Dogs and climate: Best breeds based on where you live
March 25, 2020
When living with dogs, one consideration is whether their specific breed is suited to the climate you’re living in.
Now it’s not unheard of for a Chihuahua to live a joy-filled life in Alaska and an Alaskan Malamute to summer in Florida. If your dog doesn’t happen to be the perfect match for your part of the country, nothing wrong with that. But when keeping your dog safe and comfortable, especially when temperatures swing into the extreme zone, it’s useful to know how climate factors into their breed.
Which dogs are happy in hot weather?
Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat. A dog that’s well adapted to the heat will have many of the following physical attributes that helps them regulate their temperature in hot weather.
- Short coat: That thin layer of hair lets in skin-cooling air and water.
- Long nose: As you may know, a longer canine schnoz is designed to accommodate more scent-detecting cells, lending these dogs a keener sense of smell. The longer airway also cools the air before it enters the lungs and the body, and it gives them a means to expel heat. By the way, did you know that long-nosed dogs are more likely to have cool, wet noses? While the dog is panting, that hot, moist air is escaping through the tongue as well as the nose. So when the day is hot and the dog is active, a cool-to-the-touch nose tells you that your dog’s natural cooling system is working.
- Small or lean build: With larger mass comes a greater ability to hold in body heat, which is why the prototypical hot weather dog has little body fat and a lanky build. (When the weather turns cold, on the other hand, these dogs could use a cozy jacket when it’s time for a walk.)
- Light-colored coat: Since dark-colored surfaces absorb more heat from sunlight, black fur heats up quickly. Lighter shades, on the other hand, reflect the wavelengths, keeping canines that come in shades of beige and white more comfortable in the sun.
Hot weather dog breeds
- Afghan Hound: This dog predates written history and was bred to help hunt large game in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Though they wear a flowing hair coat, it’s thin and makes them well adapted to hot days and cool nights.
- Chihuahua: While we know the dog’s origin is Mexico, there’s no shortage of theories and lore on how and why the breed came about.
- Whippet: These sleek dogs were originally bred in northern England. The physical traits that lend themselves to running and racing also keep them comfortable on hot days.
- Basenji: This hunting dog traces its origins to northern Africa, prized for its sprinting ability and super-keen sense of smell. Archaeological evidence shows the earliest domesticated dogs have a strong resemblance to the Basenji, and you’ll see its likeness depicted in Egyptian artifacts, along with Babylonian art.
- Ibizan Hound: It’s believed this lithe and leggy breed descended from Egyptian hounds, brought by traders to the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain. Hunters valued these swift, determined dogs for their ability to catch rabbits.
What makes some dog breeds well-suited for cold weather?
If snowshoeing, hunting and other winter sports are your thing, a northern dog breed can make an ideal companion.
Northern breeds were bred for challenging tasks in cold, icy conditions. So the main trait in a cold-weather dog is a thick, coarse coat. Beneath that smooth, outer layer of water-resistant hair is a dense, fluffy undercoat that traps heat. This fur system works a bit like your favorite puffy down coat.
The stout, fur-covered paws found in many northern breeds offer the stability and protection needed to walk on snowy and icy surfaces.
Northern dog breeds
- Akita: Bred in northern Japan, dog packs aided in the hunt of big game, including wild boar and the Yezo bear.
- St. Bernard: These patient giants of the Swiss Alps were depended upon to locate and retrieve travelers who became lost or trapped in avalanches.
- Newfoundland: These large dogs were indispensable to Canadian fisherman for their ice-water rescue abilities.
- Finnish Lapphund: These were kept in northernmost Scandinavia to hunt and later herd reindeer across the snowy miles.
- Siberian Husky: With origins in northern Asia, these sled dogs have the drive and endurance to haul heavy sleds over vast expanses of snow and ice.
Can cold-weather dogs be happy in hot climates?
If you live in a hot climate — or a region where hot, humid summers are the norm — there’s no need to confine your dog to a life of air conditioning. Since these dogs sport thick, fluffy winter coats year round, a few adaptations can keep these cold-hardy dogs safe and comfortable on hot days.
- Because they’re bred for extreme tasks in extreme weather, these breeds also have tremendous energy stores. One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with exercise on the hottest days. Avoid strenuous outdoor exercise during peak heat. Keep walks short, and go early in the morning, or later in the day, when possible. Otherwise, clear enough space in your home for vigorous indoor play. Another solution is training these dogs to walk or run on a treadmill so they can get the exercise they need.
- If you do end up spending time outdoors on a hot day, be prepared with a means to keep them cool and regulated. Cooling vests, spray bottles, a water dish, and frozen treats all can bring welcome relief. During the backyard barbecue, set aside a shady spot in the grass and fill a kiddie pool with cool water.
- Will a close-cropped haircut make these dogs more comfortable? Some pet parents swear by it. If not done correctly, you could inadvertently expose your dog’s natural protection against parasites, heat and sunburn, plus their coat may not grow back evenly. To get the right cut, use the services of a professional groomer who’s familiar with your breed.
Some dogs don’t like it hot or cold
And then there are dogs that would be much happier lounging on the couch with their beloved human. When exposed to blazing summer heat and freezing cold temperatures, they run into issues very quickly. Great examples can be found in some of the brachycephalic dog breeds, or short-faced dogs like bulldogs, pugs and Boston Terriers.
During the cold-weather months, their small statures and thin hair make them more vulnerable to hypothermia. Puffy jackets and protective booties are essential gear.
In the summer heat, their short airways make them less efficient at cooling themselves. Not only are the airways shorter, but they’re also restricted by narrow nostrils, excess folds in their throat and their large-sized tongues. For these reasons, brachycephalic dogs are at higher risk of heat stroke.
When temperatures get extreme, some dogs are just happier and safer when they can stay indoors!
Can protein source affect your dog’s temperature?
Did you know that some believe the meat source you serve your dog can affect their body temperature? According to traditional Chinese medicine theory, some foods help the body generate more body heat, while others allow the body to cool. Chicken, pheasant and turkey are seen as warm foods, and for extra heat, lamb and venison are “hot foods.” Duck and rabbit, on the other hand, are said to have a cooling effect. (If your dog has allergies, a diet of cooling meats is one thing you can try to offer relief.)
At NutriSource, we care about your dog’s protein sources just as much as you do. That’s why we search for quality vendors who are dedicated to raising healthy food ingredients. We cook healthy pet foods in our state-of-the-art facility, and stay in control of every step of the process, from the farm to the bowl. Find the NutriSource formula that meets your dog’s needs, and shop at your local, independent pet supply shop.