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Cool Canines: 12 Best Cold Weather Dog Breeds

Posted By

Mar 18, 2019

Category: Living

Descended from wolves, domesticated dogs as we know them may very well go down in history as one of mankind’s greatest achievements. And while many breeds have become little more than emotional support companions and lap animals, there are still plenty out there that are built for all sorts of adventure.

Of course, different adventures call for different breeds. For instance, if you find yourself frequently out on the water or you like hunting in the marshlands, you might want a dog that can handle a dip — like a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Similarly, if you’re an avid hiker, a more nimble mutt — like, say, a vizsla — might be the companion for you. If your travels take you to the colder ends of the Earth, however, you’ll want to pick a breed from our list of the best cold weather dogs.

Cold Weather Dogs

A Quick Primer

These are living creatures, not just lifestyle accessories.When we say “cold weather dog breeds,” we’re being quite literal. All of the animals on this list were bred specifically to survive the harshness of a cold climate. Obviously, it doesn’t stay below freezing everywhere all-year-round, but these animals are built for the times when the mercury drops. As such, we feel it necessary to implore you to think about this fact before ever considering one of these animals for adoption. Unless you actually spend the majority of your time in a locale that gets cold in the winter — cold by Earth’s standards, not simply “light jacket weather” — these breeds are probably not for you. That goes double for places like the American Southwest. Even though it might be cold enough to snow some months of the year, the desert summers can be overwhelmingly hot for a dog that has a double-coat and can cause them to suffer and, under the right circumstances, even die within minutes of exposure to the harsh sun. A cold-weather animal does not have the ability to cope with desert or tropical climates and forcing one to live in such a place can and should be considered unnecessarily cruel. Remember: these are living creatures, not just lifestyle accessories.

Akita

Originally bred in the mountainous regions of northern Japan, the Akita (also known as the Akita Inu, Japanese Akita, or Great Japanese Dog) is a handsome breed of working dog whose near-elegant good looks are contrasted by a sturdiness and strength unheard of in other dogs of their size. In fact, they’re actually known for having heavy bones, making them extremely tough — especially paired with the weather-resistance granted to them by their thick, short double-coat. It’s also worth noting that Akitas are directly descended from dogs of the Matagi — traditional winter hunters from northern Japan — and make for superb hunting dogs. They also have a tendency to be quite territorial, which is great if you’re looking for a guard dog, but it makes them intolerant of other dogs and keeps them from being an ideal breed for first-time owners or families.

Average Size: 75-130 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 10-15 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: ACA

Alaskan Malamute

Often confused for Siberian or American Huskies — of which they are a closely related cousin — Alaskan Malamutes are actually quite a good deal more stout and strong on average than their svelte counterparts. Like their cousins, they’re also a basal breed — meaning their origins predate the 19th century, unlike many other breeds commonly seen today. Built for some of the harshest weather on the planet, malamutes boast one of the beefiest double coats of any breed, with their oily undercoat growing as thick as two inches at times. Though they aren’t considered great competitive sled pullers, these dogs are very strong, with the ability to tow up to a whopping 3,000+ pounds with the right build and training. In spite of their strength, they also make exceptional family dogs and are known to be very intelligent. That being said, their intelligence and independence can be a hurdle for unskilled owners, so focused and consistent training is recommended if you choose to adopt this cold weather breed.

Average Size: 70-95 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 10-12 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: AMCA

Bernese Mountain Dog

With an appearance that’s almost like a blend of a saint bernard and a rottweiler, the Bernese Mountain Dog is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cold weather breeds. They’re also remarkably resilient and make for excellent hiking companions in just about any conditions — especially chillier ones. In spite of their size and strength, however, they’re known for having a very affectionate and kind disposition, making them great for anyone who likes to give their animal a lot of pets. They’re also perfect as a family animal. Despite their disposition, they can be quite energetic when the occasion calls for it. While we’d not suggest choosing this breed if you’re looking for a guard dog, they make for excellent adventure companions who like to snuggle up after a long day of being out in the wilderness.

Average Size: 80-110 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 6-8 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: BMDCA

Caucasian Shepherd

One of the largest breeds on our list, the Caucasian Shepherd (also known as the Caucasian Ovcharka, Caucasian Sheepdog, Kawkasky Owtscharka, and Kaukasische Schaferhund) is a marvelously intimidating dog that almost looks more like a bear than a canine — especially when rearing to attack. And that’s actually what they were originally bred for: to dissuade trespassers (both human and animal) from a property. Excellent as guard dogs, these animals are unwavering when set to a task and can handle any measure of bad weather. It is worth noting, however, that there are both mountain and steppe types of this breed, with the former being a bit heftier and with a longer coat. What’s even better is that, while they can be vicious to unwelcome strangers, they’re extremely affectionate and kind to people they recognize, making them suitable family animals, despite the intimidation factor.

