15 Mountain Dog Breeds That Are Tough Yet Cuddly

Don’t be fooled by their size (or the amount of drool)—these pups are pure love

mountain-dog-breeds: A small baby brown/black/white mountain puppy lays its head on a wooden log. It sits in front of a cluster of trees and brush.
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From the Italian Alps to the North American Appalachians, mountain dog breeds have been braving tough and highly elevated elements for thousands of years. Some, like Caucasian Shepherd Dogs, evolved on their own in mountainous regions, while others, like Bavarian Mountain Scent Hounds, were bred by humans specifically to prepare them for mountain life or particular jobs. Most mountain dogs are tough cookies with soft, gooey centers who love to love their family members—as long as you can handle all the drool. Here are 15 mountain dog breeds that are oh-so lovable.

What Are the Characteristics of Mountain Dogs?

Mountain dogs are breeds developed to live, work and play at high elevations around the world. While each dog is an individual with its own personality, there are common traits you can easily spot among mountain breeds.

  • Large: Not all mountain dogs are enormous, but many easily grow beyond 100 pounds and 30 inches tall.
  • Thick coats: Thick, double coats (that shed a ton) are not unusual among mountain dogs. These coats insulate them from harsh mountain conditions and regulate body temperature.
  • Protective: Many mountain dogs have strong protective tendencies. This is because canines in these climates were most often used as herding dogs or working dogs who watched over livestock like cattle and sheep.
  • Independent: Herding and working dogs are often more independent, meaning they aren’t always eager to follow commands and tend to show their love for their humans in subtle ways (unlike Golden Retrievers who greet you at the door with a wagging tail and want to cuddle constantly). Because mountain life requires intelligent, quick decision-making, these dogs may not look to you for approval as often.
  • Loyal: Independence and protectiveness don’t mean these dogs don’t love and bond with their people. They can certainly thrive in a family setting with consistent training and early socialization.

Finally, mountain dog breeds are not for the faint of heart or first-time dog owners. If you’ve never lived with or trained a dog before, we suggest a dog breed more eager to please and ready to socialize.

mountain-dog-breeds: A photograph of a cream colored Anatolian Shepherd Dog looking out over a vast field.
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1. Anatolian Shepherd Dog

  • Height: 27 to 29 inches
  • Weight: 80 to 150 pounds
  • Personality: Independent, Patient
  • Activity Level: Moderate
  • Shedding Factor: Seasonal
  • Life Expectancy: 11 to 13 years

According to the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America, these dogs have been around for a long time. There’s evidence they helped Turkish people in Central Anatolia corral sheep and protect homes as far back as 2,000 B.C. With dry, hot summers and cold, snowy winters, inhabitants of this mountainous region relied on Anatolian Shepherd Dogs to keep predators away from livestock. Today, these dogs are still super territorial and watchful. While not super affectionate, they show their love by intimidating anyone who threatens their families.

mountain-dog-breeds: A photo of a lively black/brown/white Appenzeller Sennenhund running through a field with its tongue out.
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2. Appenzeller Sennenhund

  • Height: 20 to 22 inches
  • Weight: 48 to 70 pounds
  • Personality: Protective, smart
  • Activity Level: High
  • Shedding Factor: Moderate
  • Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

This herding breed is a high-energy, intelligent dog who will thrive in homes with yards and lots of stuff to do (they love participating in agility training). Appenzeller Sennenhunds hail from Appenzell, Switzerland, and are related to other Swiss Mountain breeds like the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and the Bernese Mountain Dog. This means they are protective and dedicated companions. The AKC doesn’t recommend these dogs for first-time dog owners because they require lots of socialization, firm training and dedication early on to ensure happy, healthy adult dogs.

mountain-dog-breeds: A smaller Bavarian brown Mountain Scent Hound looking up with sun in its eyes.
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3. Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound

  • Height: 17 to 21 inches
  • Weight: 37 to 66 pounds
  • Personality: Devoted, reserved
  • Activity Level: Moderate to High
  • Shedding Factor: Moderate
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound are easily recognizable by the black fur on their faces and their tan-colored bodies. Back in the 1840s, hunters in Germany needed more agile scent hounds to track big game up in the mountains. By breeding Hanoverian Scent Hounds with Red Mountain Scenthounds, the Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound was born. These days, these dogs still make great hunting companions, though they definitely aren’t meant for apartments or city-dwellers. Highly intelligent, they need lots of mental stimulation and playtime outdoors.

