If you live in an environment that sees more chilly days than balmy ones, then the best dog breeds for cold climates will be more than happy to keep you company!
Whether it’s a long walk on a freezing winter’s morning or a winter camping trip, when fuelled with the best dry dog food, these breeds have what it takes to thrive in even the harshest of conditions.
When it comes to the question of do dogs need coats in the winter, the great thing about the breeds on this list is that they’re born with such thick fur that those sorts of accessories aren’t necessary. In fact, many of them are so well insulated that putting them in a jacket of any kind would actually cause them to overheat.
So if you’re looking for a canine companion that can walk right out the door into the elements and have an absolute blast doing it, these winter-loving breeds are well worth considering.
Best dog breeds for cold climates
A winter dog if ever we saw one, the Siberian Husky is a graceful pooch with a dense and soft coat that helps it thrive in even the coldest of climates. One of the oldest and purest of the Northern sled dogs, the Husky has been bred in its native Siberia for more than 3000 years. A working dog at heart, Huskies manage to be both powerful yet gentle and alert while still being friendly. Weighing no more than 60lbs, they’re smaller than their giant cousin, the Alaskan Malamute, and are very quiet. They’re best suited to active households that will allow them to burn off their bucketloads of energy.
Check out these great brain games for dogs for inspiring ideas to keep your active canine mentally stimulated at home.
A strong and heavy duty worker with a very thick coat that’s built to withstand freezing temperatures, the Alaskan Malamute has stunning wolf-like features and an affectionate nature. Devoted to their family, this friendly breed was used to pull long and weighty loads over vast distances, and while they remain in need of a minimum of two hours of exercise each day, these days you’re much more likely to find them enjoying a vigorous walk with their human companions. The Alaskan Malamute needs an experienced owner as they can be challenging for novice pet parents due to their high need for physical and mental stimulation.
The Samoyed comes packed with both style and sustenance, managing to be both utterly adorable on the outside and super smart on the inside. Incredibly personable, they thrive on human company but have just enough independence in them to avoid being clingy. Samoyeds tend to get along well with everyone in their family unit, including children and other pets, but they are herding dogs and because of this you’ll want to train and socialize them properly to prevent them from trying to round up any toddlers and cats you may share your home with! Thankfully, they’re highly attuned to people and learn quickly, so training them isn’t difficult.
With the foxy face that’s typical of a Spitz breed, the Keeshond has a delightfully plumed tail that curls over their back and a thick and plush coat that hides a lean and muscular figure. Alert and cheerful, they are natural watch dogs who will be quick to let their owner’s know if they suspect trouble is afoot! Their bright eyes and happy face has earned them the nickname the ‘Smiling Dutchman’ and they do well in active homes with older children and teenagers — their very loud and frequent barking means they’re not suitable for families with babies or toddlers. Because they’re quick to view outsiders with suspicion, additional training and socialization is required.
A complete and utter gentle giant, the Newfoundland is considered a ‘nanny dog’ due to how tolerant and patient it is with children’s antics. It is a real sweetheart of a breed with a watchful and trustworthy nature and a happy and docile temperament. Known to place themselves between strangers and their family in order to quietly protect them, Newfies (as they’re affectionately known) is an ideal companion for singles and couples, and they're one of the best dogs for families, however do take their size into consideration before welcoming one into your home - this is a pup that requires a lot of feeding, a lot of grooming, and a lot of exercise.
A hardy and strong-willed dog with a lush silver-gray coat and wolf-like features, the Norwegian Elkhound is one of Europe’s oldest dog breeds. They have the most wonderful sense of humor and are independent thinkers, the latter of which can make training a challenge unless you’re able to be firm and consistent with them. Norwegian Elkhounds are also big barkers and have a strong prey drive, so be sure you’re prepared for this before adopting one. Those things aside, their adventurous spirit and love for their family makes this sensitive and tenderhearted soul an utter delight to have in the home.
