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Close up of a Siberian husky in the snow

Dogs make great companions in all walks of life — from icy, mountain regions to sunny coastal cities. When choosing a dog, it’s important to consider the climate they are most suitable.

Many dogs have been bred for specific climates over thousands of years. Your dog’s body type, temperament, and energy level help determine whether or not it is ready for snowy hikes and icy temperatures.  When it comes to choosing a dog for cold weather, most dogs share common characteristics.

A dog's coat plays an essential role in how well they adapt to the cold. Dogs that thrive in cold climates tend to have double-layered coats. The underlayer will be made out of soft, dense fur, and the outer layer tends to have longer fibers of fur that are a little more coarse. These two layers work together to insulate the body.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne

Here are the top 10 dogs for cold climates.

1. Alaskan malamute

The Alaskan malamute is the quintessential snow dog. This highly intelligent breed is one of the oldest sled dog breeds and was bred to pull heavy loads. Alaskan malamutes are large dogs and require lots of outdoor exercise. They aren’t the fastest breed, but they have a lot of energy. A thick, waterproof double coat helps the Alaskan Malamute stay warm in cold climates.

Alaskan Malamute on a hill

Facts about the Alaskan malamute

  • Breed groupWorking group
  • Intelligence — High intelligence
  • Barking — Average
  • Life span — 10 to 14 years

2. Siberian husky

The Siberian husky is an iconic sled dog (famous huskies Balto and Togo come to mind). These incredibly independent dogs require training from a young age. Another highly intelligent and energetic dog breed, huskies need lots of exercise to keep them stimulated. The Siberian husky’s thick fur ensures it can spend time running and playing in snowy temperatures.

Siberian husky on a snowy landscape

Facts about the Siberian husky

  • Breed groupWorking group
  • Intelligence — High intelligence
  • Barking — Often
  • Life span — 11 to 13 years

3. Bernese mountain dog

Bernese mountain dogs have long double coasts built for cold weather climates. Brought to the Swiss Alps over 2,000 years ago, these dogs are hard-working, intelligent dogs. However, Bernese mountain dogs don’t require as much exercise despite their size. Bernese mountain dogs have a relatively low life span as compared to the other dogs on this list. They are fiercely loyal to their owners and are also some of the most affectionate breeds.

Bernese mountain dog smiling

Facts about the Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Breed groupWorking group
  • Intelligence — High intelligence
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 7 to 9 years

4. Newfoundland

Newfoundlands or Newfies are sometimes called “nanny dogs” for their affectionate temperaments — especially in households with children. Despite their size, they are great swimmers due to their partially webbed feet. Newfies have thick, double coats that allow them to withstand cold temperatures, including cold water.

Newfoundland walking in a park

Facts about the Newfoundland

  • Breed groupWorking group
  • Intelligence — High intelligence
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 9 to 10 years

5. St. Bernard

The St. Bernard is named after the notoriously dangerous Great St. Bernard Pass in the Alps that many travelers crossed in the early 18th century. St. Bernards were responsible for rescuing hundreds of travelers from avalanches over the years and have gained a legendary reputation as snowy rescue dogs. Similar to the Newfoundland, St. Bernard dogs are also referred to as “nanny dogs” due to their gentle nature towards children and family.

St. Bernard walking in snow

Facts about the St. Bernard

  • Breed groupWorking group
  • Intelligence — Moderate
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 8 to 10 years

6. Samoyed

Samoyeds are medium-sized dogs, originally bred to be reindeer herders, and have experienced very little genetic intervention from humans. With thick coats, they could withstand the sub-zero temperatures in the Arctic Circle, their native land. Therefore, they still make great dogs for cold climates. The Samoyed breed is very energetic and requires lots of exercise.

Samoyed walking in snow

Facts about the Samoyed

  • Breed groupWorking group
  • Intelligence — High intelligence
  • Barking — Very vocal
  • Life span — 12 to 14 years

7. Norwegian elkhound

Elkhounds are the only dog on the list from the hound group. The Norwegian elkhound has a deep history going back to Viking warriors of 5,000 B.C. where they served as protectors and companions. Today, Norwegian elkhounds are still hard-working, helpful dogs. They have double coats, enabling them to stay warm in cold weather.

