GENERAL BREED INFO

Cold Weather Dog Breeds: Great Outdoor Companions Equipped for Cold Times

Cold Weather Dog Breeds
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Whether you live somewhere that’s known for its chilly temperatures or you need a jogging buddy when it’s snowing outside, there are a large number of cold weather dog breeds for you to choose from. These dog breeds were designed with cold weather in mind, so they can withstand the ice and snow that may be prevalent in your area. They’re equipped with thick double coats, extra layers of fat, and thick pads on their paws to prevent frostbitten toes, so they’re not going to give in to exhaustion so easily when it’s cold outside.

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So how do you go about choosing a cold weather breed? It all depends on your specific circumstances. Cold weather breeds come in a variety of sizes and temperaments to fit into your lifestyle. Not all of them are big hairy drool monsters like the Saint Bernard. There are even breeds that thrive so well in the snow that you’ll have a hard time keeping up with them when you take them outdoors. Be aware that although these breeds are resistant to cold weather, it doesn’t meant that you can leave them outside all day long.

Cold weather dogs

They can still succumb to frigid temperatures and experience hypothermia and frostbite. It’s important that you still exercise care when it comes to taking your dog outdoors in winter.

Akita

The Akita was only owned by the Imperial family of Japan, and statues of this Spitz-breed dog were given to families to bring health, happiness and long life. Their dense undercoats make them perfect for winter weather, and were often used as hunting companions and guarding the royal palace.

Akita dog breed

They were bred to hunt boar, deer, and black bear. They can be a little stubborn and independent when it comes to doing what they’re told, but are also quite protective and loyal to those they consider their family. He has a very noble and intimidating presence, but his affectionate disposing is very welcoming to strangers once they’re socialized properly.

Swedish Vallhund

This plucky little dog is known for its intelligence and being quite alert. He can be quite an active dog, and requires an owner who is willing to be active along with him. He’s a perfect companion for those who engage in winter workouts on the street. Giving him a job to do around the home and training him for some kind of sport will definitely keep him happy, since he was bred to be a herding dog.

Swedish Vallhund

His thick coat comes in a variety of shades and colors, and can withstand the cold very well. Some are born with curly tails while others have bobtails, and do quite well in agility tracks, obedience classes, and herding events.

Leonberger

Originating from Leonberg, Germany, these large dogs were designed to resemble lions with their thick mane of fur around their necks. During the difficult times of Germany’s history, they almost face extinction twice, but careful breeding has maintained their numbers. Their coats can withstand the cold and are quite water-resistant.

Leonberger dog breed

His very deep bark is good at warning away predators, but can be very friendly once introduced, as they have been known to work well as therapy dogs. Caution should be taken when they are around children, due to their large size. They require a lot of exercise and space to maintain their muscular build.

Alaskan Malamute

When asked about cold weather dog breeds, the first that comes to most people’s minds if the Alaskan Malamute. Designed to haul heavy loads across long distances in the snow, this fluffy canine companion can handle the extreme temperatures of the Arctic.

Alaskan Malamute dogs

Known for being the oldest and largest sled dogs, their thick coat keeps them extremely warm. Because of the job they were bred for, they have high amounts of energy that should be used on a regular basis. Exercise is key to keeping this dog breed happy, or he will become bored quite easily and possibly become destructive with objects around the house.

Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiffs originated in the Himalayas, and can thrive well in both cold and warm temperatures. Their dense double coat keeps them quite insulated, which does lighten in the warmer months. They’re highly intelligent, but quite reserved, so it may take some time for them to warm up to you if you’re adopting one.

Tibetan Mastiff dog

Introductions to strangers should be done with patience. Longer than they are tall, they can be a bit clumsy indoors if they’re not provided with a sufficient amount of space to thrive. They do have small, cat-like feet, so they are incredible agile.

Anatolian Shepherd

If you’re looking for a serious mountain dog that can handle cold weather, the Anatolian Shepherd is your dog. It’s rugged and tough, and capable of handling long treks, even through cold weather. For its size, it’s quite an agile dog and was used as a flock guard in Turkey for the past 6,000 years. This is one of the cold weather dog breeds with low energy levels; they’re content to sit around in front of a warm fire rather than go running around in the snow.

Anatolian Shepherd

It’s a very protective dog, but should learn who the boss of the house is from the very beginning. Introductions to strangers will help with socialization so that the shepherd can learn to be friendly.

Keeshond

The Keeshond is a small compact dog with very thick fur to keep it warm when it’s winter outside. It’s extremely affectionate, and you will benefit from having this lapdog keeping you warm during the winter months. They used to serve as watchdogs on riverboats in Holland, so their fur was designed to be quite water-resistant in order to keep it warm. It was even used as a mascot by the Dutch Patriot Political Party many years ago.

