Is Your Dog More Active in Cold Weather?

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Baylie says: “Bring it on Old Man Winter!”

Generally, we hoomans get a little lethargic when cold weather sets in and assume it rings true with our dogs, as well.  While cabin fever and the Winter blues may be experienced by some small-breed dogs, it can be just the opposite for many long-haired, large-breed dogs that get an adrenaline  rush from cooler temps. Baylie welcomes the onset of cool weather with open arms.

Some long-haired, large-breed dogs can be compared to human “snowbirds”.  Living near the Gulf Coast, we categorize “snowbirds” as misguided “nawthaners“, over the age of 60, who migrate to our State each Winter to escape the bitter cold back home.   They are easy to spot. When the temps hit the 50-degree mark, and we locals are bundled up in sweaters because of the “cold’ snap, you’ll see them strolling around in Bermuda shorts and flip-flops as if it was an 80-degree Summer day.  Same scenario for dogs – while some of the long-haired dogs are romping around unscathed by the  40-degree weather, their counterparts (frufru, short-haired, small-breed dogs) are sporting the layered look with sweaters and doggie boots. Some dogs are not genetically suited to the environments in which they find themselves transplanted. Factors may include breed, size and even age. For instance, the Samoyed breed genetically predisposed to acclimate to the cold climates of Northwest Russia and Western Siberia may not be as active during the hot Summer months.  Her genetics acclimate her to a cold-climate existence.
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Long-haired dogs are susceptible to overheating.  One of the worst heat-related tragedies is when people abide by the myth that long fur insulates a dog and keeps them cool.  In warmer climates, the coats of long-haired dogs should be trimmed short. Even with air conditioning, these dogs can get ridiculously hot.  Baylie’s coat is so dense that she pants lying on the sofa with the A/C running. Since we live in one of the hottest and most humid regions of the U.S., it’s a necessity for her to get more than one Summer shave but throughout Winter, we allow her coat to grow.

Baylie is a Great Pyrenees/Border Collie mix.   Her vocation in life is to protect and herd sheep, goats, people, children, grass, flowers, the stars, cats, birds, leaves and even an imaginary predator that goes bump in the night.  She loves cool weather.  She welcomes Winter with exuberance. Her thick, double coat protects her from all but the most frigid of temperatures.  However, we never leave her outdoors for an extended period of time when the temps dip below freezing.  Even long-haired, large breed “cold weather” dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. All dogs should be provided a warm shelter or be brought indoors when the mercury drops.

Generally, dark-colored dogs, heavy-coated dogs, and dogs with shortened muzzles will have less energy in warm, humid weather and short-coated dogs may be less active in cold, damp weather. Dogs have a higher metabolism than people. It is understandable that a lot of dogs like cooler weather.  They breathe faster, pump blood faster and have a higher normal body temperature.

When temperatures reach the 100-degree mark, Baylie’s activity level declines, drastically.  She eats less, plays less and sleeps more during the heat of the day.  Only when the sun begins to set  is she ready for outdoor activity. When the cool temps of Fall approach, Baylie takes on an entirely different persona.  Her energy level spikes.  I compare it to the equivalent of us drinking a double shot of espresso every hour on the hour. We have become quite resourceful in channeling her energy; however, she entertains herself with her herding activity. Normally, all we have to do is open the back door and she takes off like a horse out of the starting gate. At the end of the day, she’s a tired and happy pup.
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Sampling of “Cold Weather” Breeds:

Alaskan Malamute
American Eskimo Dog
Bernise Mountain Dog
Chow Chow
German Shepherd
Great Pyrenees
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Kuvasz
Keeshond
Newfoundland
Norweigen Elkhound
Saint Bernard
Siberian Husky
Shiba Inu
Tibetan Mastiff
Tibetan Terrier
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  • Deborah Darsie

    I imagine Baylie’s internal conversation in the video to go like this….

    OH, door’s open….
    Perimeter….check
    Shrubs….check
    Shadows….check
    More shrubs….check
    More perimeter….check
    OH LOOK, MOM!!!….check