What canine body features indicate that they’re designed for cold weather?
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What canine body features indicate that they’re designed for cold weather?

Dogs
Health & Safety

Some dogs love cold weather and proactively enjoy rolling around in the snow; others are reluctant to go outside as soon as the sun goes in for a moment! You might think that a lot of this is down to the individual personality and preferences of each dog, and to a degree it is; but there are also a number of physical traits that a dog either has or lacks, which both dictates, and indicates, how well equipped they are to cope in the cold and how tolerant they are of it too.

Dogs that possess all of these traits are the types of breeds that don’t need a fabric coat in cold weather, and that tend to enjoy the cold; because they hailed from, and evolved in, cold climates.

When you know what physical traits dogs designed for cold weather share, you’ll be able to spot them just by looking! This article will tell you the canine body features that indicate that a dog is designed for cold weather. Read on to learn more.

A reasonable amount of natural body fat

First up, dogs that are very lean and that don’t have a lot of body fat are invariably dogs that hail from warmer climates. Body fat is more than just the results of eating a lot; it also serves a number of useful functions, including providing us with energy, and insulating us against the cold; and the amount of natural body fat a dog has can vary a lot from breed to breed.

Dogs that hail from cold climates and that are well equipped to manage very cold weather always have a reasonable amount of natural padding. This doesn’t mean they’re naturally fat, but neither are they the kind of lean dogs that don’t seem to have any fat on them at all either.

The Saint Bernard is a good example of a dog breed with a naturally high ratio of body fat, and this helps to ensure that they can weather the cold, mountainous climate and environment that the breed originates from.

A generally large size

The above-mentioned Saint Bernard is a giant dog breed, and you will find that all of the dog breeds and types that are well equipped to handle cold weather without discomfort are on the large size too. Not all of them are giants; but there are no toy or small dog breeds that would thrive in climates with really cold temperatures as standard, and those that are kept as pets in such places require an impressive selection of coats and boots to see them through the winter!

To be able to maintain a stable core temperature and keep warm enough in inhospitable levels of cold, a dog needs a reasonable physical size; the smaller the dog, the less able they are to regulate their body temperatures, and the sooner they will be affected by the environmental temperature as a result.

Double-layered or complex coats

Dogs that are comfortable in the cold always have a very distinctive coat. It is not necessarily long and flowing, but it won’t be very short either; it will tend to be thick and plush, standing at least a couple of inches from the skin when measured, and capable of capturing and trapping air between the strands.

Dogs from cold places have different textures within their coats too, with the longer fur called guard hairs, and forming a top layer that repels water and keeps heat in, with an underlying dense, soft layer of fur beneath this to serve as insulation.

The Siberian husky coat is a great example of this; oh, and dogs with coats of this type, and all dogs that hail from colder countries, shed hair prolifically when the seasons change and sometimes year-round too.

A high level of stamina and endurance

Dogs that can cope with very cold weather are marathon runners rather than sprinters. They’re able conserve energy efficiently, and can maintain a steady pace for long periods of time.

This is both because their bodies need to be able to keep them moving when out in the cold to prevent them chilling and getting dangerously cold themselves, and because such dogs tended to be used in their native nations as sled dogs, which needed to be able to keep moving all day, like the Siberian husky mentioned above.

A reasonably efficient ratio of food intake to energy expenditure

Something that not all dog owners realise is that there can be quite a difference across different dog breeds in terms of how efficient their food intake to energy expended ratio is.

What does this mean? Essentially, it is the amount of food a dog needs to be able to maintain their weight and expend the energy they use up each day doing whatever it is they do.

For instance, you could have two dogs of two different breeds that are the exact same weight, height, and age, living the same lifestyle and taking part in the same level of exercise; so you might fairly assume that all other things being equal, you’d need to feed these two dogs the exact same amount of the same food each day too.

This is not the case, however. Dogs that can cope well in the cold and that are used to cold climates actually metabolise their food more efficiently than other dogs. They might well need quite a lot of food each day, to support the maintenance of the body fat they need to keep warm; but those designed for the cold will actually need less food like for like than dogs that are better suited to warm weather.

Petite ears

Small ears? Yes, small ears compared to body size is a trait shared by dog breeds that cope well in the cold! The ears are one of the most sparsely-haired areas of the body, and they have a large surface area of skin compared to their size, with many capillaries just below the surface, and so a lot of heat comparative to their size is lost via a dog’s ears.

Dogs that are comfortable in the cold always have proportionately small ears!

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