At around 30 inches in height and weighing anywhere up to 180 pounds, the Saint Bernard is an imposing figure — but don’t let that fool you, while they’re incredibly muscular and powerful, they’re also total sweethearts. Endlessly good-humored, they rarely bark and adore family life. Laid back, loving, and placid, Saint Bernards possess an innate awareness of just how big they are and because of that, they have a reputation for being very careful not to injure children or older people. Social and content to quietly be a part of family life, they’re eager to please and although large, their exercise needs are moderate, with a one hour walk each day enough to keep them happy.
There’s not a dog on the planet that looks like the Komondor, so if your canine companion ever gets lost in a crowd, you’ll have no problem finding them! Covered in an abundance of white cords that keeps them warm in even the most extreme of cold climates, this breed hails from Hungary where they were originally used to guard flocks of sheep. Large and powerful, Komondor’s also manage to be agile and light-footed, which makes them excellent watchdogs. They are very protective of their family and their loyalty knows no bounds, so they won’t think twice of putting themselves in harm's way.
A good looking dog if ever we saw one, the small to medium sized Tibetan Terrier is a sensitive soul who has long served as a faithful companion to monks living in Buddhist monasteries. Largely unknown outside of their native country until the 1920s, the Tibetan Terrier is now a much-loved family dog thanks to its adaptability and affectionate nature. Playful and intelligent, they’re lively and fun loving while also being incredibly sweet and kind. They’re happy being couch potatoes or heading out on an active adventure — and don’t worry, if you do want to take them hiking, their beautiful wooly undercoat and large, flat snowshoe-like feet will ensure they stay toasty warm.
American Eskimo Dog
Not to be confused with its doppelganger, the Samoyed, the American Eskimo Dog comes in three sizes - toy, miniature, and standard - and its plush double coat and bushy tail gives it a striking appearance. Eskies are social animals and need to be fully integrated into the family as they don’t do well alone. But having them around all the time will no doubt be exactly what you want once you’ve become familiar with their loyal, playful, and active nature. While their intelligence can make them stubborn, their devotion to their humans and their immense love of children will make you forgive pretty much anything!
Bernese Mountain Dog
A gentle giant that's affectionate, faithful, intelligent and loyal, the Bernese Mountain Dog is also often referred to as a 'nanny dog' due to its immense love of, and devotion to, children. Good-natured and calm, this breed gets on famously with everyone - including other dogs, and as you'd expect from a breed that originally hails from Switzerland, it has a thick coat built to withstand harsh winters. Playful and energetic, they make a wonderful family companion - although just be warned, they are prone to barking and they do shed a lot, so daily grooming is a must!
With its incredibly distinctive looks, this ancient breed from China has a dignified and aloof aura about them and they can be very serious-minded. The Chow Chow's coat comes in rough and smooth varieties and colors of red, black, blue, cinnamon or cream. They're typically not a social and outgoing dog and can be wary of strangers but they are eternally loyal to their loved ones. However, they are highly protective and so early training and socialization is a must to help them control their guarding tendencies.
Hailing from the northern mountains of Japan, the Akita is a large dog breed with a muscular physique and a thick double coat. Famous for the dignified way in which they carry themselves, they are incredibly loyal to those they love but because they were bred to work alone, they do not do well in homes with other dogs or pets. While affectionate with their chosen humans, they are aloof with strangers and can be very territorial. Because of this, and their extreme strength, intelligence and endurance, they do best with experienced owners who can help them channel their energy in appropriate ways.
Known for their immense loyalty and protective instincts, the German Shepherd is one of the most popular breeds in the world - both as a family dog and a service dog. Incredibly athletic, they manage to be both strong and agile, the German Shepherd is a hard-working pup that likes having a job to do. They require a lot of physical exercise (think several hours a day) and plenty of mental stimulation to ensure they don't become bored and destructive. Highly affectionate with their human family, they will go to the ends of the earth to keep them out of harm's way, which means they can be very wary of strangers.
