Your Go-To Guide to Snow Dog Breeds

Alaskan Malamute Outside in the Snow

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

That’s the song these amazing snow dog breeds would sing everyday of their lives (if they could carry a tune).

You may be surprised at how many breeds of dogs are well-adapted for the icy frigid temperatures of the Arctic regions. These pups are not only well-suited, but they actually prefer a frosty nip to the air.

Curious about these cool climatized canines? Read on to discover your go-to guide for snow dog breeds.


The Akita dates back to the 1600s and is named for the province of Akita in northern Japan where it was used to guard the Japanese royalty. This brave dog was also used to hunt fowl and large game, including bears.

The winter climate in this area can dip below 26 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months, so this dog’s thick coat would serve it well.

Akita Puppy with Tongue Out

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 28 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 70 to 110 pounds.

Personality: bold, willful, wary of strangers, alert, intelligent and courageous.

Special Considerations: this breed can be aggressive towards other dogs

Perfect Pet Parent: willing to train this dog and keep it as the only pet in the household. Not for a first-time dog owner as it needs firm, but loving discipline.

Alaskan Malamute:

It’s of little surprise that the Alaskan Malamute is one of the oldest Arctic breeds. The forebear of this breed crossed the land bridge from Siberia to Alaska thousands of years ago with the native peoples of that time.

However, it was one tribe in particular, known as the Mahlemuts, that settled in the northeastern area of the Seward Peninsula. It was here that the Alaskan Malamute was developed. These dogs were a huge help to the natives as they were used to hunt seals, chase away polar bears and pull heavy sledges loaded with food or camp supplies.

Alaskan Malamute in Snow Covered Forest

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 25 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 75 to 85 pounds.

Personality: loyal, friendly, playful, yet hardworking.

Special Considerations: this breed does not make a good watchdog

Perfect Pet Parent: will allow the dog to be a part of all the family’s going-ons

American Eskimo Dog:

The true origins of this breed is still unknown. However, it is thought the American Eskimo dog is a member of the Spitz family which is a Nordic breed. These Spitz-like dogs were common among the German Immigrant communities, who then brought them into the United States.

It’s thick coat is water-resistant and its thick ears stay warm in the frosty climates.

American Eskimo Dog on Bluffs by the Water

Fast Facts:

Size: Toys stand 9 to 12 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 10 pounds. Miniatures stand 12 to 15 inches at the shoulder and weigh about 20 pounds. Standards are 15 to 19 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 30 pounds.

Personality: spunky, clever, playful, but wary of strangers.

Special Considerations: makes a good watchdog. It will need physical and mental stimulation to prevent it from becoming bored and destructive.

Perfect Pet Parent: an active person that is willing to give it the daily exercise it needs.

Anatolian Shepherd:

This breed originates from the rugged and cold climates of Anatolian in central Turkey. Here it was used as a guardian dog, protecting the flocks of sheep, goats and the shepherds themselves.

The Anatolian Shepherd was also responsible for fending off predators and moving the herds of animals across the rocky terrain from one seasonal location to the next.

Anatolian Shepherd in Backyard

Fast Facts:

Size: 27 to 29 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 80 to 150 pounds

Personality: highly intelligent, dominant and independent. It is calm, friendly and affectionate with its family.

Special Considerations: not friendly with strangers.

Perfect Pet Parent: the herding nature of this canine is always present. It will need early socialization so it will grow up to be a well-rounded dog.

Bernese Mountain Dog:

This breed dates back more than 2,000 years where it was used on Swiss farms around the Alps. The Bernese Mountain dog is not only accustomed to the frigid temperatures of this region, but it excelled at pulling carts, accompanying livestock, standing watch and providing its owners with loyal companionship.

Burmese Mountain Dog by Brick Wall

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 27 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 70 to 115 pounds

Personality: gentle, intelligent, alert, calm and tolerant.

Special Considerations: reaches its physical maturity before it does its mental maturity.

Perfect Pet Parent: to prevent the Bernese from becoming aloof, early socialization is necessary.

Chow Chow:

Genetic testing has proven that the Chow Chow is one of the oldest dog breeds. This snow dog is believed to have originated in Mongolia and Northern China and were used by the nomadic tribes of Mongolia.

Early depictions of dogs resembling the Chow Chow appear in pottery and paintings from the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 22 AD) and it is said that one Chinese emperor actually kept 2,500 pairs of Chows as hunting dogs!

Chow Chow Playing in the Yard

Fast Facts:

Size: 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 40 to 70 pounds.

Personality: aloof, reserved, independent, intelligent and stubborn.

