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5 mountain dog breeds for families

Whether you regularly hit the trails or prefer leisurely neighborhood walks, a mountain dog breed may be a great fit for your family. Most mountain dog breeds originated from the Alpine region of Europe, and they have a large build with a thick double coat to protect them during harsh winters. A mountain dog can weigh anywhere from 90 to a whopping 180 pounds, depending on breed and gender. While many of these large dogs are gentle and suitable for families, their grooming and care requirements often demand time and dedication.

As with most large- or giant-breed dogs, mountain breeds are prone to GDV (i.e., a condition in which the stomach fills with air and torses), and hip/elbow dysplasia. Many mountain dogs are also predisposed to ear infections, given their droopy conformation. The average life expectancy of these large- to giant-size dogs usually ranges from 7 to 11 years.

A mountain dog breed may be a good fit for your family if:

  • You can dedicate a generous amount of time to grooming and cleaning
  • You are able to adequately exercise a large dog—these breeds need off-leash activity in the form of play, obedience training, agility, hiking, or swimming
  • You are looking for a large dog who appears imposing, but is friendly with most people

A mountain dog breed might not be a good fit for your family if:

  • You dislike shedding and slobber
  • You live in a small apartment home with no yard access
  • You are looking for a guard-type dog to protect your family

Is a mountain dog right for your family? Consider the following five breeds.

Trupanion Dog Breed Guide - Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain dog

Commonly known as the “Berner,” this breed is intelligent and majestic, with a placid, yet fun, personality. The tri-color markings are a breed hallmark and one distinct, alluring quality. Due to their sweet nature and active yet docile ways, many dog lovers enjoy calling Berners part of the family. Bernese mountain dogs are generally friendly with everyone, but tend to become attached to one particular family member. Additional health concerns for the Berner include retinal atrophy, heart disease, and blood clotting problems. Unfortunately, this breed commonly suffers from cancer, particularly histiocytic sarcoma.


Saint Bernard dog breed

Saint Bernard

This massive, powerful canine is the largest of the mountain breeds, standing up to 30 inches tall and averaging more than 150 pounds, but Saint Bernards are inquisitive, playful, and incredibly patient with children, despite their towering stance. Without early training and socialization, novice owners may find themselves with an unruly beast who may be wary or aggressive around strangers, and may be unsafe around children simply due to their size. However, this breed is eager to please and training comes easily and naturally, but owners do need to put in the work. In addition to common diseases of giant-breed dogs, Saint Bernards are predisposed to heart problems and degenerative myelopathy.


Greater Swiss Mountain Dog - Trupanion Dog Breed Guide

Greater Swiss Mountain dog

The sleek, faithful Greater Swiss is a family favorite. Fiercely loyal and strong, this dependable breed thrives on working and is eager to please. The Greater Swiss has tri-color markings similar to the Bernese mountain dog, but the breed has the advantage of a short, smooth coat. However, while “Swissie” owners may not have to worry about matting and the general upkeep of a long hair coat, don’t be fooled—this breed still sheds. The Greater Swiss tend to be more energetic than other mountain dogs, so regular exercise and stimulating activities are a must. While generally healthy dogs overall, splenic torsion tends to occur more frequently in this breed.


Leonberger - Trupanion Dog Breed Guide

Leonberger

This purebred combination of the Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees, and Saint Bernard breeds is a plush and powerful dog. Leonbergers have a characteristic black mask and a red, yellow, or sandy-colored coat intermixed with grey or black. Their elegant and gentle demeanor makes them a favorite among giant-dog lovers, but their long, thick, lion-like manes are not for the faint of heart. “Leos” need daily brushing with a metal comb for the undercoat and a slicker brush to smooth the outer coat. Like other large- or giant-breed dogs, early training and socialization is key in this hefty breed, who are often stronger than their owners. Thyroid disease and breed-specific polyneuropathies are congenital problems in the Leonberger.


Newfoundland dog breed

Newfoundland dog

The sweet, gentle Newfoundland is the epitome of a family favorite breed—in fact, their watchful, patient tendencies with children grant them the reputation as “nanny dogs.” This dignified, lovable, and heavily boned breed comes in black, gray, brown, or Landseer (i.e., a black and white combination). All Newfs have distinctive, soulful eyes and uniquely webbed feet, making them excellent swimmers, and many are trained in water rescue, due to their natural instinct in this field. While these dogs are easy to train and require only weekly brushing, their long, low jowls mean lots of drool and slobber, so neat, tidy families should take heed—and stock up on towels. Newfoundlands can suffer from congenital heart problems and unique urinary stones, in addition to other common diseases of large breeds.


Other mountain dog breeds to consider include:

  • Great Pyrenees
  • Estrela Mountain Dog
  • Appenzeller Sennenhund
  • Entlebucher Mountain Dog
  • Hovawart

Thinking of adopting a mountain dog breed into your own family? Make sure they’re protected and learn more about how Trupanion’s dog insurance can help in the event of injury or illness.