By: Orvis Staff
Yes. Weather, including rain and snow, temperature fluctuations, and changes in barometric pressure, can affect dog behavior. It’s similar to the effect weather can have on your mood and energy. You’re likely peppier on sunny spring days, while a movie marathon on the couch is more your speed on cold, rainy afternoons. Read on to learn how changing weather changes your best friend.
Dog Behavior in Hot Weather
It’s common for dogs to slow down in hot weather and even become downright sluggish. On the hottest, muggiest days of the year, your dog will find a shady spot in the yard and lie there most of the day. If he’s indoors, his favorite spot may be within a few feet of the AC unit or vent. When it’s time for a walk in the heat, his pace is poky.
This heat-related behavior did not, as many believe, inspire the phrase “dog days of summer.” The ancient Greeks and Romans originated the expression to describe the summer days when the dog star Sirius rose before the sun. A time of year they associated with heat and catastrophe, but not with languid dogs.
Some dogs are more sensitive to the heat than others. Dogs with short muzzles (brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs) have a harder time cooling themselves down than long-snouted dogs. It’s important that brachycephalic dogs have access to air conditioning on very hot and humid days.
Dogs with thick, double coats, such as Siberian Huskies and Newfoundlands, are more sensitive to the heat and humidity than dogs with short coats. Regular brushing of double-coated breeds is critical to remove excess fur, as is access to air conditioning. (Cutting or shaving their coats is never advised.)
Extremely hot days put all dogs at risk of heat-related illnesses. Know the signs of heat stroke in dogs, and ensure your dog has constant access to shade or air conditioning, as well as a fresh supply of cool water in his dog bowl.
In summer, your dog may also get hot under the collar more easily than in cooler seasons. Research of dog bite frequency, both in New York City and in Beijing, has found the number of dog bites rises along with the heat. Your dog’s reaction to the heat can range from a mild crankiness to snarling, snapping, and biting. If your dog gets moody in the heat, watch him closely on hot days during encounters with strangers, children, and other dogs.
Can Dogs Sense Bad Weather?
Yes. Your dog can sense bad weather. You may have seen it on the TV weather report, but your dog can ‘feel’ bad weather through changes in barometric pressure and static electricity. These shifts precede summer thunderstorms and heavy downpours. As the weather system approaches, you may notice your dog sniffing at the air or getting slightly agitated. Your dog’s powerful sense of hearing can also pick up the sound of thunder long before you hear it in the distance. If your dog has a fear of thunder, he’ll seek out his usual hiding spot in the house the moment he feels a storm brewing.
Dog Behavior in Cold Weather
Dog behavior changes in cold weather depending on the breed and how you respond to the short, frosty days of winter. Double-coated breeds such as Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, Samoyeds, and Siberian Huskies may become zippier in winter because they are well adapted to the cold. Alternatively, dogs with short coats and lean bodies may curl up on their dog beds through most of the winter, and mightily resist going for walks. Warm dog jackets and coats make it easier to get these cold-averse dogs outdoors.
It’s possible your dog will sleep more than usual in winter, which is simply related to the shorter daylight hours of the season. Where you have dinner to cook or TV shows to catch up on, your dog will take his cue from the sun and settle down for long winter naps.
Can Dogs Get Seasonal Depression?
According to a 2012 survey by The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a veterinary charity in the United Kingdom, about 40 percent of dog owners noticed a marked downturn in their dog’s mood in the wintertime. There is little research about Seasonal Affective Disorder in dogs, however, and it’s unknown whether the lower light levels and shorter days of winter negatively affects dog moods the same way it can affect people moods.
Dog behavior in cold weather is definitely influenced by your response to wintry conditions, however. If you tend to hibernate in winter, your dog will get less exercise and mental stimulation, which can lead to boredom and destructive behaviors.
Staying active in winter is good for you and your dog. It ensures you both get enough exercise and healthy fresh air. It also exposes you and your dog to daylight, which helps keep your circadian rhythm on track—your own built-in, 24-hour natural waking and sleeping cycle—and improves sleep. To foster outdoor winter adventures, take guidance from the Norwegian phrase ‘there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.’ With cozy, head-to-toe outerwear on hand for yourself, and a warm dog jacket and boots for your dog, frosty weather won’t interfere with walks and games of catch outside.
Do Dogs Hibernate?
No. Dogs are not hibernating animals, but your dog’s energy level can drop because of the shorter days. He also probably enjoys winter snuggles under a blanket after returning from invigorating walks as much as you do.
Dog’s First Snow
Adorable videos of dogs and puppies experiencing snow for the first time abound online. The dogs are usually overwhelmed with joy and excitement. Sometimes they look curious but cautious. Let your dog discover snow at his own pace, whether he bounds through the powder with gusto or watches the snow fall through the back door for a while.
Some dogs always require extra protection in the snow, while others need winter gear only when they’ll be outside for a long winter hike or to chase snowballs in the yard. Breeds with short coats and low body fat, such as Whippets and Bulldogs, need dog coats for even short stints in the cold and snow. Heartier, winter-ready breeds, such as Siberian Huskies and Shiba Inu, can go outdoors without a dog jacket unless they are staying out for more than an hour or so.
When temperatures are freezing, or the ground is snow and ice covered, a pair of dog boots will prevent painful cracking of paw pads, cuts from ice, and burns from the chemicals commonly found in ice melt salt.
The weather uniquely affects your dog’s behavior, mood, energy, and comfort. Learn your dog’s particular sensitivities to various weather conditions, and you’ll be prepared to embrace the changing days with your best friend 24/7/365.