Written by Anna Hollisey
Winter is coming. So which dogs will embrace the snow-piled sidewalks and frosty landscape – and which ones would rather stay home beside the fire? If you live in a colder part of the country, it’s good to know which breeds are best adapted for freezing conditions. Here’s a round-up of the dog breeds which love winter.
The place where you live often determines the dog breeds that you’ll see the most. From Alaska and Minnesota to Idaho and Michigan, cold-weather states tend to be populated by cold-weather breeds.
With an average temperature of 30.2°F, Alaska is the coldest state in the US. According to the Alaskan Anchorage Daily News, the Labrador, Alaskan (and Siberian) Husky, and German Shepherd are the top dogs here – perhaps because they’ve evolved to survive in chilly conditions.
What features help them to sail through snowy days? Most of the breeds that you’ll find in colder climates have luscious, thick double coats. That means there’s an underlayer of insulative fur and a water-repelling outer layer, which helps dogs to dry off quickly. They have a layer of fat to help them regulate their body temperature, and some have supersized paws to help them pad easily over deep snow.
The iconic Siberian Husky is the ultimate snow-dog. With their athletic stature and luxurious coat, they’re famous for pulling sleds all over the world. In Rovaniemi, they pull sleds full of tourists to visit the real Santa Claus; from Manitoba to Minnesota, many states have hosted Husky racing events. Smart and strong, the Siberian Husky enjoys working and also makes an affectionate family companion.
Another famous sledding dog, the Malamute is large, strong, and equipped for the coldest climates. Originating in Siberia, this traditional dog breed worked in close partnership with Inuit people – pulling sleds, hunting Arctic prey, and guarding their families. In fact, the name Malamute comes from a tribe – Malamute – in Northern Alaska. Alaskan Malamutes are well-adapted to winter and can work in very cold conditions, although they’re just as happy cuddled up with a family beside the fire.
We are having difficulty in ordering this list correctly, but we’re squeezing in the Bernese Mountain Dog because we just love him. The Berner is a dream dog – famous for their giant size, fierce loyalty, and affectionate nature. Originally from Switzerland in Northern Europe, the Bernese Mountain Dog boasts a generous coat in black, white, and chocolate (Swiss, of course). They’re simply built for winter in the mountains.
Actually, it’s not technically a ‘terrier’ – the name just stuck. These mid-sized, chilled-out hounds love to roam in the snow. Hailing from the arctic wilds of Tibet, the Tibetan Terrier was bred by monks and kept for companionship and watchdog duties. As proof of their mountain ancestry, they retain oversized ‘snowshoe’ paws. This is one dog who loves the snowfall in winter!
Unlike the Tibetan Terrier, the Samoyed gets a top score from the AKC when it comes to child-friendliness. This exceptionally affectionate and sociable dog is very clever and likes a constant companion (being historically accustomed to sleeping in tents alongside their owners). The Samoyed has perhaps the most luscious coat of all our winter dogs. (As puppies, they look like marshmallows on legs.) As a result, they’re quite comfortable in brutally cold conditions – all thanks to their Siberian ancestry.
Here’s another dog breed from Tibet – where temperatures average at 37°F during December – which comes complete with a cozy coat and massive, snow-proofed paws. The Tibetan Mastiff is a stop-and-stare kinda dog. With majestic proportions and a handsome jawline, he makes an awesome guardian. The Mastiff is associated with monasteries of Tibet, which explains its predilection for winter walks.
Legend tells of a large black dog arriving in Newfoundland, Canada, with a Viking more than 1,000 years ago. Fishermen began using dogs in the cold Easterly waters, and by the late 1700s the local breed was known as the Newfoundland. Their work as water rescue dogs necessitated a thick, double coat and hefty paws for efficient swimming. Today’s Newfoundlands may be slightly less hardy – it’s inadvisable to leave them outdoors during winter – but they’re happy to take a romp outside with their best buds.
Originating in Hungary (and possibly Siberia before that), the Kuvasz has always been accustomed to the cold. Used as sheep guardians and watchdogs, the loyal Kuvaszok were perceived as threats during WWII and almost became extinct in their native Hungary. Weighing up to 115lb with a polar-bear-style coat, the Kuvasz enjoys outdoor activity all year round.
Another double-coater, and this one’s famous for its loyal, obedient character. The German Shepherd is muscular and energetic, with stamina in almost any climate. The GSD’s popularity started with Captain Max, a 19th-century breeder determined to produce the perfect German herding dog. It had to be strong and hardy, to cope with Germany’s cold winters – you’ll rarely see a GSD in a dog jacket. Today, the GSD ranks among the top 10 dog breeds in the USA.
Told you we had problems organizing the list. The happy-go-lucky Chow Chow is dressed in thick fur and enjoys winter just as much as its bigger cousin, the Tibetan Mastiff! Bred as a companion dog in ancient China, the Chow Chow is intensely loyal. It’s famous for having a jet-black tongue, which contrasts dramatically with its golden coat. The playful and loving Chow Chow absolutely loves a walk in the snow… especially if it’s with its beloved owner.
When it’s cold outside, read our advice for taking safe winter walks with your dog. What’s the difference between a double coat and the Yorkie’s hypoallergenic coat? Learn more about different types of dog coat in this blog post. Does your dog get tiny balls of ice between his toe-beans? Find out when snow boots for your dog could be handy.