Average Size: 100-200 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 10-12 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: COWDCA

Chow Chow

The lovable and funny-looking Chow Chow actually has one of the most ancient origins of all breeds on the planet, having originally been bred in China as palace guard dogs for royals. Interestingly, their goofy appearance does not speak to their demeanor — which is typically a bit on the stoic and/or aloof end of the spectrum. Still, this no-nonsense breed also comes with a long list of benefits, which include (but are not limited to) focus, cleanliness (amongst the cleanest of any dog breed), and the fact that they are extremely easy to train. Don’t let their scowling appearance and distant attitude fool you; when it comes to family (those few folks they become attached to), they are extremely loving and loyal. And, unlike breeds of the same size, chow chows have little-to-no special exercise needs and can flourish even in the city.

Average Size: 45-70 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 9-15 Years
Breed Group: Non-Sporting Dogs

Adopt: CCCI

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Similar in its coloring and general appearance to the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Greater Swiss Mountain dog was — you guessed it — originally bred in the Swiss Alps to be a hard-working herding animal that was well-suited to the area’s harsh winters. While its coat is notably less fluffy than similarly-sized mountain dogs, the GSM still boasts a double coat perfect for fending off the cold. Hard-working and immensely strong, this breed is known for dependability and dedication when set to a task, but they’re also faithful and loving once the work is done. They’re also quite easy to care for, requiring minimal grooming and moderate exercise. They can be stubborn, but this is a trait that can be unlearned with the right dedication and proper training.

Average Size: 110-150 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 10-11 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: GSMDCA

Kuvasz

With features and expressions that resemble the ever-popular golden retriever or any number of lab sub-breeds, the Kuvasz is an undeniably handsome breed that comes from Hungary and has a history that dates back to when kings ruled over the land. Unlike their counterparts, however, the Kuvasz is uniquely suited to cold weather, thanks to its thick snow-white coat. They’re also quite a good deal bigger, on average, and have a tremendous amount of strength — which speaks to their working dog heritage. What’s perhaps even more interesting is that, in spite of their size, this breed is actually quite nimble, which is a helpful trait to have considering the rough terrain from where they hail. For prospective owners, it’s important to know that their thick coat does require a bit of maintenance all-year, so keep that in mind.

Average Size: 75-110 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 10-12 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: KCA

Newfoundland

One of the largest and most intimidating breeds on our list — due in part to their stature, dark coloring, and thousand-yard stare — the Newfoundland is actually one of the most loving, affectionate, and kind breeds in the world. In fact, they’re widely known as a nanny dog, much like pit bulls once were. Marked by patience and friendliness, this might just be the ultimate winter-ready family dog — making them the perfect companion breed for anyone with kids or with plans to have kids in the near future. They’re also comfortable around water, which — when mated to their protection instincts — makes them pretty good lifeguards. Their size, however, does present some unusual challenges. Namely, they’re big and strong enough to knock down a full-grown adult with very little effort. Of course, their calm demeanor should curb this, but it will certainly need to be paired with a solid regimen of proper training.

Average Size: 100-150 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 8-10 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: NCA

Norwegian Elkhound

As you might have guessed from their name, the Norwegian elkhound hails from the same homeland as the legendary Viking warriors. But the connection is far more than just coincidence, as this breed is so old that there is mention of them in Norse culture’s ancient sagas. What’s even more interesting is that these dogs actually date back even further into human history, making them one of the oldest hunting breeds known to man. And while their modern name is “elkhound,” it was actually originally translated from “elghund” — which literally means “moose dog.” This is an important distinction, as moose are some of the largest and most powerful land animals in the world and are not easy to take down, even if you’re a master hunter — illustrating just how remarkably tough and strong these dogs are. Their independence, however, can make them a challenge, so we suggest first-time owners seek alternative breeds.

Average Size: 50-60 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 12-15 Years
Breed Group: Hound Dogs

Adopt: NEAA

Samoyed

Named for and with a history that’s directly intertwined with the Samoyed peoples of Northern Siberia, this breed is a winter dog through and through. From their thick white coats to their hardcore dedication to given tasks (e.g. sled-pulling), to their wolf-like appearance, there are few other breeds quite as well suited to the harshest conditions on the planet. But since the Samoyed is an ancient breed dating back to the beginnings of civilization, they’re also uniquely suited to human life — meaning they’re not just hard workers, but also good learners and exceptionally compassionate companions. They’re also very social and thrive best in a pack, though they are also often quite vocal — a deterrent for those who live near easily-annoyed neighbors. If you’re fond of huskies but find their stubborn, sometimes-standoffish nature is too-big a hurdle, turn to the Samoyed.

