How to Choose the Right Breed of Dog for a Family Living in a High Altitude Area?

Choosing a family pet is much more than simply picking out the cutest bundle of fur. It’s a decision that requires careful consideration of a variety of factors. One of those factors, particularly for families living in high altitude areas, is the breed of the dog. Not all dog breeds are created equal when it comes to living and thriving in mountainous regions. Some breeds are better suited to the physical demands and weather conditions of such regions, while others are less adept. This article will guide you through the essential factors and traits to consider when selecting the best dog breed for high altitude living.

The Importance of Breed and Size in High Altitude Areas

When it comes to choosing a dog breed for high altitude living, size and breed traits plays a significant role. Dogs come in a variety of sizes, from the tiny Chihuahua to the large Great Dane, and each size category has its own set of benefits and drawbacks when it comes to high altitude living.

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Size is an important consideration in terms of the dog’s ability to adapt to the mountainous terrain. Larger dog breeds such as the Saint Bernard or the Bernese Mountain Dog are well adapted to living in high altitudes. They have the physical strength to navigate steep slopes and the endurance to withstand long hikes. However, they require a significant amount of exercise to maintain good health, which can be challenging for busy families.

As for breed traits, dogs bred for mountain living typically possess a dense coat to protect them from the cold, sturdy paws for navigating rocky terrain, and a good amount of energy for active outdoor adventures. They also have a hardy constitution, able to withstand the thin air and low oxygen levels found at high altitudes.

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Evaluating the Coat and Health Traits of Dog Breeds

Another crucial factor to consider when selecting a dog for high altitude living is the breed’s coat and health traits. The coat of the dog is especially critical in areas that experience cold weather and snow, which are common in high altitude areas.

Some breeds, such as the Alaskan Malamute and the Newfoundland, have thick double coats that provide excellent insulation against cold temperatures. These breeds are well suited to high altitude living as they are comfortable in cold weather and snow. However, these breeds do require a good deal of grooming to keep their coats in top condition.

When considering a breed’s health traits, it’s important to be aware that some breeds are prone to certain health issues that can be exacerbated by high altitude living. For example, flat-faced breeds (also known as brachycephalic breeds) such as Bulldogs or Pugs can struggle with the thin air and reduced oxygen levels found at high altitudes.

Balancing Exercise Needs with Family Lifestyle

When selecting a dog breed for high altitude living, it’s also critical to balance the dog’s exercise needs with your family’s lifestyle. High energy breeds such as Border Collies or Australian Shepherds can be a great match for active families who enjoy hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities.

However, these breeds also require a high level of mental stimulation. They thrive on training and problem-solving activities, so they’re not the best choice for families who are unable to commit to providing a high level of physical and mental exercise.

On the other hand, some breeds such as the Basset Hound or the Shih Tzu have lower exercise needs. They may be a better match for less active families or those with young children, but they may struggle with the physical demands of high altitude living.

Considering American Kennel Club (AKC) Recommendations

The American Kennel Club (AKC) provides valuable guidance on selecting dog breeds suitable for certain living environments, including high altitude areas. The AKC recognizes certain breeds as excellent for mountain living due to their history, physical traits, and temperament.

For instance, the Bernese Mountain Dog is an AKC-recognized breed originating from the mountainous regions of Switzerland. Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, initially bred for work in harsh Arctic conditions, are also well-adapted for high altitude living.

By taking into account the AKC recommendations, as well as the other factors mentioned above, you will be well-equipped to choose the best dog breed for your family living in a high altitude area. Remember that getting a dog is a commitment that will last for the pet’s lifetime, so it’s essential to make a well-informed decision that will benefit both your family and your future furry friend.

Breeds to Consider for High Altitude Living

As you’ve learned, not every dog breed can comfortably live at higher altitudes. Here, we will discuss a few breeds, their traits, and why they are suitable for such environments.

The Bernese Mountain Dog is an obvious choice due to its origins in the high altitudes of Switzerland. They have a thick double coat that protects them from harsh cold weather. Their sturdy build allows them to navigate tricky terrains. However, keep in mind that they need adequate physical activity to stay healthy, which could be a challenge for busy families.

Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are other breeds you could consider. Originating from the harsh Arctic conditions, they have a thick double coat to keep them warm and are known for their strength and endurance. These breeds also have high energy levels and require a lot of exercise.

Saint Bernards are another breed that thrives in mountainous areas. Named after the Great St. Bernard Pass on the Italian-Swiss border, these dogs have been bred for centuries to perform rescue operations in the mountains. They possess a dense coat, a robust constitution, and are generally good-natured, making them a great choice for families with children.

The Great Pyrenees, a breed originally bred to guard sheep in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, is also a good option. With a thick double coat, tolerance for cold weather, and a calm temperament, they make good family pets.

Remember, it’s essential to consider not just the breed facts, but also your family’s lifestyle, when selecting a dog.


Choosing the right dog breed for a family living in a high altitude area requires thoughtful consideration of various factors. You need to balance the dog’s exercise needs with your family’s lifestyle, evaluate the breed’s coat and health traits, and consider size and breed characteristics. Remember to consider not only breed overview but also specific traits and features that will allow the dog to thrive in a high-altitude environment.

Consulting the American Kennel Club (AKC) recommendations can be a good starting point, as they recommend breeds like the Bernese Mountain Dog, Siberian Huskies, and Alaskan Malamutes for such living conditions. Breeds like the Saint Bernard and Great Pyrenees are also great options, with their sturdy build, dense coat, and tolerance for cold weather.

Remember, getting a pet is a long-term commitment. Deciding on the right breed will ensure that both your family and your future pet will have a happy and comfortable life. It’s not just about getting a dog; it’s about ensuring that your dog can enjoy the high altitude lifestyle as much as you do!