mountain-dog-breeds: A grayish-white shaggy Bergamasco Sheepdog stares at the camera with its tongue out while standing in a grassy space.
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4. Bergamasco Sheepdog

  • Height: 22 to 24 inches
  • Weight: 57 to 84 pounds
  • Personality: Independent, Mellow
  • Activity Level: Low
  • Shedding Factor: Non-shedding
  • Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

Definitely one of the shaggier dog breeds on our list, the Bergamasco Sheepdog’s coat is designed for mountain life. Developed over centuries in the Middle East and the Italian Alps, the Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America says their coats regulate their body temperatures to keep them warm in winter and cool in summer. You’ll need to do some extra grooming work in the first year or so of owning a Bergamasco Sheepdog to ensure their coats grow correctly. Then, grooming is a cinch. As independent and intelligent dogs, they are eager to please but not overly outgoing.

mountain-dog-breeds: A white/brown/black Bernese Mountain Dog stands tall in a field of grass.
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5. Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Height: 23 to 28 inches
  • Weight: 70 to 115 pounds
  • Personality: Calm, Friendly
  • Activity Level: Moderate to High
  • Coat Type: Double, Medium to Long Length
  • Life Expectancy: 7 to 10 years

Calm and affectionate, Bernese Mountain Dogs make excellent companions for just about anyone, including families with small kids and individuals with anxiety. If you decide to adopt a Bernese, get ready for a big dog who sheds a lot and loves on you just as much, if not more. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America says that as farm dogs in the mountains of Switzerland, these pups originally acted as watchdogs and family companions.

mountain-dog-breeds: A fluffy Caucasian Shepherd Dog lays on the corner of a concrete step. Its staring at the camera with its tongue stuck out.
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6. Caucasian Shepherd Dog

  • Height: 23 to 30 inches
  • Weight: 95 to 170 pounds
  • Personality: Confident, kind
  • Activity Level: Moderate
  • Shedding Factor: Moderate to High
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog gets its name from the Caucasus mountains, located between Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Another ancient breed, they’ve spent hundreds of years protecting livestock, farmers, homesteads and more in that mountainous region. Because of this, they aren’t keen on strangers but they do love their family members big time and will protect without hesitation. When no threat is near, get ready for a calm, kind, sweet Caucasian Shepherd lounging around your house.

mountain-dog-breeds: A wet black/brown/white Entlebucher Mountain Dog plays in the water.
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7. Entlebucher Mountain Dog

  • Height: 16 to 21 inches
  • Weight: 40 to 65 pounds
  • Personality: Loyal, playful
  • Activity Level: High
  • Shedding Factor: Moderate
  • Life Expectancy: 11 to 13 years

Another Swiss mountain breed! The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is the smallest and swiftest of these Swiss breeds, according to the AKC. These sweethearts were used to herd cattle in the mountains of Switzerland and watch over dairy farms. Agile and energetic, they make great family pets. The National Entlebucher Mountain Dog Association says it’s imperative to include them in outings, hikes and family playtime to keep them happy.

mountain-dog-breeds: A fluffy gray/brown Estrela Mountain Dog sits in a grassy field looking over its shoulder.
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8. Estrela Mountain Dog

  • Height: 24 to 29 inches
  • Weight: 75 to 130 pounds
  • Personality: Brave, affectionate
  • Shedding Factor: Moderate
  • Activity Level: Moderate
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

Don’t mistake this large breed for a bear, even though they are giant, fluffy and might have a lumbering gait. As one of the oldest breeds to come out of Portugal, Estrela Mountains Dogs were used for centuries as shepherds for livestock on rocky terrain. These dogs are born guardians and require lots of socialization as puppies to ensure they don’t get aggressive with strangers who they see as threats to their homes or families. When you adopt an Estrela, you’re adopting a dog who’s ready to bond for life.

mountain-dog-breeds: A fluffy white Great Pyrenees sits tall in a grassy field while the wind blows. The sky is blue and full of big, white clouds.
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9. Great Pyrenees

  • Height: 25 to 32 inches
  • Weight: 85 to 110 pounds
  • Personality: Calm, Sweet
  • Activity Level: Low
  • Coat Type: Double, Medium to Long Length
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Speaking of bears, the Great Pyrenees is basically a giant teddy bear. Like Bernese Mountain Dogs, these big fluffballs make excellent companions for seniors and kids for their calm demeanor and loving personalities. Plus, unlike some herding breeds on our list, they don’t have a strong prey drive so you don’t have to worry about them bolting off during a walk. Their signature white coats protect them from the wild winter cold in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain.

