Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

5 Best Snow Dogs

by Kris Phillips

Whew! We’ve had a LOT of snow this year. It’s left some of us and our dogs going crazy with cabin fever. But then there’s the crazy ones who get all giddy when the sky gets dark and those snow clouds roll in.

Ok, to be totally honest I might be one of the crazy ones. There is something about snow that’s just magical. Maybe it’s the way it changes the landscape entirely in just a few hours. Or maybe it’s the way that it seems to silence all the usual electric buzz of the city. In past, warmer, winters I absolutely loved bundling up and taking the dogs for a jog after fresh snowfall. The way the whole world is quiet and all you can hear is the soft crunching of doggy paws is just so calming.

Snow ball fights, snow ball fetch, just watching your dog transform into a 4-legged plow as they shove their face in the fluffy white stuff and thrash around. There’s a lot to love! And then there’s dog sledding; careering virtually out of control on a foam-core sled behind my crazed two dog team is just the adrenaline rush needed to shake off the winter blues.

But not all dogs were built for cold weather. So if you LOVE to get out when the temperature drops, take that into consideration when bringing a new fur-ball into the family.  A few guidelines when picking your snow dog.

  • Size: Larger dogs will have better cold tolerance.
  • Coat: Look for a breed with a double or triple coat.
  • Breed: Most large dogs will tolerate the cold reasonably well, but if you really want a buddy who’ll enjoy it as much as you do, adopt a breed that was built for it.

My top 5 Snow Dog Picks:

Husky or Malamute:

The Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, and Alaskan Husky are synonymous with the term snow dog. They are two separate recognized breeds, and one mixed breed that are frequently confused for one another. Which isn’t surprising because they are somewhat related. The Alaskan Malamute is a recognized breed and one of the oldest breeds, looking today much like they did 4000 years ago. They are the official mascot of Alaska and were named after the Inuit tribe Mahlemuts. Malamutes are large heavy dogs, bred for centuries to pull heavy sleds alongside their nomadic people. They typically range between 85 and 100 pounds, have brown eyes, and a broader head and body than their cousins. Siberian Huskies on the other hand are a good bit smaller, typically in the 35-50 pound range. The Siberian Husky was developed by, you guessed it the semi-nomadic peoples of ancient Siberia. As their hunting territories expanded they needed a dog that was capable of going long distance at a quick pace. In addition to their smaller size Sibes are also more prone to blue eyes. Their smaller, lighter frame makes them faster as well. Which is why the first Siberians were brought to Alaska in 1909. Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies are both registered and recognized breeds with specific breed standards. The Alaskan Husky, is more a type of dog than an actual breed. Mushers in the Alaskan wilderness didn’t care so much about what their working dogs looked like. They bred whatever could get the job done, mixing the native Malamutes and imported Siberians with local dogs and even wolves. The appearance of the Alaskan Husky varies a lot more depending on their individual genetic heritage. But they generally tend to be in between Sibes & Mals size wise. Yet, their performance over appearance breeding strategy means they are often than either of their papered cousins. While they do have some personality distinctions, they also have a lot in common. These snow dogs tend to have BIG personalities. They require attention, and if left to their own devices will often get into mischief. Left in the back yard their likely to dig, jump, or climb the most formidable of fences. They also tend to be highly affectionate, on their own terms. They are highly intelligent and driven working dogs, but they will learn and perform on their own terms and timetable. They can be difficult for owners who aren’t prepared for their quirks. Which has led to an abundance of huskies finding themselves dumped in shelters.

Bernese Mountain Dog:

These gentle giants were developed as working farm dogs in the Swiss Alps. They’re a highly versatile breed- know for herding cattle, pulling carts, guarding the family, slobbering all over anyone. They are easily one of the gentlest and friendliest breeds you’ll meet. Which is great if you’re a social person. They tend to be gentle with kids and smaller animals. Though their general size should be taken into consideration when around wee ones. They can easily range up to 110 pounds. The working nature of their development also means they can be high energy dogs. So great companions if you enjoy outdoor adventures. The only downside: lots of hair. And if they are not properly trained and socialized their size means they could easily become a problem pet.


These massive, 150 pound, sweethearts are more commonly seen in black or brown. They are known for being wonderful with children. Gentle and loving, yet protective when the situation calls for it. In fact, perhaps the most well known canine babysitter in literature was a Newfie- Nana from Peter Pan. These guys tend to be more laid back than some other working breeds. Though they do enjoy getting out and about, expect to go at a slower pace. And they may be just as happy to lounge on the couch as roll in the snow. They’re more frequently seen putting those big webbed feet to use in the water and are frequently credited with rough water rescues. A Newfie is even credited with saving Napoleon Bonapart. During his escape from Ebla, he was knocked overboard, and it was a fishermans dog who kept him from drowning until help to arrive. In fact, there’s an elite team of rescue swimmers that’s been leaping from helicopters into rough water for decades- The Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs. They are amazing swimmers. Their mountain heritage makes them suited to deal with the freezing water. And their size means they are able to drag a struggling swimmer through the water to safety.


The Akita is a member of the Spitz family, like the Siberian, also like the Pomeranian…HA! The Akita Inu is a Japanese breed developed in the mountainous regions of Japan. There’s also an American version, commonly referred to as Akita, or American Akita. Though both breeds are similar, the Japanese Akita has more narrow restrictions when it come to breed standard colors. Akita’s are not for the faint of heart. They are known to be powerfully independent and dominant. Typically standoffish with strangers, but affectionate and fiercely loyal to their family. In fact, most of us have heard the story of one particularly loyal Akita,  Hachikō. Who waited patiently at the train station for his owner to return for over nine years after his master died. His loyalty did not go unnoticed and there is now a bronze statue to commemorate his loyalty. The first Akita came to the US with Helen Keller in 1937. The pup was named Kamikaze, and though he died at just 7 and a half months, she referred to him lovingly “If ever there was an angel in fur, it was Kamikaze. I know I shall never feel quite the same tenderness for any other pet. The Akita dog has all the qualities that appeal to me — he is gentle, companionable and trusty”

German Shepherd:

The German Shepherd Dog, abbreviated GSD, is known as a well-rounded, all-purpose, working dog. They are a good sized dog, ranging between 60-90 pounds. The GSD is generally intelligent, agile, and motivated. They can come in black, brown & black, or white. Though white Shepherds aren’t seen as often and are frequently confused for huskies. Originally developed as herding dogs these guys have gone one to just about every job you can imagine. Their work drive and innate confidence make them excellent police and military dogs, guide dogs for the blind. They can equally sniff out drugs, take down fleeing criminals, or track lost in the woods children. Though it’s their prevalence in law enforcement that’s led to a decline in the other occupations. For jobs needing a gentler public image, shepherds are often traded out for the lovable Golden. It has nothing to do with their personality, just public image. And the very same traits that make them amazing working dogs have also landed them on many “dangerous or banned” breed lists. They’ve suffered the same bad PR as the smiling Pittie. German Shepherds are fiercely loyal, highly intelligent, agile, athletic, motivated to please, and determined to protect their family. So if you can get passed the bad press, they might be the perfect snow dog for you.

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