This winter so far has been one of the coldest on record throughout the central and eastern United States. Due to freezing and unending Arctic winds, the two-week stretch between December 23rd 2017 and January 5th 2018 set many record lows. Cities affected included Green Bay, Wisconsin; Buffalo, New York; and Flint, Michigan. Many more areas also saw record low temperatures. For a dog owner, extreme temperatures are often a source of considerable stress. You must consider the effects of these conditions on your pets. For example, frostbite is a real concern with even short-term exposure to very-low negative temperatures. On the other hand, certain breeds of dogs are well-suited to cold temperatures. If you are considering adopting a new furry companion, and you live in a cold climate, then our list of Twenty Dog Breeds Perfect for Cold Weather is worth checking out. Read on to learn more about these awesome, weather-resistant canines.
Karakachan Bear Dog
This breed was originally bred to be a livestock guardian. They were first used by the eponymous Karakachans, nomadic shepherds from Bulgaria. The dogs would guard the flock of sheep effectively – not hesitating to fight a wolf or even a bear to keep the sheep safe. Due to their origins in the mountainous regions of Bulgaria, Karakachan Bear Dogs developed a double coat consisting of a straight, stiff topcoat and an extremely heavy undercoat. The topcoat acts as a protective layer, while the undercoat provides the dog with the insulation it needs to stay warm. This breed has come into the international spotlight a couple of times in the past few decades. When George W. Bush made a visit to Bulgaria in 2003, he was presented with his very own Karakachan Shepherd. Seven years later, the Prime Minister of Bulgaria gave Vladimir Putin a Karakachan as well – which he still owns to this day.
Icelandic Sheepdogs were originally brought to Iceland during Viking incursions. In fact, many graves in Denmark and Sweden (where the Vikings originated) reveal the bones of the ancient ancestors of today’s breed. Over time, they were adopted for use in herding sheep – a practice that continues to this day. One of the big draws to the early use of these dogs for shepherding was their thick, durable, and waterproof coat. While any Icelandic Sheepdog will have an advantage in cold weather, the long-haired version of this dog is even better. The increased length will offer better resistance to wind and the perceived-to-be-lower temperatures associated with it. Another talent that these dogs have is that they are great at canine sports. Whether you want them to participate in obedience trials, tracking, herding, or even showmanship events, they will excel with proper training. Plus, they can even compete in the winter due to their weather-resistant coats.
The Leonberger is a giant working dog that originated in southeastern Germany, and is named after the city of Leonberg in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The legend goes that the distinctive mane that develops on older Leonbergers was an intentional effect, meant to mimic the lion in the town crest. Whether the legends about them are true or not, Leonbergers do have really nice coats. The undercoat is a great insulator – it is soft, dense, and warm. The topcoat of a Leonberger has durable, straight, flat hair that helps to protect the dog from the wind, water, and other elements. They can stay warm in a lot of conditions that other dogs may not be able to. Leonbergers are often used as search and rescue dogs. They show great affinity for water and are excellent at saving human lives in drowning scenarios. In fact, the Canadian government even imported these dogs early in the 20th century. They desired rescue dogs – and the Leonbergers were a perfect match. They even continue in this role to this day.
The Komondor, otherwise known as the Hungarian sheepdog, is a large breed of dog that has a long history of performing work across Europe. This particular breed ascribes its origin to Hungry. They have even found old Hungarian documents (mid- 1500s) solidifying the breed’s paper canine pedigree. Komondors are mop-like in appearance, with long hair that forms into cords. This thick, durable fur combined with a warm undercoat means that the Komondor is quite weather-resistant and able to withstand a lot of damage. Plus, their coats were originally bred to help them fight off the initial attack from a brave or coyote. These dogs are great for any climate, but they can easily handle themselves in the cold. Another advantage to adopting a Komondor is that it will adapt to changing situations. This makes them phenomenal with kids, but also great at hunting and protecting their homes.
