How to Pick Dog Breeds That Tolerate Hot or Cold Weather

When people decide to get a dog, many factors determine what type they finally settle on. Some are breed-dependent. Others rely more on size, purpose, or health concerns like whether a family member is allergic to animals.

What type of dog would you choose to become part of your household? You might be drawn to a specific breed based on your need for a guard dog, a livestock manager, a therapy dog, or a traveling companion. Have you considered obtaining a dog to best suit your residential climate?

If you separate hot and cold weather extremes, the best dog breeds are the Chihuahua and Alaskan Malamute respectively.

We will actually discuss the characteristics of dog breed families that make them very tolerant of cold and hot weather. The top dog breed that is well-suited to both cold and hot weather is the Afghan hound.

The best dog breed for hot and cold weather has characteristics that have adapted over time to extremes in temperature.

Some of these traits developed through natural selection and others were accidental from our selection of traits we desired in our pets.

What Makes the Best Cold Weather Dog Breed?

What adaptations prepare dogs for cold climates?

According to WolfWorlds, Arctic wolves best illustrate naturally occurring features specifically adapted for cold weather. You will see these characteristics in breeds most suited to being outdoors during harsh winters.

  • Double layer fur coat – The inner downy short coat insulates the animal, while an outer coat of longer guard provides waterproof protection.
  • Extra body fat – helps provide energy if food becomes scarce, and also supplies insulation and compensation for extra fuel costs associated with maintaining warmth.
  • Proportionately small ears reduce the amount of heat lost through these appendages.
  • Paws stay cooler than the core (countercurrent heat exchange system) – this prevents excessive heat loss through the paws as they contact snow, ice, or the cold ground.
  • Ability to utilize a pack lifestyle – These wolves can live in a pack as necessary. At times when large prey is scarce, they become solitary. They utilize the power of the pack when caribou and elk are more abundant.
  • Long thickly haired tail – is good for balanced maneuvering in the snow and for covering the nose during sleep.

A simple YouTube video of an Alaskan malamute in its ideal state illustrates the characteristics of the double coat, short ears, thick highly functioning tail, and muscular and solid build.

Alaskan malamutes share adaptations for extremely cold weather with their relatives in addition to other important qualities.

Although the malamute’s large size may make it a seemingly monumental task to feed her, she makes up for it by a substantially lower rate of heat loss.

According to Dogster, Large body mass means a lower surface area relative to the volume which means less emission of heat from the core. This is not to say smaller dogs are not adapted for the cold, but a malamute will expend less energy staying warm.

Hair between the paw pads may keep the webbing between the toes from freezing, but it also serves the dual purpose of providing traction on ice and snow. Another feature of the paws of a malamute is they have freeze-resistant fat in the pads.

Have you ever noticed the somewhat droopy expression of an Alaskan malamute? Malamutes have fat layers above and below their eyes.

Any movements of the eyes as in shaking the head or blinking the lids will help shed ice particles. Moreover, this is part of the generalized extra fat malamutes carries to help insulate them.

Finally, the Alaskan malamute has a fatty pouch under its chin. This fat pad or dewlap is vital to warm the air as it enters the windpipe so when it hits the lungs it is above freezing. Cold air would cause detrimental damage to fragile lung structures.

How cold can they go?

While Alaskan Malamutes can reportedly sustain temperatures nearing 130 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, they seem best adapted to between 20 degrees below and 10 degrees above zero.

This being said, if your malamute lives outdoors, he should always have access to freshwater, regular food, and shelter.

Shelter, like a dog house, should provide protection from the wind and moisture and insulation from bitterly cold temperatures.

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If your dog lives outdoors even in winter, either by your choice or his preference, high-quality and high-energy food can make a big impact on lessening the stress inherent in coping with harsh elements.

Romantic images of sled dogs aside, Alaskan Malamutes do not always have a pack mentality. A couple of dogs together may stay warmer than one alone, but keep in mind your malamute may not get along with other animals. Alaskan Malamutes can be very territorial and extremely dog-aggressive.

