Dogs for Colder Climates

by Betty Lewis
    Labradors are a good choice for a companion in cold weather.

    Labradors are a good choice for a companion in cold weather.

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    If you've decided to add a canine friend to your family, it's always smart to think about where you live. Climate should be a consideration because at some point your dog will have to go outside. Certain breeds are better suited for colder climates and will make better outdoor partners for you.

    Choosing a dog for a cold climate is rooted in common sense. Dogs with low body fat, short coats or sparse undercoats are not great candidates for living in areas with cold weather. If you've been interested in a Chinese crested or a greyhound, you may want to think again—they are vulnerable to cold weather.
    Instead, look for a dog that has a thicker coat and higher body fat. They fare better in cold weather because they are better insulated.

    With their double-layered coats and fame for pulling sleds, Siberian huskies are on every list of cold-weather dogs. Other good working dogs include Alaskan malamutes, akitas, Newfoundlands and Anatolian shepherds. Retrievers—especially Labrador and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers—are great choices, particularly if you want to spend any time near or on the water with your dog. They are naturals for swimming and retrieving waterfowl. Other dogs have nice temperaments and make good family companions. These include Great Pyrenees, Samoyeds, keeshonds, Norwegian elkhounds, Saint Bernards, bearded collies and German shepherds.

    If you moved to a place that's colder than Rex is used to, he'll be OK. You just need to exercise common sense. Although you may not like the idea of dressing him up, it's a good idea to get him some sort of outerwear for his time outdoors. Just as you appreciate a warm jacket during freezing weather, Rex will too.
    When you buy a dog coat or sweater, make sure you find a fabric that is easy to care for and will adequately cover your dog. If you live in a snowy area, a water-resistant fabric may be particularly helpful. It should fit Rex snugly, and he should be able to easily walk, run and relieve himself. Jackets with full-length sleeves can be difficult for some dogs to adapt to and be challenging for you to get on and off.

    A dog who does well in cold weather is not invulnerable to cold. Dog coats are recommended if you live in a place where it gets below zero or if he's outdoors a lot during the winter. Dogs recuperating from illness or injury, older dogs and puppies are all more sensitive to frigid weather.
    If you're going to be spending a lot of time out in the cold and want your canine friend with you, be smart in choosing the breed. Different breeds have different personalities and it's a good idea to choose one that will mesh with your lifestyle. As well, some dogs, such as sheepdogs, will require regular grooming, particularly if they will be spending a lot of time out in the elements.

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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