The Japanese Shiba Inu is a breed that finds its origins in the hunting dogs from certain mountainous areas of the country. They are the smallest of the original spitz breeds from Japan. The Shiba Inu is an incredibly fast, agile dog that can meet its own needs for food and survival within minutes. The Shiba Inu is well-suited to outdoor life and adaptable. The dog has a double coat, with a stiff outer coat and a soft, thick undercoat. These are the main things that prevent the dog from feeling the effects of a harsh winter, as they are able to stay well insulated and dry in pretty much any conditions. One of the claims to fame that the Shiba Inu has is that it is the type of dog featured in the ‘doge’ meme. This meme features a Shiba Inu photo, with humorously mismatched and broken English surrounding the dog to call attention to whatever the subject at hand is. There is even a type of cryptocurrency – Dogecoin – that was inspired by this old meme.
Named after the nomadic reindeer herding Somoyedic people of Siberia, the Samoyed is a large, white, fluffy herding dog breed. They are also used to pull sleds when the time and situation is right. The Samoyed is the most common name for this breed, but they are also known as Bjelkiers (which is used more often in Europe). Samoyeds were originally bred to be outdoor dogs in the freezing cold of Siberia. They have a thick, luxurious double coat that offers prime protection against any inclement weather. This alone makes them a great choice for people who live in a cold climate that wish to own pets. These dogs may be great herders, but they are not good guard dogs. They are far too friendly with everyone. They also display a trademark smile (known as the “Sammie smile”) that shows that they have goodwill toward most people that they meet. All in all, the Samoyed is a really good choice for someone who lives in a cold climate.
Another German breed, the Keeshond is a medium-sized dog breed that is distinguished by its dual-layer silver and black coat, as well as the distinguished ruff and curly tail. They are most famous for being the mascots of an 18th-century revolution against the Dutch government. Keeshonds have a weatherproof double coat much like other dogs of this type. They are thus able to withstand wind and water. Of course, they must be brushed quite frequently in order to maintain their beautiful appearance. This is also important for maintain the health of the Keeshond’s coat. This breed is an incredibly intelligent one. However, they are not the easiest dogs to train. If you do not have experience with canines, a Keeshond is not a good choice for you. They are inventive and creative, which can manifest as destructive actions (digging and chewing). Someone who plans to keep a Keeshond should be sure to have a game-plan in place for an effective training regimen.
One of the best winter breeds originated alongside nomadic cultures of the far east (in countries such as Tibet, Mongolia, China, and Nepal). Known as the Tibetan Mastiff, these dogs were first used as guards for livestock, tents, and even monasteries and palaces. They continue to be used for protection by local Tibetan tribes. Due to generations of dogs growing up in the Himalayan areas of Nepal, India, and Bhutan, the Tibetan Mastiff developed many traits that enabled their survival in such harsh climates. First off, they love to roam in packs (like wolves). This helps them to stay warm at night by huddling, and was beneficial for hunting. Tibetan Mastiffs also have a thick, water-resistant coat that helps them stay warm in the lowest temperatures imaginable. Many photographs of these dogs even show them laying in the snow, seemingly unaffected by this direct contact with the bitter cold. Their coats also don’t smell unpleasant – a trait that is common in other dogs of this size.
Perhaps the most famous mountain dog breed, Saint Bernards originated in the western Alps of Switzerland, France, and Italy. The very first generations of this breed as it is today were born at the Great and Little Saint Bernard Passes of the alps (which is where they got their name). Saint Bernards are quite famous for their daring alpine rescues. These huge dogs would learn from the older dogs to search for humans lost in avalanches, and then rescue them. In legends about these rescues, Saint Bernards would often carry a cask of brandy around their neck to help a traveler warm up. Whether this is true or not, the well-insulated coat and inherent hardiness of the breed was crucial to making cold-weather rescues. This breed of dog is quite popular all across the world. Their popularity has been enhanced by the inclusion of the breed in films and television shows. For example, the Beethoven series from the 1990s features a large, friendly, mischievous Saint Bernard in the starring role.