Keeshond on snow

Their high levels of intelligence allow them to learn well in obedience training, but they do need a bit of exercise in order to stay physically and mentally fit. Although quite active, they are fine to take it easy during their downtime.

Chow Chow

Known for their extremely black tongues, the Chow Chow is a breed originating from China. Their coats are extremely wooly and thick, making them extremely tolerant to colder temperatures. They’re not against going through a good romp in the snow, and you may even have a hard time trying to get them back inside. However, their energy levels are not very high, which means that they are also suitable for apartment living.

Chow Chow in snow

They’re quite stock in appearance, which means they shouldn’t be taken lightly because of their size. They can be a little wary around strangers and protective of family members.

German shepherd

The German shepherd is a strong agile worker that is known for its ability to learn quickly. Designed to be a herding and guard dog, they have a lot of energy that they put into the jobs that they’re given. Their thick undercoat that they shed twice a year keep them warm during the winter, allowing them to remain alert, even in the most frigid of temperatures.

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It should be brushed on a regular basis in order to prevent matting. They’re very courageous and highly intelligent, striving to please their humans at any task they are given.

German shepherd in snow

Although they are quite hardy, care should be taken in colder weather, as they are prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis in the hind legs.

American Eskimo dog

Another Germany-created breed, it was originally called the White German Spitz. However, it was renamed after the Second World War, though its current name has nothing to do with Eskimos at all. Its thick coat is very resistant to moisture and can endure in cold temperatures, despite its small size.

American Eskimo dog

It’s a good indoor dog, due to its compact nature, but what it lacks in height and girth, it certainly makes up for in energy. The American Eskimo dog is quite rambunctious and needs exercise on a regular basis. This can be difficult to do during the winter months with snow on the ground, but it is well suited to outdoor activity.

Greater Swiss mountain dog

Originally dubbed in Switzerland as the «poor man’s horse,» it was often used as a draft dog by herders, farmers and merchants. It’s similar in markings to the Bernese mountain dog, but the coat is much shorter, and so doesn’t require as much brushing. This was even more prevalent during the Second World War when horses were being used for more important tasks by the military.

Greater Swiss mountain dog

It did well at its job too, as they could weigh as much as 140 pounds. They have a gentle disposition towards their family members and have moderate exercise needs. They have no problems with lazing about, but if given a job, they will be eager to complete it to its fullest.

Samoyed

This playful little breed definitely has one of the most charming smiles of any dog breed. Looking like small puffy marshmallows, they make the perfect companions, eager to serve as a lapdog when you’re feeling a little chilly. However, they do require a lot of physical and mental exercise, and should be challenged on a regular basis. They do well in agility training and obedience classes, and will accomplish any task that is given to them.

Samoyed in snow

They were originally bred in Siberia to hunt deer and haul sleds, but they still carry with them an agile grace that adds to their charm.

Karakachan Bear dog

This livestock guardian and herding dog is also known as the Bulgarian Shepherd. Its protective instincts also make it a good guard dog, especially over children. Care should be taken with its large size, however, as the younger members of the family can be knocked over quite easily. It does very well in large open spaces; being cooped up inside all day can make him antsy and destructive.

Karakachan Bear dog

In fact, many of them would prefer sleeping outdoors in any weather, sometimes preferring not to seek shelter in rain or snow. They can be a bit proud and domineering, as well as very wary of strangers, but can be very tough and independent. Left to their own devices, however, this can make them a little stubborn.

Kuvasz

This Tibetan dog breed has ancient origins as a herding dog, and is known for its strikingly white fur. It’s one of the more spirited and energetic breeds over one hundred pounds, and was used as a guard dog by the Hungarian royal family. It’s a very light-footed breed, making it perfect for hunting and herding livestock.

Kuvasz on snow

The Kuvasz is easy to train and is quite fearless when it comes to protecting the home. Regular exercise is a must in order to weed out its destructive tendencies when it becomes bored. Its double coat keeps it quite warm in winter, and should also be brushed on a regular basis.

Newfoundland

The Newfoundland is considered to be the perfect family dog. They have low energy and are content to stay inside and lounge around just much as going for a brisk walk or hike. They’re extremely friendly, but also quite protective. Weight as much as 150 pounds, they are calm and patient, making them good dogs to have around children, as long as there is vigilance due to their size.

Newfoundland in snow

Their heavy coat protects them from icy waters, making them excellent water rescue dogs. What they do lack in barking, they definitely make up for in their copious amounts of drooling.

