their owners. It is recommended that you do not allow your dog to go out climbing trees in the neighborhood though for their safety as well as the local cats' safety.
Don't worry if your dog never climbed a tree. This is perfectly normal behavior. If you wanted a tree climbing pet, you should really think about getting a cat and if you do, keep the fire department's number handy for emergency cat rescues. Let your dog be a dog, and your cat be a cat.
By a Newfoundland lover Billie Raucci
Published: 03/16/2018, edited: 01/30/2020