Norwegian Elkhounds have been used since the Viking times to track and hunt moose, elks, wolves, and even bears. They would track their prey independently, with the hunter following. When they finally caught up to the game, they would distract the animal and bark until the hunter arrived to shoot it. They are quite good at their jobs, and can remain very quiet until they alert the hunter. Due to their frequent use in hunting roles, they needed to develop a way to withstand the harsh winters of Scandinavia. Throughout the generations, Norwegian Elkhounds developed a dense, smooth undercoat with a protective outer layer. They are among the hardiest of dog breeds in existence. This breed is not too common to find in the United States. However, they have been owned by high-profile Americans before. For example, ex-President Herbert Hoover owned a Norwegian Elkhound called Weejie during his term as President during the 1930s.
Tibetan Terriers – which is a misnomer, as they aren’t true terriers – are another dog breed that originated in the East. Also known as the “Holy Dogs of Tibet”, they were often kept by monks as good luck charms, watchdogs, or even mascots. They had a practical function as well – their innate sense of balance and retrieval instinct made them invaluable for getting items that had fallen down mountain sides. The climate where these dogs were originally bred led to the most-furry dogs being selected, as they would fare the best in low temperatures. Today, Tibetan Terriers all will have a long, wavy topcoat that provides excellent protection. In addition, they have broad, flat feet that act as natural snow shoes (Tibetan Terriers don’t sink into the snow). An interesting fact about this breed is that they were never sold by members of Tibetan villages. They were considered legitimate bringers of luck, and selling them was said to bring great misfortune upon the owners and villages. They were rarely mistreated for the same reasons. The Tibetan monks even called them “the little people”, and they were treated as such.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Another dog from the Swiss alps, this large breed came from the Bern region of Switzerland (which gave them their name). The breed was often found in a variety of working positions, from pulling carts to herding livestock. They are classified as working dogs to this day. This breed of dog has the omnipresent double coat (an essential feature of an outdoor working dog in the Alps). They are remarkably resistant to cold weather. In fact, many Bernese Mountain Dogs could really care less whether they are playing in the snow or the sun. This breed is known for being fiercely loyal and loving towards their family. Sometimes, they even save people’s lives. For example, one dog named Bella saved her owner from a burning house by pulling him out. Another dog, Nico, saved two people who were pulled out to sea by a riptide in California.
The Great Pyrenees – also known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog – is a very old breed of dog. They get their name from the region where they were first found; Pyrenean Mountain Dogs originated in and around the Pyrenees Mountains in northern Spain and southern France. They have been known in this area for thousands of years. This breed is marked by a coarse, thick coat that enabled them to fend off weather and even wolf attacks. Their coats also include a mane around the neck, a plumed tail, and pantaloon-like feathering on their legs. Each of these traits contributes to their efficient resistance to cold weather and water. One thing you may not know about this breed is that the Romantic movement of the mid-19th century had a lot to do with their widespread distribution across the planet. The Romantics appreciated the breed for their innate beauty and strong poise, as well as their friendliness and calm temperaments. This led to many people from other regions purchasing the Pyrenean dogs.
This ancient breed finds its roots in the early hunting dogs of Mesopotamia. The current breed is named after their site of origin (the Anatolia region of central Turkey). They are rugged, strong, and big dogs that have an innate talent for protecting and herding livestock. They have guarded flocks from many kinds of predators over the years. Their coat protected them from the elements, with its wiry thickness and double layers. It’s interesting to note that they have extremely thick hair around their throats, in order to protect them from a predatory attack. They are more likely to run off a predator than to be killed by one due to their protectiveness and strength. This breed has been used in an interesting way to protect endangered species from elimination. Anatolian Shepherds are given to local farmers in Namibia, and provide a non-lethal deterrent to cheetah attacks on their livestock. This enables the farmers to protect their livelihood without killing the endangered cats.
Another ancient breed of dog found in modern times is the Chow Chow. This breed first sprung up in Northern China, and were used as temple guards for a long period of time in their early existence. In fact, many reliefs, statues, and carvings in China depict these dogs in their original roles. The Chow’s ancestors came off of the high steppe regions of the far East. These places tend to get very cold during the winter. Thus, the precursor dogs to the modern breed were selected for their ability to withstand the weather. Some even found themselves in sled-pulling roles in early China. One early legend about this breed is that they were the inspiration behind the original teddy bears. The story goes that one of the 19th-century Queen Victoria’s friends disapproved of her Chow, who she brought everywhere with her. They then paid a dressmaker to make a stuffed version of the dog, which over time became the famous teddy bear.