Siberian Husky

Originally from Northeast Asia, the husky was designed with dog sledding mind. They have high endurance, very little need to eat much, and are known for being quite vocal. They’re not very adamant barkers, but do whine, chirp and howl on occasion. It’s a part of their pack mentality to communicate with each other, and this has remained with them over the centuries.

Siberian Husky on snow

They do shed a lot, and require a great deal of exercise on a daily basis in order to keep them happy. A tired husky is a happy husky.

Norwegian Elkhound

This ancient breed of dog originating from Scandinavia is one of the best hunting dogs in cold climates. They’re always ready for an adventure, no matter how far you’re going. They thrive in the snow, and have a very wooly undercoat to keep them warm. This sheds on a regular basis and will require attention, especially during the warmer months. Originally used to hunt elk, they developed great agility and high endurance in order to track their prey through the snow.

Norwegian Elkhound

They have a high protective streak, so they are quite wary of strangers on first meeting.

Saint Bernard

If you don’t mind a dog that drools, then you may fall in love with the Saint Bernard. They’re extremely large dogs — weighing as much as 200 pounds — but they’re more likely to lie down and snooze all day than bowl you over from their low energy levels. They’re not extremely playful, but they do enjoy having a job to do around the house.

St. Bernard Dog

Otherwise, they can be quite affectionate, if you don’t mind having to wash your hands and face afterwards. They were made to be rescue dogs for those who were trapped in avalanches, as they have a good sense of smell to sniff out buried skiers.

Bernese mountain dog

One of the most popular herding dogs, the Bernese mountain dog has a wonderful coat with unique markings that add to its popularity. It has strength, agility and speed to get it through the day and tough out those low temperatures. If you’re looking for a dog breed who would be suitable for hiking, then the Bernese mountain dog is certainly the breed for you. They’re capable of carrying their own gear and some of your own, if you’ll feeling a little weary during your hike.

Bernese mountain dog

They do need exercise to stay mentally fit, and will prevent him from becoming obese during his down times. They’re quite a calm dog breed, and can be good natured, even with strangers.

Shiba Inu

A Japanese breed, the Shiba Inu has very thick fur and a double coat. They’re extremely vocal, which can be curtailed with some training, especially if you live in an apartment. They can be quite spirited and always ready to explore their surroundings, no matter how big or how deep the snow is.

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It’s normal to have a Shiba Inu that goes rooting around in the snow for all the various smells that are underneath.

Shiba Inu dogs

Their fox-like faces gives them a naturally inquisitive expression, which adds to their attentive and alert personalities. They come in a wide range of different colors and markings, but the foxy orange seems to be the most popular.

Great Pyrenees

This large white dog is known for its illustrious coat, and originates from France. They were designed to herd livestock alone the steep mountain slopes, so they’re quite agile and elegant for their size. They’re good for a hike in the chilly air or just going for a romp in the snow in the backyard. They’re considered to be one of the gentlest guard breed there is, and are quite calm and easy to care for. It is considered to be one of the oldest of the giant dog breeds, with their rich history of providing care and protection for farmers and shepherds.

Great Pyrenees infographic

Whether sleet or snow or brightest sunshine, these cold weather dog breeds are suitable for almost every occasion. Many of them are working breeds that double as companion animals, but what they all have in common is their double coat that keeps them warm. This requires regular maintenance in order to maintain appearance, so they’re not the best breed for those who have prone to allergies or aren’t willing to put in the commitment for regular grooming. But if you are, then you’ll have a lot of fun throwing snowballs or even going for short jogs during the winter.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Betty Roster

    What is a better dog to take care of: a mastiff or a Saint Bernard? What can you expect from a St. Bernard when being integrated into a family? My Mom-in law is planning to get one this month. All they had were Rottweilers, so they’re wondering if they’re making the right choice?

    • It all boils down to personal preference, Betty. Both breeds are great, large, and definitely fantastic family dogs. The St. Bernard only got a bit of an edge over the Mastiff because they tend to be sweeter.

  • KittyDaniels

    My parents havean 11 month old Akita mix that loved to walk even in -6F temperatures.
    My Mom noticed that the dog sat midway through their walk and raised her paw up. Is the dog’s paw hurting because of extreme coldness? What temperature is too cold for dogs? Should we buy the dog some booties and jacket? What about putting salve on the dog’s paws?

    • Supportive management to avoid cold feet is important. They still need the protection they can get even they were bred to thrive in cold weather.

  • Elizabeth

    Personally, I like the most Tibetan Mastiff. This breed has a thick smooth coat that allows you to keep it all year round under the open sky, even without building a kennel.

  • Tibetan Mastiff is a great choice and is very distinct as well.

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