Why Can’t Dogs Climb Trees Like Cats And Squirrels?

Dogs have been around humans for many many years, and it is their loyalty that gave them the right to be called “Man’s Bestfriend.” As a dog owner, I have seen the many faces of a dog’s behavior, and it has led me to think about what makes cats able to climb trees but not dogs?

So, why can’t dog climb trees? A dog’s claws are thick but not sharp, and this does not allow them to grab hold onto tree trunks to help them climb. Their legs are built for running and endurance, but they are not as flexible as those of the cats and squirrels.

There are a few breeds capable of climbing trees, and some breeds can be trained to climb trees if needed. We’ll talk more about dog’s climbing trees further in this article.

Climbing Dogs: Is it Possible?

Before we begin about the reason why several species of dogs can’t climb trees let us first find out how cats and squirrels can climb trees.

Cats and climbing trees

In the wild, cats can be mostly seen napping on trees. This is normal behavior for them. The reason is that this act elevates them from the ground, away from predators.

A cat’s anatomy is designed to pounce and climb. Their back muscles are strong enough, and their spines stretch to allow them to climb trees.

In addition to this, a cat’s claws are curved inwards. This helps them grasp onto tree barks giving them better leverage to pull their body up a tree. A cat’s gait is very elegant and sensual, but their powerful leg muscles are strong enough to propel them up a tree when they climb. 

Squirrels and trees

On the other hand, squirrels are quick and agile. They have unique ankle joints that are super flexible.

Unlike the cat, squirrels are adept in climbing up and down a tree. Their flexible ankles have the ability to rotate 180 degrees when they want to descend. They also have sharp claws that dig into the tree bark giving them more stability and leverage when climbing up and down. 

Why can’t dog’s climb trees?

Dogs are built for endurance.

Their leg muscles are designed for running and not climbing.

They do have claws, but they are dull compared to cats and squirrels. A dog’s nails are thick, wide, and not as curved as a cat’s. That alone tells us that dogs are not really meant to climb trees because they lack the ability to grab hold onto tree bark to aid them in their climb.

Wolves in the wild are the best example for a dog’s running endurance, and these wild cousins of our domesticated pets are great hunters. They hunt in packs and uses their endurance and quickness to both hunt and avoid getting preyed on by other predators.

However, there are dog species that are capable of climbing trees. I guess our furry friends don’t really care if nature says they are not designed for climbing trees. You can head on to YouTube to watch footage of dogs climbing trees like the amazing Ringo in the video below.

The amazing Ringo can climb trees

Dog Breeds That Can Climb Trees

There are four breeds of dogs that are capable of climbing trees. We have to take into consideration that in every rule, there are exceptions. These four dog breeds are not different. They are dog breeds that can literally climb trees, and some just have it in their blood to do so.

New Guinea Singing Dog

One of the rarest breeds of dogs if not the rarest is this New Guinea Singing Dog. Also known as Stone Age Dogs because their existence dated them back far longer than the dingoes. They are a native of the island of New Guinea and are considered as a wild dog breed

Their short legs and flexible spine and limbs make them capable of arboreal locomotion. In their wild habitat, they are rarely seen by huntsmen but when they do it’s usually up on a tree trunk.

They are fast and agile and are called singing dogs because of their unique howl. Put together a pack of this dog-breed and listen to their musical howl harmonization.

They have strong predatory instincts which makes them unsuitable for families with small kids. They can be trained, but they do need ample space if you plan to get one. They can live anywhere from 15- 20 years and can toss their head 360 degrees.

Louisiana Catahoula Leopard

Initially, it was the Indians who used the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog breed for human-related work.

This breed is from North Central Louisiana around Catahoula Lake.

This breed is actually a mix of Red Wolf, Mastiff, Greyhounds, and Beaucerons breeds that the Americans brought with them during the war. Used by the Indians to hunt and carry things and help move items from place to place but later on became more of herding, treeing and hogbane (poisonous plant) experts.

This kind of dog is one of the rare breeds existing nowadays, and because they originated in the swamps of Louisiana, they’ve developed webbed feet that gives them an advantage in moving around or through the mud and muck as they hunt. They have an exceptional talent that is rarely seen in dogs, and that is air scenting, which means that they can scent the air and track their prey through it.

They have a very short coat, and they are very effective hunting dogs.

Most breeds would track and then attack their prey, but Catahoula would find the animal and keep it in one place until their humans arrive.

Because of these hunting instincts they have, they’ve developed muscles that give them additional strength and agility to climb trees. Their spines are not built in a flexible manner like the New Guinea singing dogs, but they are able to climb trees due to sheer strength and agility.