This type of working dog was first bred to be used by fishermen of the Dominion of Newfoundland. They are a huge breed, and may even be genetically related to large bear dogs that were introduced by the Vikings in the early 11th century. They are also particularly well-suited to water rescues due to their webbed feet and propensity towards swimming. These dogs are able to brave the icy waters of Canada, no matter what conditions the weather presents. This is due to their thick, oily double coat that lets the water slide right off of them. Winter cold-water rescues would be practically impossible without the use of this breed of dog. The Newfoundland breed is well-respected in many circles. They are universally-acclaimed for their temperaments and talents. For example, Henry David Thoreau (the author of Walden) stated that a Newfoundland dog can “warm [him] if [he] should be freezing, or pull [him] out of a ditch”.
This arctic breed is one of the best-suited dog species to cold temperatures. They were first used to haul freight across the tundra, as they were strong and hardy. Later, they were used as a sled dog for both cargo and personal transportation. If you examine the coat of an Alaskan Malamute, you will find that they are particularly well-suited to the cold. Their undercoats are thick and oily, and can even be as thick as two inches – which is much thicker than the undercoats of other dogs. Their guard coat is good for breaking up chilling winds, as it stands off of the body in a good pattern for protection. These dogs have a long history in Alaska, in particular. During the Gold Rush of 1896, many miners used these dogs as sled and working dogs that were suitable for the environment. In 2010, Alaska even named this breed as their official state dog.
American Eskimo Dog
American Eskimo Dogs, despite their name, find their origin in the German Spitz group of breeds. They were first used as watchdogs, and were excellent at guarding people and property (though they were not very aggressive, they were very vocal). Anti-German sentiment during the Second World War led Americans to rename this breed. The name they were bestowed was quite fitting. They have a soft coat, but it is very dense and thick. This helps them to stay warm regardless of weather conditions. This, combined with their distinctive appearance, is what led them to be named the American Eskimo Dog. Directly prior to World War Two, many dogs of this breed were used in circuses as performing dogs. For example, a 1930s version of the Barnum and Bailey Circus featured one of these dogs walking a tightrope. They even sold puppies after the show, leading to the widespread popularity of this kind of dog.
The Akita Inu breed comes from the north half of Japan. Another branch of this breed is known as the American Akita (or simply Akita). The difference between the two breeds isn’t too significant, as they are essentially the same besides the coat colors. However, American Akitas are more likely to carry the recessive longhair gene. These dogs are powerful and hardy, owing a lot to their mountain-dwelling hunting dog ancestry. They also have a nice double coat that keeps them out of the weather, for the most part. In addition, some of the ancestors were bred for dogfighting. Though this practice has largely disappeared, some of the traits of these dogs have carried over from these earlier generations. Akitas are incredibly popular in Japan. They have even been declared a Japanese Natural Monument. In addition, the Mayor of Odate City (an Akita hotspot) organized a breeding program to ensure that all future Akitas born in Japan displayed their primary desirable traits. The breed is popular globally as well, particularly in the United States.
The Siberian Husky is the go-to breed when someone thinks of a snow-dwelling canine. They were first bred in northeastern Siberia in Russia. One interesting thing to note is that they share a common genetic ancestor with many American breeds. When there was still a land bridge between Russia and the Americas, nomadic tribes of the time brought their dogs with them to assist in hunting and protection. Siberian Huskies have a propensity for survival in incredibly harsh climates. Their coats are among the thickest of any dogs in the world. They are effectively protected in temperatures as cold as -50 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the coat will also reflect heat during the summer.
Their ability to survive in harsh climates means that they make fantastic sled dogs. You may have heard of Richard E. Byrd, but here’s a quick rundown: he was a Navy Rear Admiral who visited Antarctica in 1933, hoping to journey around the entire 16,000-mile coast. He relied on a team of 50 Siberian Huskies to make this historic trek a success – and they performed quite well due to their small size, great speed, and inherent hardiness.