An alert, sturdy, and fearless little dog, the Norfolk Terrier is an energetic breed with a delightful splash of mischief to them. They absolutely adore being with their humans and take a keen interest in everything they do, so leaving them alone is not an option. Fun-loving and great with children, they're affectionate and will happily enjoy a cuddle on your lap at the end of a busy day. Because they're a terrier breed, they require a lot of activity to keep them from getting into trouble. A gregarious dog, they're highly adaptable and up for any adventure - which makes them excellent travel companions!
The Great Pyrenees is a large dog with a thick coat and powerful build and were originally bred to roam mountain tops deterring wolves from attacking flocks of sheep. They're described by those who own them as exhibiting an almost Zen-like calm, which makes them a delightfully peaceful companion to have around the house. That being said, these majestic dogs are loyal to those they love and can quickly spring into action if they sense a threat. Gentle and loyal, they make wonderful companions for anyone looking for a devoted and well-mannered pup.
With its happy face and fox-like features, the Shiba Inu has a bold and high-energy nature and looks like a more compact version of the Japanese Akita. In fact, they hail from the same country but unlike their big brother who was used to hunt big game like deer and wild boar, the Shiba Inu was bred to hunt smaller animals, like rabbits. Alert and attentive dogs, their loyal, charming and affectionate natures make them wonderful companions but because they're very independent-minded, they do best with experienced owners.
With an incredibly imposing presence that can feel quite intimidating when you first come across them, the Tibetan Mastiff has the features of a lion and a powerful and muscular build. They have a long, dense coat and their markings come in traditional colors like black, brown and golden, as well as a rarer blue shade. This is not a dog to take on lightly because while they can be very sweet, calm, mellow and lovey dovey when around their owners, they are hugely territorial. They require a very experienced owner who knows how to handle their watchful natures and can train and socialize them well to avoid them being a risk to strangers.
A rugged dog of ancient lineage, the Anatolian Shepherd has a reserved yet loyal nature. Weighing as much as 150lbs, they're a large and muscular dog that also manages to be nimble and quick-footed. They are smart, devoted, and responsive but require a strong human leader who can handle their dominating and demanding nature. While their coats are short, they're also dense, which means they're protected against extreme weather conditions. Suspicious of strangers and fast to react to any perceived threat, they require careful management.
A cute and hardy breed native to the western islands of Scotland, the Cairn Terrier is short-legged and strongly built with a cheerful and lively personality. Built to work, they have hard and profuse outer coats and short and soft outer coats that help them stay warm and cozy in cold weather. Chatty and vocal, they're bursting with energy and need plenty to occupy their minds and bodies. This is a dog that likes to be busy and because they're so curious, living somewhere with plenty of options for adventure and exploration will ensure they stay happy and healthy.
With its distinctive long nose, this Russian Hunting Sighthound is a large and elegant breed with a dignified manner and a calm and agreeable temperament. Good-natured and easily amused, the Borzoi is a sensitive soul who can show a great deal of affection towards their chosen humans but tends to be aloof around strangers. Their silky and wavy coat has beautiful feathering which does mean they need to be groomed several times week to avoid knots and tangles. The Borzoi has a strong personality and knows its own mind, so training is best approached with much patience and good humor - something they respond very well to.
Bouvier des Flandres
A heavy-boned herding dog, the Bouvier Des Flandres hails from Belgium where it was originally used to herd cattle. During World War One this breed was famously used to carry messages and because so many were lost in duty, they almost became extinct. Thankfully, a Belgian army veterinarian resurrected the breed and today this calm and docile dog makes a wonderful addition to any family. Easy to train (it's said they never forget a command), the Bouvier Des Flandres is courageous, affectionate, and has an impressive work ethic.
Entlebucher Mountain Dog
Pronounced ent-leh-boo-cur, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog originated in the Swiss Alps where it was a determined mover of cattle. Spirited and highly energetic, they're at their happiest when they're working and are famed for their agility, balance, and endless enthusiasm. Their tri-colored coats and friendly faces have earned them the nickname 'laughing dog' and because of their tireless natures, they're a great pick for active families. Protective of their people, they're wary of strangers and they can be stubborn, which makes training them a challenge. Still, if you can manage those things, you'll find they're more than worth the effort and will repay you with plenty of love and affection.