Norwegian elkhound at a dog show

Facts about the Norwegian elkhound

  • Breed groupHound group
  • Intelligence — High intelligence
  • Barking — Very vocal
  • Life span — 12 to 15 years

8. Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees get their name from the Pyrenees Mountains of France and Spain, where they were bred as guard dogs. These days, these large pooches are just as loyal companions and protectors for their humans. Their thick double coat and white fur help protect them from the cold.

Great Pyrenees standing on windy mountain

Facts about the Great Pyrenees

  • Breed groupWorking group
  • Intelligence — High intelligence
  • Barking — Moderate to High
  • Life span — 10 to 12 years

9. Australian shepherd

Herding dogs, like the Australian shepherd, are highly-energetic and highly intelligent dogs. Shepherds need a job, and when they don’t have one, they can be destructive at home.

Australian shepherds are the only herding dogs in our group, and their dense, weather-proof coat makes them great breeds for cold climates.

Australian shepherd posing on grass

Facts about the Australian shepherd

  • Breed groupHerding group
  • Intelligence — High intelligence
  • Barking — More vocal than other breeds
  • Life span — 12 to 15 years

10. Akita

Native breeds of the Akita Prefecture region of northern Japan, Akitas weren’t introduced to the U.S. until the 1930s. Traditionally Akitas were bred as watchdogs and to hunt game like boar and elk. Today, their double coat allows them to spend hours playing in the snow with their human companions.

Akita shaking off snow

Facts about the Akita

  • Breed groupWorking group
  • Intelligence — High intelligence
  • Barking — Rarely without reason
  • Life span — 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of dogs for colder climates

Thick, double-layered coats. The most obvious characteristic of a dog built for cold temperatures is one with a double-layered coat. A double-coated dog has an inner coat of short hair (which sheds in the summer) and an outer coat of longer hair.

🚨A dog’s hair helps regulate its body temperature, so always be aware of shaving your cold-weather dog and defer to your vet for their best judgment.

Powerful, stocky builds. Most cold-weather dogs are larger dogs, over 100 lbs. Large dogs are traditionally bred for hauling and protection.

High energy levels. Prancing and pounding in a foot of snow can wear a dog out. Many dogs on this list are high-energy dogs, which allows them to spend long hours in their favorite white powder.

Adapting your dog to cold climates

Even if your dog is a cold climate breed, it may need some adapting to the cold. Adopted dogs, or dogs bred in warmer climates, may spend their early days never seeing cold weather. Here are some tips for adapting your dog to cold weather.

👉 In general, dogs that live outdoors need more food than indoor dogs to maintain their body temperature properly.

Gradual exposure to cold and snow. Instead of getting right out on the hiking trail, give your dog some time to acclimate to the snow. Keep an eye on your dog’s paws to ensure that they stay safe from frostbite.

Monitor your dog’s body temperature and comfort. Even though your dog is built for cold weather, it doesn’t mean it should be subjected to subzero temperatures for long periods. If you are cold, chances are your pup is too.

Dogs that are experiencing symptoms of being too cold could show signs of weakness, have intense episodes of shivering, seem confused or agitated, and have an abnormal breathing pattern.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne

Keep all body parts hydrated. Dogs need extra water if they are expending lots of energy — which they will do when rollicking out in the snow. But staying hydrated also means keeping skin, nose, and paws hydrated as well. Consider using balms on your to prevent cracked paw pads or flaky noses during winter.

Precautions for frozen water sources and slippery surfaces. Sodium chloride and calcium chloride are commonly used chemicals to keep streets and sidewalks ice-free. But these chemicals can make your dog sick if ingested and irritate and burn your dog’s paws and skin. Regularly check your dog’s paws for cracking or redness from a weather-related injury.

Frequently asked questions

Which dogs can sleep in the snow?

No dog should sleep outside in the snow without proper shelter. If your dog has an outdoor doghouse or shelter, ensure that it is properly insulated.

Do dogs adapt to the cold better than humans?

Dogs have an extra coat allowing them to adapt to cold weather better than humans. But dogs are still warm-blooded mammals like humans and shouldn’t be out for extended periods in the cold.

How cold is too cold for dogs outside?

Every dog breed is unique. A small dog like a chihuahua will last less time than a dog built for colder temperatures like a Siberian husky.