For a lot of us winter is a time of survival, when the basic necessities of life come to the fore and remind us that spring is a way off. You look at warmth, shelter and mental well-being in a different light to those balmy days of spring and summer. But there is a certain type of dog, I’ll call a “winter dog”, that relishes the snow and ice and revels in the cold temperatures. Not surprisingly, the breeds in question are some of the larger breeds that are bred as working dogs, able to tolerate harsher climates. So which breeds are so well adapted to winter conditions?
Alaskan Malamute: is a large sled dog used for hauling heavy freight across the frozen arctic. While many of these dogs still perform as working sled dogs today, others are happy participants in sports like sled dog racing, skijoring and bikejoring.
Siberian Husky: is a Northern breed, also used for pulling sleds. Originating in the harsh climate of Siberia, these dogs do very well in and even prefer colder temperatures. Siberian Huskies are escape artists that need supervision when left alone in the yard.
Akita: is a large Japanese breed originally used as a hunting dog. They have very thick double-coats that help protect the dogs in the cold Japanese winters. The breed is active and does best with an experienced owner.
Bernese Mountain Dog: is a large breed from the Swiss Alps. Originally used as a general purpose farm dog, their size and willingness to work made them excellent draft animals. They are active dogs that enjoy ample amounts of exercise and get along well with children.
Great Pyrenees: is a large livestock guardian dog from the Pyrenees Mountains. They have thick, heavy coats to protect from the harsh winters there, while allowing them to continue their work throughout the year. They are powerful but gentle dogs, known for being affectionate with adults and children of all ages.
St.Bernard: is a large working dog from the western Alps. The breed is docile but dedicated to its work. They are the breed most famous for alpine rescues, finding people buried under snow after avalanches.
Newfoundland: comes from Canada and is known for its outstanding water rescue capabilities. The breed has a very thick, water-resistant coat that protects them from the freezing Canadian waters.
Norwegian Elkhound: is a hunting dog coming from Norway. It has been used for hunting elk, moose, bear and wolves in the harsh Norwegian winter climates. They are powerful and hardy dogs that should be supervised around other animals due to their strong prey drive.
Keeshond: is a German spitz breed created to be a family companion. This is a job the dogs do very well, as they are very playful, boisterous and fun-loving dogs. Their thick coats require regular grooming, but keep them comfortable in cold weather.
Samoyed: a Russian breed originally used for herding Reindeer and pulling carts and sleds. They are very active and intelligent dogs that excel at a variety of dog sports but, most importantly, make wonderful family companions. Their beautiful white coats protect them from harsh winter climates and need regular grooming.
Tibetan Mastiff: is a very large livestock guardian dog used for protecting sheep and property from large predators such as wolves, leopards and bears. Tibet is known for its very harsh climate and these dogs possess a very thick, warm coat to help keep them comfortable during their time outdoors. Tibetan Mastiffs are intelligent and independent dogs, often wary of strangers and not recommended for novice dog owners.
So if you are considering getting a “winter dog”, please ensure that your home environment and lifestyle match the needs of these big guys. As always when selecting a breed, do your homework and be honest with yourself.