This breed of dog is said to live around 13 – 15 years old.

Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog climbing

The Tree Walker Coonhound

Specifically bred to hunt raccoons, the treeing walker coonhound is another example of dogs being able to climb trees.

This breed can also hunt cougars, tree bobcats, opossums and sometimes bears. Like the Catahoula, Coonhounds are baying dogs. Their hunting instincts allow them to track and locate their prey, but their main job is to bay, using their very unique vocals once they’ve discovered their target.

This breeds’ instincts came from their English and American Foxhounds ancestors. It was during 1945 when they were recognized as a distinguished breed, but it was only this 2012 when the American Kennel Club recognized them as an official dog breed.

They have excellent hunting abilities, such as endurance, agility, and of course their ability to perform arboreal locomotion. Coonhounds are perfect companions and their very distinctive vocals gives their human hunter partner the ability to distinguish their hound even from a great distance.

They are very affectionate and can be domesticated into pets, but they do require lots of exercise to give an outlet to their pent up energy and hunting instincts.

Their extremely powerful shoulders, lean and long forelegs allow this breed to climb trees when they hunt. Their ears make them look adorable, and their smooth coat requires very minimal maintenance.

Jack Russel Terrier

Often enough, these feisty small breed dogs is called big dogs in little bodies, and I have to agree with that statement.

Their energy levels are through the roof, and I love going out on runs with them. They keep up really well and just love being outdoors and active.

What I mostly miss about owning a Jack Russel Terrier is their ability to jump really really high. I remember coming home to these dogs and experiencing their very energetic greeting of jumping into my arms. They run at a phenomenal speed, and their small bodies just make them look like a blur of fur when they run at full tilt.

However, I don’t have a tree in my backyard, so I have never witnessed my Jack Russels climbing one. I did some reading around. Watched some clips on the internet of these dogs climbing and jumping onto trees. I will say that I do not doubt these dog breeds can climb trees because I have seen my own dogs jump up on countertops and jump down from a high perch. They are hunting dogs after all, and their ability to perform arboreal locomotion can be attributed to their hunting instincts.

Jack Russel Terriers were originally bred to hunt foxes, but their fearless personality and curiosity are what I think really sparks their desire to climb trees.

Can Dogs Be Trained To Climb Trees?

If you own any of the breeds mentioned above, then you can expect to see your pet try to climb a tree and succeed in doing it. However, if you own a different breed and want to know if you can train them to climb trees, then you will need to look for some signs that show your dog can achieve arboreal locomotion.

Signs That Your Dog Can Be Trained To Climb Trees

You can quickly determine if the breed you own has the ability to climb trees by determining if they are from hunting or herding dog breeds.

These breeds have that hunting instinct that spurs them to chase and pursue their prey wherever they go. For those owners who do not know the history of their dog breed watch out for barking, jumping up, sniffing and fast pace running on your dogs. These body languages can mean that they have that hunting instinct that can push them into climbing trees.

In addition to the body language I mentioned, you can look out for chasing small creatures or animals behavior on your dog, as well as a change in the dog’s vocalization of their excitement. Circling a tree can be another sign and especially notice your dog if they take a running start, especially if they do this before they pull themselves onto tree branches. Those are sure way signs that your dog can be trained to climb trees.

Some dog breeds that can be trained to climb trees are Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, and Foxhounds. Also, you’ll often see police dogs being trained on how to climb trees. The Border Collie and Belgian Malinois breeds are just some examples of police dogs that can be trained to climb trees

Related Questions

Can wolves climb trees?

Anatomically speaking, wolves are not designed for climbing trees, but there are stories and photos of these creatures perching on or climbing on low hanging branches. But as of climbing high up on trees that remains to be a debate for many.

Are there police dogs that can climb trees?

Yes. Most police dogs are trained to climb trees, and there are a few videos online that show these training put into action. 


Just to summarize everything, cats and squirrels are built to climb trees. Dogs have a hard time achieving arboreal locomotion, but there are a few breeds that are capable of this. These breeds that can climb trees are mostly bred for hunting or herding purposes, and any other breed that is descended from hunting or herding ancestors may contain that capacity to climb trees. You can check your dog breed’s history, or you can watch out for signs that show your dog has the inclination to hunt, chase, and pursue a prey even all the way up a tree. You can choose to nurture this behavior and train your dogs further, or you can leave your dog alone and let him figure things out on his own. No matter what your choice is, just make sure that the safety of both you, your dog, and the people around you are taken into consideration.


Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs to poodles, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Her dogs enjoy playing fetch, swimming, and long walks. Michelle and her dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp, and swim.

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