If you’re a fan of colder weather, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a pet that shares your interests.
Typically, dogs with very short coats and little undercoat or body fat (like Greyhounds) do not fare well in winter temperatures, while those with extra fur, extra fat, and extra-strong pads on their feet are—not surprisingly—better at braving the cold. That being said, just because your four-legged friend wears a fur coat doesn’t necessarily mean he loves those below-freezing temperatures as much as he’s supposed to.
While it isn’t recommended that any dog (regardless of breed or genetic disposition) is left outside during extreme cold weather conditions, there are definitely breeds that are better suited to winter conditions than others. Here are 10 breeds that will be by your side as you hike, hunt, trek, or ski through the snow.
Though typically only weighing 50 to 60 pounds, Samoyeds are thought to be an ancient breed that herded reindeer, hunted, and protected the Samoyede people in their journeys across Siberia and the far north. The energetic, fun-loving breed has a beautiful, ultra-thick white coat and a trademark upturned mouth that is often referred to as a "friendly smile." They have a fondness for humans that includes a history of keeping them alive and warm by sleeping on top of them at night, and a strong hunting instinct that makes it hard to resist backyard squirrels and rabbits.
These regal and protective dogs were originally bred to guard homes and livestock against predators in the Pyrenees mountains, a range that forms a natural border between Spain and France. Their thick, white coats give them a look that falls somewhere between a Golden Retriever and a polar bear, making them a cuddler's dream. The Great Pyrenees is said to be the gentlest and longest-living of the guarding breeds, and was considered the Royal Dog of France in the 17th century. Many years spent navigating steep cliffs and snowy mountains have left these guys resistant to wind and cold, and agile enough for tough, rugged hikes.
With striking blue eyes and a thick coat with a multitude of markings, the Siberian Husky is a recognizable cold-weather dog, typically favoured for its beauty and wolf-like qualities. An ancient breed from Northeast Asia, the husky is one of the earliest known cold-weather breeds, known for dog-sledding and winter sports. The athletic, intelligent husky weighs up to 85 pounds and is protected by two coats of fur: a rough top coat to prevent snow and ice from sticking, and a warm dense undercoat to trap body heat.
Bernese Mountain Dog
The well-mannered, tri-coloured Bernese Mountain Dog was originally bred as a working dog in Bern, Switzerland. In early development, large Swiss mountain dogs were usually treated as a poor man's workhorse, and mainly hauled items around the farms and through the snowy mountains. Today, "Berners"—as they're affectionately known—are coveted for their thick, wavy coat, as well as their status as a low-maintenance, gentle giant.
Contrary to its namesake, the Norwegian Elkhound is not a hound, and it doesn't hunt elk. The breed is known for hunting moose and other large game in native Scandinavia; in Norwegian, Norsk Elghund means "moose do, " and in German, elch means moose. As an average-sized dog with a wolf-like face, the Elkhound used to jump circles around its prey, keeping the animal in one place and bark until their human hunting companion came along. Their stamina, love of snow, and double coat make them the perfect dog to take on winter hikes.
Born and bred on the east coast, these friendly, large-breed dogs are named after the Canadian island where they originated. Often called Newfies for short, the giant, shaggy breed was designed to produce strong swimmers with a dense coat that would protect from below zero temperatures. The new breed—a cousin of the St. Bernard that would weigh up to 150 pounds—was used for hauling heavy, wet fishing nets and equipment across the coast. Today, there are numerous accounts Newfoundland dogs saving people and wreckage from freezing waters.
Though St. Bernards are famously depicted with barrels around their neck bringing brandy to travellers stranded in the snow, there is little to suggest that ever happened. Instead, the story of the breed is much more simple (and easy to believe) than sending a large dog up a mountain with a barrel of alcohol and expecting that he'd know what to do with it. For centuries, monks high in the Alps at St. Bernard Hospice exclusively bred, trained, and raised the short-haired, 100- to 200-pound canines to protect the premises and hunt in the cold weather. Soon, the dogs showed a natural instinct for search and rescue and their purpose was realigned to accompany travellers across treacherous snowy pathways.
Genetic testing has proven that these pooches—known for their large wooly coats, wild mane, and strange blue-black tongues—are one of the oldest existing dog breeds. The bear-like canines originated in Mongolia and Northern China, where Chinese legend says that the favoured Chow Chow's lineage dates back to creation. They apparently gained the first blue-hued tongue when it licked up drops of colour as the sky was first being painted. With its thick year-round coat in either black or red, the Chow Chow is extremely tolerant of cold temperatures and is known to be a good, territorial walking companion.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Keeshond served as a pseudo-guardian for large shipments in Holland's canals and rivers. Their thick, super-fluffy dark fur and downy undercoat provide insulation from harsh temperatures and damp climates. Alert, intelligent, and super-affectionate, this cousin to the winter-friendly Samoyed, Chow, and Norwegian Elkhound was originally bred to be more of a companion than a watchdog. Today, the Keeshond would make an attentive, compact pet that loves to play in the snow.
Often mistaken for being part-wolf, and even sometimes playing them on television, Alaskan Malamutes are one of the oldest dog breeds whose looks have not significantly changed over time. With lush hair and a plumed tail, the Malamute is the largest of traditional Arctic sled dogs and was typically used to hunt seals, chase polar bears, and pull heavy sleds loaded with food. Both WWI and WWII dictated a need for the strength and prowess of the breed who were strong and could withstand frigid temperatures. Unfortunately, this significantly reduced their global population.