What other cold-resistant dog breeds could you consider?

Siberian Huskies, very close in appearance and characteristics to Alaskan malamutes, make more energetic slightly smaller companions.

Exercise caution with Alaskan huskies or other racing huskies as they lack the body fat of their cousins. They rely on muscular metabolism from high-intensity exercise for warmth.

Alternative breeds likely to stay warm in cold weather are other spitz-type dogs such as chow chows, Akitas, and Samoyeds.

Smaller dogs that do atypically well in cold weather are Tibetan terriers and Shiba Inus. Finally, although many cold-weathered dog breeds have erect ears, mastiff types like the St. Bernard and the Kuvasz have been bred to work in cold weather.

What is the best dog breed for the heat?

If you consider a dog’s adaptations for heat, you can readily observe many of them involve putting a malamute’s traits in reverse. Some features, however, like hair coat are similar.

According to National Geographic, A Chihuahua might bring to mind a canid evolved for the desert such as the Fennec fox.

  • Double layer fur coat – a thick undercoat insulates from heat, and medium coarse guard hairs lie down against the body to further protect against heat and foreign material like burs. Note this major contrast between a heat-adapted and cold-adapted dog – the guard hairs in arctic breeds stand outward as opposed to lying down flat.
  • Proportionately large ears – help dissipate heat from the body.
  • The chest is deep and moderately broad – this heat adaptation allows dogs to run long distances in foraging for prey that can be both scarce and quick in the desert. This is similar to cold-natured dogs except for their frames and muscular build tends to be significantly smaller. Visually compare the African wild hunting dog to the gray wolf.
  • Large luminous eyes – the eyes themselves do not cool the canids down but likely evolved as a nocturnal adaptation to hunting during cooler nights.
  • Thin elongated furred paws – provide traction on sand and protect the feet from hot surfaces. Chihuahuas once had this structure but have been subsequently bred for petite paws.

The Chihuahua masterfully gets rid of heat through its diminutive size. Often under 10 pounds in weight, Chihuahuas are the smallest breed recognized by the American Kennel Club and have a massive surface area to volume ratio.

A Chihuahua’s coloration, unlike the light grays and whites of the malamute, more befit a desert ancestry. He or she is often splashed with multiple colors or combinations of black, white and fawn.

Outcrossing with Papillons, Pomeranians, Pekingese, and Yorkshire terriers are likely responsible for longer-haired varieties of Chihuahuas. Contrary to popular belief, the Chihuahua’s long hair with its soft and sometimes wavy texture helps protect him from heat.

How hot can they go?

Extreme heat can kill dogs more quickly than freezing temperatures. Although Chihuahuas can better tolerate 90–degree Fahrenheit days than many other dogs, common sense must prevail.

Chihuahuas are well-adapted to the heat relative to other breeds assuming they are healthy and not overweight. Dogs with heart disease, sugar abnormalities, and tracheal issues will not tolerate the heat very well.

Chihuahuas can exercise energetically for short periods on hot days but should have ready access to water to drink and a pool for wading.

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They should have shade if at a dog park and prolonged exercise above 85 degrees Fahrenheit is not advisable.

Chihuahuas can sometimes have exceptionally thin hair coats. If this is the case or you clip him, consider sunburn protection specially made for dogs.

What other breeds are good in hot weather?

Other breeds you might consider if you live in a hot climate are papillons and a few terriers built similarly to Chihuahuas like rat terriers and Parsons terriers.

Beagles are excellent all-around dogs bred for a life of running long distances outside. Foxhounds and coonhounds similarly fit the bill.

Dogs bred for endurance and long working days typically do well in hotter areas. Examples of these are herding breeds like border collies and Australian cattle dogs as well as sighthounds like greyhounds and whippets.

Retrievers and pointers can fare well too, although breeding practices in some Labradors leave them more vulnerable to heatstroke.