Special Considerations: this breed must be extensively socialized while it is a puppy so it will not grow up to be aggressive or shy.

Perfect Pet Parent: despite it’s ability to withstand the cold, this breed needs to live indoors with its people for good mental health. It also does not tolerate the heat.

German Shepherd:

The German Shepherd dates back to 1899 in Germany where it was used for herding. The thick undercoat of this canine made it able to withstand the frigid temperatures when it was out protecting and driving a flock of sheep.

However, it was one man, Captain Max von Stephanitz (a career captain in the German cavalry) who set out to make the German Shepherd the outstanding breed it is today.

German Shepherd Outdoors

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 26 inches at the shoulder. Weigh; 75 to 95 pounds

Personality: reserved, intelligent, loyal to family members, does not make friends easily

Special Considerations: this is a working breed and as such it needs a job to do to keep it from becoming bored and destructive.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs an active person that is willing to spend a lot of time with this dog.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog:

You need to be sturdy if you originated from the Swiss Alps like the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. This breed is one of the oldest breeds of dog and it is thought to have descended from the large, Mastiff-like dogs that were brought to the Alps by invading Roman Legions

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in Backyard

Fast Facts:

Size: 23.5 to 28.5 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 85 to 110 pounds.

Personality: confident, alert, playful and can be stubborn at times.

Special Considerations: not a pushover canine. It will need early socialization and training classes.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs to be kind, yet a confident leader. Not good for the first-time dog owner.

Great Pyrenees:

This sheep-guarding breed originated in the Pyrenees Mountains, which forms a natural border between France and Spain.

It is thought the ancestors of the Great Pyrenees may date back as far as 11,000 year-ago to Asia Minor and were brought to the mountain region to work with the shepherds.

Great Pyrenees Out on the Lawn

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 32 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 85 to 160 pounds.

Personality: calm, gentle, docile, courageous and devoted to its family members.

Special Considerations: An intelligent breed that needs to be busy and have early socialization. Makes a good therapy dog.

Perfect Pet Parent: a person that is willing to give this dog the training, socialization and exercise it needs on a daily basis.

Karakachan Bear Dog:

Named after the Karakachan, Balkan Greek nomadic shepherds, the Karakachan Bear Dog originated in the mountains of Bulgaria. It was widely used as a border army watchdog, but today it earns its keep as a livestock guardian and property watchdog.

Karakachan Mountain Dog with Small Child

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 30 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 88 to 125 pounds.

Personality: brave, intelligent with a natural mistrust of strangers.

Special Considerations: this is a working dog which needs to be given space to run outside

Perfect Pet Parent: loves the outdoors and cannot be cooped up in small spaces for long periods-of-time. Not good for apartments.


The thick fur and downy undercoat of the Keeshond insulated it from the harsh climate and temperatures when it once served as a watchdog on the riverboats in Holland. This dog was even kept as a mascot by the Dutch Patriot Political Party.

Keeshond Dog Playing with Stick in the Snow

Fast Facts:

Size: 17 to 18 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 35 pounds

Personality: friendly, quick learner, active and good family pet.

Special Considerations: breed is a companion pet, not a watchdog or working dog. It does, however, do well in the obedience ring.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs someone willing to give it plenty of exercise to prevent it from literally spinning in circles.


The wholly Kuvasz is one of the three oldest dog breeds that originated in Tibet (the Puli and the Komondor are the other two). It could date back as far as 1,200 years-ago, arriving with the Magyar tribes who invaded Hungary. By the 15th century, the Kuvasz was a highly prized canine in Hungary being used as a guard dog. Kuvasz by the Water at Dusk

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 30 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 70 to 115 pounds.

Personality: confident, courageous, intelligent, determined. Great with children and will protect its home and family.

Special Considerations: because of its inherited guard dog traits, it will act on its own initiative if it believes the family is in danger.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs a confident and capable leader to train it. Not for the first-time dog owner.

Newfoundland Dog:

The heavy coat of the “Newfie” made it the perfect companion to work alongside the fisherman in the icy waters of Newfoundland Canada. Today, the Newfoundland breed is still used in search and rescue missions.

But don’t be fooled by its water-antics as this dog is perfect to work the rugged terrain of the mountains as well. Brown Newfoundland in Water Swimming

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 28 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 100 to 150 pounds.

Personality: sweet, lovable, intelligent and eager to please.

Special Considerations: due to its large size it will need regular exercise.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs to be a part of the family and does not do well left alone for long periods-of-time or banished to a kennel or backyard.

Norwegian Elkhound:

The woolly undercoat of this breed made it perfect for hunting elk in the harsh climate and rugged terrain of the Norwegian area. The Norwegian Elkhound is indeed one of the more ancient breeds that can trace its lineage back to the days of the Vikings.

