If you're looking for a dog that does well in cold weather, there are plenty of great breeds to choose from. Most are larger breeds like the Great Pyrenes or Alaskan Malamute, but smaller dogs, like Shiba Inus, can also tolerate cold. Discover the 17 breeds that prefer chilly temperatures and their common characteristics.
17 Best Breeds for Cold Climates
Most dog breeds that do best in cold weather originated in frigid climates. Because of this capability, they were used for jobs like hunting large game, search-and-rescue, or dog sledding. Learning a bit about their history can give you insight into why they're such great cold-weather breeds.
Akitas are originally from the rugged Japanese mountains, where they were referred to as "snow country dogs." Their coat is short but incredibly dense, which helps insulate them, so they can tolerate cold temperatures. They're naturally protective of their owners, and they tend to need less physical activity to be happy.
The Alaskan Malamute is often the breed people imagine when they think of cold-loving dogs. This breed originated in Alaska, where they were used to pull sleds and hunt large game, like bears or seals. Members of the breed are very high-energy and need regular, intense physical exercise and play to stay in good mental and physical health.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Hailing from the Swiss Alps, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a working dog bred for protection, herding, and pulling heavy loads. They tend to love snow but are also happy cuddling up indoors. Bernese require moderate to high levels of exercise, though they are typically thought of as sweet and gentle with their family members.
Even though the Chinook doesn't look like a breed that would do well in cold climates, they were actually bred to be sled dogs. Chinooks have a short double coat that keeps them toasty in cold weather, though they can also acclimate to warmer places. Members of the breed are very intelligent and hardworking. They aren't typically hyper or overly anxious, but they are a working breed and need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay healthy.
The Chow Chow is undoubtedly recognizable with their lion-like mane and wooly coat. This ancient breed originated in northern China, where the winters are frigid, so they adapted to withstand incredibly low temperatures. Chow Chows are often not social dogs, and they can be territorial. Prospective owners should take care to understand their training needs and temperament issues before bringing them into the home.
The Finnish Lapphund is a Nordic breed that was bred for a special purpose: herding reindeer. They're slightly small for a cold-climate breed, but they have an incredibly thick, waterproof coat that helps them tolerate the harsh Arctic winters. This breed is very rare outside of its home country of Finland. Members of the breed are calm, but their working dog heritage means they require regular, strenuous exercise and a lot of mental stimulation to stay fit.
German Shepherd Dog
They're one of the most popular dog breeds to keep as house pets today, but the German Shepherd Dog was originally a herding dog from Germany. They have a powerful body and thick fur that allows them to endure fairly cold temperatures, though they are sensitive to extremes. German Shepherds need moderate to high levels of activity, but they are very eager to please and train, so they may not develop some of the behavioral problems associated with high-energy working dogs who don't get enough exercise.
While some breeds herd livestock, others keep watch over the herds, which is precisely what the Great Pyrenees was bred to do. These massive, furry dogs originated in the Pyrenees Mountains of Europe, where they grew to handle harsh weather. Pyrenees are alert but calm, and they require moderate (but regular) levels of exercise to stay healthy.
Keeshonden are medium-sized Spitz dogs that originally served as Dutch watchdogs. The breed has a compact body and luscious double coat that allows them to do well in cold temperatures. These are intelligent, interactive dogs who need moderate, regular exercise. They're good natured, but may be wary of strangers.
The Kuvasz is a rare Hungarian breed developed to guard livestock. These large protectors have a curly, insulated coat, which is perfect for staying warm in cold weather. The Kuvasz is known to have an independent streak, in addition to being highly intelligent. This breed is probably not for a first-time dog owner.
If you're looking for a dog that tolerates cold weather and can also swim, the Newfoundland fulfills both. Thanks to their thick, water-resistant coat, this breed can do well in the cold on land and water. Newfies were bred to haul items ashore on the Eastern Canadian coast, and they were often trained for water rescues. Newfies are often gentle and sweet, though devoted to their families. Just be aware that, if they see water - even if it's freezing out - they're likely going to try to get in for a swim.
The Norwegian Elkhound is an old Viking breed that made its mark as an elk and bear hunter. These silver beauties can handle low temperatures because of their double coat, stout stature, and curled tail. The Elkhound is a high-energy dog, and they can be mistrustful of newcomers. Once you earn their trust, they are great companions who require regular, intense exercise.
The Saint Bernard is no stranger to cold weather. These dogs are native to the snowy Swiss Alps and were bred to be true heroes; they worked as search-and-rescue dogs to recover people buried under snow. Saint Bernards are imposing, but they are typically calm and gentle when properly trained. They don't require a ton of exercise either, so they can be ideal for families who won't a more temperate dog to cuddle by the fire with during the winter.
One of the most cold-tolerant dog breeds is the Samoyed, which hails from Siberia. These stunning dogs were bred to herd reindeer and pull sleds, so their muscular body and heavy coat allow them to endure cold environments. They can be feisty and even mischievous, so regular training and engagement are a must. Physical exercise is important, too, but mental stimulation is more important for this intelligent breed.
Even though they're petite, the Shiba Inu adapted to thrive in the cold climate of the Japanese mountains. They were bred to hunt small game and have a thick double coat to help shield them from harsh mountain conditions. Shibas can show an independent streak, and they can also be territorial. As such, they require a confident owner who can dedicate the time to their training and daily physical exercise requirements.
Powerful, athletic, and intelligent, the Siberian Husky is the poster child for cold-weather dogs. This breed has been used to pull sleds for thousands of years and still carries out the same role today in notable events like the Iditarod. Huskies are true canine athletes and have very high physical exercise requirements. They won't be happy (or well-behaved) sitting around on the couch, so if you're thinking of bringing this high-energy powerhouse into your home, be ready to put in the work.
The enormous Tibetan Mastiff was developed in the mountains of Tibet, where they protected Buddhist monks and monasteries. Their large size, together with their heavy coat, helps keep them comfortable in colder climates. Tibetan Mastiffs are guard dogs, by nature, and they can be aloof and protective. Members of this breed aren't well suited to families with children and require experienced owners to handle their training requirements.
Traits That Benefit Dogs in Cold Weather
Just by looking at these breeds, you can tell they share a lot of commonalities. Several physical traits help these dogs thrive in cold weather:
- Thick undercoat: Having several layers of dense fur helps keep these breeds insulated.
- Fluffy, curved tail: Cold weather breeds wrap their curved tails around their bodies when sleeping to protect their face from wind and snow.
- Furry paws: Dogs have sweat glands in their paw pads; therefore, the fur between the pads acts as insulation to retain heat and protect their paws from ice and snow.
- Broad feet: Wide paws allow these breeds to easily navigate icy terrain.
- Stout or bulky body: A large, sturdy body helps dogs stay warmer versus breeds with long, thin limbs.
All Dogs Need Protection in Cold Weather
Whether or not you have a cold-loving dog breed, it's still important to take precautions in cold weather. A dog of any breed who has acclimated to warm weather will need time to readjust to lower temperatures. Keep this in mind when moving or traveling with your dog to a cold vacation spot.