How do you spot heatstroke in your dog?

No matter how well your dog has evolved to withstand high temperatures, there may come an occasion where she overexerts herself or humidity adversely affects her.

According to PetMD, Signs of an imminent medical emergency are excessive drooling, vomiting, bright red tongue and gums or pale gums, and hard raspy panting.

If you suspect heat exhaustion or heat stroke, taking immediate action will save your pet’s life.

  1. Remove your dog from the heat.
  2. Take your dog’s temperature. Digital ear, as well as rectal thermometers, are now available.
  3. Allow your dog small quantities of water to drink. Do not let him gorge, and the water should not be ice cold.
  4. You can cool your dog with a mild stream of cool water. Again, the water should not be ice cold. Head, tail, and limbs dissipate heat quickest; focus on these areas. Do not submerge your dog in a pool or bath.
  5. Consult a veterinarian.

What dog breed is best for hot and cold weather?

Considering its native land and the fact that the Afghan hound is one of the oldest living dog breeds, it is no surprise he can withstand opposite spectrums of the climate realm.

Afghans may not be able to tolerate the same degree of frigid extremes as the Alaskan malamute or the hot tropics to quite the extent of a Chihuahua, but they cope better with desert contrasting conditions than either of them. Distinctive characteristics make their appearance as unique as their abilities.

  • Paws are covered in long fur.
  • A single coat of fine but luxurious silky hair – Their unusual coat keeps them warm in winter and provides insulation during hot weather.
  • Low body fat – makes these dogs well-adjusted for the heat.
  • High muscle metabolism – important in helping to keep warm since they typically have no extraneous body fat.

Afghan hounds are medium-large dogs. They are not quite as big as malamutes and are significantly leaner, but retain a low surface area to volume ratio.

According to Wikipedia, When you see an Afghan hound in motion, it may be difficult to remember it was bred in a mountainous region in Afghanistan. These hounds have strong large paws to handle rocky terrain.

What other dog breeds do okay with both hot and cold weather?

Retrievers like goldens and Labradors, for the most part, do fine in both cold and warm weather. Their dual-layer coats with water-protective outer guard hairs provide insulation in winter cold and summer heat.

Many have curls or waves that provide a facilitated means for cooling air currents that move through the coat.

The Canaan dog, like the Afghan, comes from a region (Middle East Israel and Palestine) notorious for extreme highs and lows in climate.

A medium-sized lean herding dog, the Canaan is another canine who must rely on his straight coarse guard hairs and downy undercoat to serve him in times of cold and heat.

Their large ears help with releasing heat and their endless energy probably contributes to their warm nature in winter.

What factors make certain dogs unsuitable to deal with hot or cold temperatures?

As a dog’s age, their ability to handle temperature fluctuations drastically decreases. This is due to numerous factors like chronic health issues, possible thyroid or other endocrine disorders, arthritis, and loss of muscles mass. They may even experience ongoing skin problems or hair loss.

Older dogs are more susceptible than their younger selves to heatstroke. Both young puppies and aging dogs are vulnerable to the effects of hypothermia.

Hairless dogs should not be exposed to heat or cold without some form of protective clothing. They can suffer from both sunburn and hypothermia.

According to Wikipedia, Dogs with shortened snouts and limbs cannot handle even the most moderate increases in environmental temperatures.

Known as brachycephalic breeds, inherent respiratory difficulties make heat especially dangerous for bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, and even Boxers.


People often choose different dog breeds based on preference for a particular appearance or on the necessity for a certain function.

If you live in a rather harsh climate, taking weather tolerance into consideration when buying a dog can save you and your pet quite a bit of stress.

Basing dog breed selection on suitability for cold or hot weather alone may be neither practical nor desirable for you.

Nevertheless, knowing what qualities make the Afghan hound so ideal in cold and hot weather can help keep us mindful of our pets’ environmental requirements to remain comfortable.

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