Average Size: 35-70 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 12-13 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: SCA

Shiba Inu

One of the two smallest breeds on our list, the Shiba Inu is no less well-suited to winter weather as any other dog you’ll see here. That’s because, while small, they still have a thick double-coat to keep them warm all-year-round. Bred in Japan — just like their larger counterparts, the Akita — Shiba Inus are by far the most popular dog breed in the eastern island nation. And they’re one of the most popular in the USA, as well, despite the fact that they’ve only been in the States for around 60 years. This is likely because of a combination of their beauty, intelligence, overall cleanliness, and manageably energetic demeanors. The one thing that Shiba owners (or potential owners) should be abundantly aware of is that this breed is widely considered a flight risk. That means, whether you’re walking down the street or out in the wilderness, they should never be without a leash or harness.

Average Size: 15-25 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 12-15 Years
Breed Group: Non-Sporting Dogs

Adopt: NSCA

Siberian Husky

The quintessential snow dog, Siberian Huskies have become one of the world’s most favorite breeds — due in large part to the fact that they most closely resemble their ancestors/cousins, wolves, more than any other breed. They’re also one of the best outdoor companion animals, as they’re insanely nimble, have a remarkably high level of strength and endurance, and are always ready for the next big adventure. We caution you, however, if you’re thinking about adopting one: Huskies are one of the toughest breeds to train, as they’re mischievous, hard-headed, and sometimes too outgoing for their own good. That being said, if you have the time and patience, you’ll likely find a lifelong partner that’s always excited to go out and about, regardless of the destination. They’re also great family animals, function brilliantly in packs, but do not make very good guard dogs, as they’re too curious, friendly, and easily distracted.

Average Size: 35-60 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 12-15 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: NHCA

St. Bernard

Before the boom in popularity of the husky breed (and its many permutations), the Saint Bernard was probably the most iconic winter dog breed in the world. In fact, in the Swiss Alps, they were used as rescue animals that helped find avalanche victims and stranded alpinists alongside emergency crews. As you might imagine, for them to perform such a function, they’re resilient, durable, and rather intelligent. They also have a much softer side, however, making them ideal nanny dogs and perfect family animals. It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that their gargantuan size and strength can make them hard to manage without proper training. Thankfully, they’re quite trainable and are often prone to having a more docile nature. Like any dog of similar stature, they can be quite an investment. But if you’re dedicated and caring, it will certainly pay off.

Average Size: 140-260 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 8-10 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: SBCA

Tibetan Mastiff

Though there is little information on the history of this breed, as the whole of the mountainous region of Tibet is somewhat shrouded in mystery, there are a few noteworthy things to know about the lands’ native mastiff. For starters and as you can imagine, they do best in cold climates — after all, they do come from the same land as the Himalayas. It’s also been said that they are one of the oldest working breeds, and their size and endurance make them well-suited to hard tasks. They also have the potential to make for superb guard dogs, as historically they’ve been known to fend off predators as large and vicious as snow leopards and wolves. But they’re also quite loving and loyal to those with which they are familiar. They’re also smart, independent, and make excellent adventure buddies.

Average Size: 75-160 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 12-15 Years
Breed Group: Working Dogs

Adopt: ATMA

Tibetan Terrier

In spite of their fluffiness, the Tibetan terrier is actually on the smaller end of the spectrum, weighing between 15-35 pounds on average. But don’t let its small stature fool you, it’s still well suited to the cold, thanks largely to its remarkably thick double coat. That coat, however, does mean that this is also one of the most labor-intensive breeds to own, as there’s a lot of maintenance and grooming required to keep the animal happy and healthy. They’re also known to be quite bold, often being referred to as a big dog in a small dog’s body. They’re very outgoing, smart, athletic, and agile, but they also know when it’s time to take things easy. Due to their size and appearance, they’re classified as terriers — but they actually are not related to other dogs in that same class. Whatever the case, they’re also quite loving and make excellent family pets.

Average Size: 15-35 LBS
Expected Lifespan: 12-15 Years
Breed Group: Non-Sporting Dogs

Adopt: TTCA

6 Best GPS Dog Trackers & Collars

Whether your pup spends most of its days at home or it comes along with you on any adventure, it’s a good idea to take some steps to ensure their safety and security. Fitting them with one of our picks for the best GPS dog trackers & collars can go a long way toward making that happen.

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