Norwegian Elkhound Sideways

Fast Facts:

Size: 20.5 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 48 to 55 pounds.

Personality: independent thinkers, stubborn, clownish and devoted.

Special Considerations: this breed tends to become very attached to its family and wants to be with you all the time.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs a firm, yet loving hand to train this dog.

Saint Bernard

This large, well-muscled breed is built for the snow and in fact is oftentimes used in Search and Rescue missions to recover people from avalanches and other snowy scenarios. The Saint Bernard hails from Switzerland originally and is thought to have been created when dogs native to the Alps were crossed with Mastiff-type dogs that came with the Roman army during the time of the emperor Augustus.

Saint Bernard in a Field Looking Behind Him

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 30 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 120 to 180 pounds.

Personality: intelligent, eager to please, friendly and welcoming.

Special Considerations: this large breed will need ample room to run and play.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs a willingly participant in its training and early socialization.


The fun-loving smile of the Samoyed is not the only thing that makes it a great dog. It was originally bred for hunting seal, to herd reindeer and to haul sledges across the frozen tundra for the northwestern Siberian Samoyede people. It even kept its owner’s warm at night by sleeping on top of them. Today, this fluffy breed still enjoys a good frolic on a snowy day.

Samoyed Outside near Muddy Path

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 23.5 inches tall at the shoulder. Weight; 50 to 60 pounds.

Personality: friendly, affectionate, loyal, loving and devoted

Special Considerations: this breed still retains its hunting instincts and may chase after smaller animals it perceives as prey.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs to be a part of a family and does not do well left alone in a kennel or backyard.

Shiba Inu:

The thick fur and double coat of the Shiba Inu made it the perfect hunting companion to flush out small game in Japan where it originated. Today, this breed still loves to spend time outdoors and particularly enjoys playing in the snow.

Shiba Inu on the Mountain Side

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 16.5 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 17 to 23 pounds.

Personality: good-natured, alert, bold, strong-willed and confident.

Special Considerations: tends to guard its food, toys and territory. Doesn’t always get along with other dogs.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs a person that is dedicated to its training. Not well-suited to the first-time dog owner as it can be stubborn and willful.

Siberian Husky:

Perhaps one of the most beloved and well-known Arctic breed is the Siberian Husky. Its thick coat served it well as it is believed to have originated among the Chukchi, a tribe of Siberian nomads. It was used as transportation to pull sleds and often slept with the children to help keep them warm.

Husky on Trail Dog Backpacking

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 23.5 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 35 to 60 pounds.

Personality: charming, mischievous and playful

Special Considerations: it is a high energy breed that needs daily exercise to prevent it from becoming bored and destructive.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs a person that will be a clear pack leader and will train this dog with obedience classes and early socialization.

Tibetan Mastiff:

The immense double-coat of this dog keeps it warm in the winter and cool in the summer, with the coat being heavier in the cold months and shedding out to be lighter in the warmer seasons. It originates from the Himalayas where it was once isolated until 1847 when it was imported to England.

Tibetan Mastiff Puppy Chewing Stick

Fast Facts:

Size: Up to 26 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 75 to 160 pounds.

Personality: independent, stubborn, aloof to strangers.

Special Considerations: its guard dog qualities are still present in this breed.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs to be treated as an “equal” not a pet. Not for the first-time dog owner.

Tibetan Terrier:

This dog was built to withstand the rugged terrain and cold climate of Tibet. It has a thick, double-coat and large, flat, round feet that provide traction in heavy snow (much like snowshoes).  

Tibetan Terriers were originally bred and raised in monasteries around 2,000 years ago. They were kept as good-luck charms and watchdogs and originally used for herding sheep as well as retrieving items off the mountainsides.

Tibetan Mastiff Playing with Stuffed Animal

Fast Facts:

Size: 14 to 16 inches at the shoulder. Weight; 20 to 24 pounds.

Personality: gentle, affectionate, smart, fun-loving and loyal to family.

Special Considerations: great watchdog that will bark when someone comes into its territory.

Perfect Pet Parent: needs to be a part of the family, not left alone for long periods-of-time or out in a backyard kennel.

That’s Snow Cool!

Now that you have perused all the Arctic breeds of dogs, perhaps you have decided on your next perfect pal. If so be sure to check out a reputable breeder, or your local rescue group.

In addition, do some extra research into the breed to be sure it will be the best canine companion for you and/or your family.

Bonus: For more guides on specific breeds, check out  our guide on Mastiffs and breeds best suited for warm climates.

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