We humans are pretty adaptable. If we go somewhere cold, we dress accordingly, and we go somewhere warm and sunny, we make sure to carry water and lots of sunscreen. But while we keep pretty good track of this for ourselves ― most of the time ― it’s easy to forget that dogs can have weather issues, too. A lot of the time, people just aren’t really aware of it. But dogs can be sensitive to different temperatures, types of climate, and weather. Before you head off on vacation, take a minute to see if there’s anything you need to keep in mind to make the trip as pleasant as possible for your pup.
Cold weather breeds
The most obvious breeds that may have issues with the cold are the ones with short or very little fur. Breeds like this include Chinese Crested, Chihuahua, Greyhound, Toy Fox Terrier, and Yorkshire Terrier. While the Yorkie has nice, long hair, the hair is very thin and provides very little protection from the cold. Additionally, many of these breeds are on the skinnier side. In other words, not only do they lack the insulating hair, they also lack body fat to keep them warm. Offering these breeds a nice coat in winter time is definitely ideal.
Breeds that are a little happier about the cold are also pretty obvious, at least some of them. Now, there is a distinction between managing cold weather, and actually enjoying it. Most breeds are fine with the cold, as long as they stay moving, don’t stay out too long, and get dried off nice and warm when they get back inside. Kind of like people, essentially. But then there are breeds that just love the cold and the snow, and they are ― unsurprisingly ― bred for it.
Cold-loving breeds include Alaskan Malamute, Norwegian Elkhound, Tibetan Mastiff, Newfoundland, Siberian Husky, and the Keeshond. They all have thick, double-layered coats, a sturdy frame, and have always been meant to thrive in cold weather. The Alaskan Malamute is a sled dog, the Norwegian Elkhound is a natural hunting dog, and the Keeshond used to serve as a watchdog on Dutch riverboats. The Siberian Husky’s coat is one of the thickest and densest around, and the Newfoundland is perfectly adapted to swimming through icy waters. When it comes to snow and icy cold, these dogs will happily join you on ski trips and winter hikes.
Sun and heat
It may sound strange to some, but dogs can actually get sunburns. It makes sense, when you think about it, but it’s sometimes hard to look past the hair that covers almost every inch of skin on a dog’s body. With short-haired breeds, as with entirely hairless ones, it’s more obvious. But any dog can have issues with the sun and the heat, and some breeds more so than others. Obviously, like with the cold-weather breeds, some dogs are simply bred for warmer climates. A rule of thumb is that the dogs who don’t like the cold are the ones who like the warmth, but this is a bit of a generalization. For some, it has little to do with coat and size, and more to do with breathing; dogs can’t sweat, so they must pant.
Breeds that are generally less excited about hot weather are the English Bulldog, Chow Chow, Pug, Boxer, Pomeranian, and Samoyed. With the Bulldog and the Pug, their faces are just too flat ― these dogs tend to breathe very heavily in general, so regulating heat can be a difficult task. The Boxer’s main issue might actually be this combined with the breed’s incredible energy, which can keep the dog playing and playing without noticing the heat. The Chow Chow, Pomeranian, and Samoyed are simply too thick-coated. But beware of cutting or shaving said coats, as it might make sense to do so, but in reality only damages the coat and its insulating properties. Shaving it off won’t do much difference in the dog’s body temperature, either.
Warm and happy
A few breeds that do very well with sunny and warm weather are the Afghan Hound, Border Collie, Airedale Terrier, Whippet, Vizsla, Australian Kelpie, and the Doberman Pinscher. Some of them were bred for warmer weather, like the Afghan Hound, whose tall, slender body and light fur makes it excellent for the climate of its homeland. The Border Collie and the Australian Kelpie are both tireless workers, intended for herding cattle through the scorching Australian summer heat. The Airedale Terrier is as good with hot weather as the other terrier breeds, as its coat allows for easy stripping during the warmest parts of the year. The Viszla, meanwhile, is a bred hunter with great endurance, happy to go on hikes even in hot weather. It’s important to remember, though, that many hairless or short-haired breeds can be sensitive to sunburn.
Symptoms of cold and warm
So, just like humans, dogs can have both a great time and a bad time in warm and cold weather. Some dogs are too hairless or skinny for winter, others are too fluffy or flat-faced for summer, and some thrive in either.
A cold dog will shiver, hunch over, seem tired and distracted. They may tuck their tail, or even start whining or barking. If you notice any of these signs, make sure to get your dog nice and warm. Head back inside if you can, or maybe even pick up your dog to cradle in your arms, which will offer some body heat, as well as protect them from the cold ground. Ideally, more sensitive breeds should be wearing a coat of some kind, and not stay out too long. Don’t wait for these signs before deciding to go warm up, though ― if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your dog.
It seems that every summer, the topic of heatstroke comes up. People forget, don’t know, or underestimate just how easy it is for a dog to get heatstroke in hot weather. For humans, it’s a little easier to spot early on, but a dog can’t tell you these things, and may not even notice it happening, themselves. It’s your job to keep an eye out, and take precautions if symptoms were to appear. Ideally, it should be prevented from happening at all, of course. Make sure your dog has plenty of water, plenty of shade, and that they’re reasonably alert. If you’re by a pool, for instance, encourage them to swim and play in the water to stay cool. And, of course, never leave your dog in a car on a warm day, even if just for a few minutes.