Affectionately known as the 'Scottie', this little dog may be small but he can also be spirited and feisty, making him quite the charming companion to have around. A solid and compact dog with a wiry topcoat and a soft undercoat, the Scottish Terrier is spunky, confident and has a good dose of independence. With their distinctive full beard, eyebrows, and mustache, they're instantly recognizable and their unique combination of traits makes them almost human-like in nature. They can be loving and affectionate with their chosen people but their reserved temperament means they can be quite indifferent with everyone else.
If you want a charming, playful, and inquisitive dog that's easy to train, look no further than the Icelandic Sheepdog. With its super sweet looks and happy natures, this breed is an utter joy to have in the home and their bushy tails and dense coats allow them to thrive in freezing temperatures. They are totally devoted to their humans and can think of nowhere they'd rather be than by their side. Eager to please, they're quick learners but do treat them gently as they don't respond well to any kind of harsh training methods (nor would we recommend that with any breed).
A majestic, lush-coated breed originally from Germany, the Leonberger has an air of serenity about them and a gentle and playful nature that makes them a huge hit with children. They are graceful, elegant and highly intelligent, and have a reputation for having excellent judgment. While the Leonberger is easygoing and placid, they are also self-confident and know their own minds, which means they require a great deal of patience and consistency on the training front.
With a reputation for being a tough, no-frills working terrier, this popular breed is affectionate and fun-loving while also being high-energy with a love of exploration. Plucky, courageous, and adaptable, as long as they're getting plenty of exercise each day, they'll thrive in all living situations. Independent, the Border Terrier's social nature means they're good with people - especially children. This is a dog best paired with singles, couples or families that live active lifestyles who have the time to give them the mental and stimulation they need to thrive.
A breed of toy dog originating in China, the Pekingese is a robust, short-legged little pup with plenty of character. With its distinctive mane and large eyes, this breed can be super comical with those they know well but tends to be reserved with strangers. Very much a companion breed, they don't do well with being separated from their owner, so they need someone who's able to be with them at all times. Clever and brave, they're stoic little dogs but they can also be strong-willed and determined, so you'll want to be prepared for that when it comes to training!
Weighing just eight to 12 pounds, the Brussels Griffon almost has a cuddly toy-like appearance that has made them hugely popular over the decades. But aside from their exterior good looks, this breed is playful, energetic, and easily trained. Described as having complex natures, they are very sensitive dogs and while they can be trained to co-exist peacefully with children, they do not enjoy roughhousing. They have a very low threshold for loneliness too, so if you decide to welcome one of these devoted little dogs into your family, prepare for them to stick to you like glue.
A courageous canine who delights in being the centre of attention, the bold and lively Pomeranian has a personality that far exceeds their diminutive size. Known to be plucky and to take on dogs three times their stature, the Pom is an alert watchdog with an inquisitive nature. Their smiley, foxy faces and vivacious and perky personalities make them truly charming companions and they delight in making their humans laugh. However, they can be stubborn and they won't back down from a fight with other dogs, so they do need patient and consistent training and socialization.
One of the most eye-catching of all dog breeds, the glamorous Afghan Hound stands around 27 inches tall and weighs up to 60 pounds. This is a dog of huge contradictions, managing to be both brave at times and timid at others, loving and yet standoffish, dignified yet clownish. Highly sensitive, they don't respond well to being told off but do well with gentle guidance. They're a high-maintenance breed as they require a lot of grooming to keep their coat and skin healthy, and they also need a lot of exercise. Still, when paired with an owner who's up to that kind of commitment, they make for sweet, silly, and loyal companions.
An energetic and boisterous breed, the Bearded Collie is all bounce and charisma, making them a total joy to have by your side. A droving dog originally from Scotland, they have dreamy features that make them an adorable sight to behold and their huge hearts make it impossible not to fall in love with them. Rambunctious in nature, these comical creatures can be a handful (in the best possible way) so you'll want to ensure they have plenty of outlets for their energy. Well suited to outdoorsy families, they thrive on an uptempo lifestyle and are friendly to all.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.