mountain-dog-breeds: A black/white/brown Greater Swiss Mountain Dog lays down in a grassy space. It's head is perked up looking at something off-camera.
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10. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

  • Height: 23 to 29 inches
  • Weight: 85 to 140 pounds
  • Personality: Affectionate, social
  • Activity Level: Moderate to High
  • Shedding Factor: Moderate
  • Life Expectancy: 8 to 11 years

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America says we have these large, affectionate dogs to thank for the development of both St. Bernards and Rottweilers, two breeds known for protecting and rescuing humans. While Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, also known as Swissies, can be pricey and stubborn, these dogs thrive in loving family environments when socialized and introduced to specific commands early on.

mountain-dog-breeds: A fluffy white Kuvasz stands in a grassy space looking at something off-camera with its tongue stuck out.
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11. Kuvasz

  • Height: 26 to 30 inches
  • Weight: 70 to 115 pounds
  • Personality: Obedient, fearless
  • Activity Level: Moderate
  • Shedding Factor: Moderate
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Loyal to no end, the Kuvasz is a working breed who aims to please. The Kuvasz Club of America says these fearless guardians come from the Ural Mountains in Siberia where royal families employed them as protectors and hunters. They are said to mature slowly, so get ready to stick to firm, yet positive reinforcement-based training techniques for a few years to ensure good behavior into adulthood.

mountain-dog-breeds: A fluffy brown and black Leonberger walks through some sand with trees in the background.
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12. Leonberger

  • Height: 25 to 32 inches
  • Weight: 90 to 170 pounds
  • Personality: Intelligent, goofy
  • Activity Level: Moderate to High
  • Shedding Factor: High
  • Life Expectancy: 7 to 10 years

This German dog breed has lots of playful energy, despite its large size. Bred by combining St. Bernards and Newfoundlands, it’s no wonder these gentle giants are so enormous. A Leonberger’s coat will shed a ton, so expect frequent brushing and vacuuming. Loving and attentive to their families, they also make great guardians. As the AKC puts it, “A Leo is friendly but nobody's fool.”

mountain-dog-breeds: A black and white Mountain Cur sits in front of a white background. It looks curious with its head tilted to the side.
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13. Mountain Cur

  • Height: 16 to 24 inches
  • Weight: 30 to 60 pounds
  • Personality: Smart, energetic
  • Activity Level: High
  • Shedding Factor: Moderate
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 13 years

The Mountain Cur is one of the few breeds on this list established in the United States. Bred to help American settlers in the Appalachian mountains find food and small game, they are smart and friendly with high prey drives. While they are eager to please and train well, they definitely require lots of exercise and shouldn’t be cooped up for long.

mountain-dog-breeds: A fluffy white and black Pyrenean Mastiff sits in a dried out grassy area with patches of snow around it.
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14. Pyrenean Mastiff

  • Height: 28 to 31 inches
  • Weight: 120 to 190 pounds
  • Personality: Gentle, independent
  • Activity Level: Low to Moderate
  • Shedding Factor: Moderate to High
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

A rare and ancient breed, Pyrenean Mastiffs are truly gentle giants. They can reach almost 200 pounds and shed like the dickens, so prepare yourself and your home for that. Pyrenean Mastiffs also have big hearts and are known for being gentle with all types of people. They’ve been guarding homes in and around the Pyrenean Mountains for thousands of years; today, they’ll happily alert you to intruders but aren’t keen on fighting unless they sense a serious threat.

mountain-dog-breeds: A photo of a white/brown/black St. Bernard laying in a grassy field with mountains in the background.
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15. Saint Bernard

  • Height: 26 to 30 inches
  • Weight: 120 to 180 pounds
  • Personality: Charming, Watchful
  • Activity Level: Moderate
  • Coat Type: Double, Short to Long Length
  • Life Expectancy: 8 to 10 years

The earliest evidence of St. Bernards are several paintings from the late 1600s featuring these large breeds trudging through the Alps. The Saint Bernard Club of America says these dogs were around long before that and today are still as charming and hard-working as ever. Moderate exercise is enough to keep St. Bernards satisfied, but be sure to train them on good manners early as they are big (and drool a ton) and need to form good habits when it comes to interacting with other people and dogs.

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Sarah Ashley is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. She has covered pets for PureWow for six years and tackles everything from dog training tips to the best litter boxes. Her...