Dogs and Temperatures: One-Size Does Not Fit All
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, with characteristics that make them unique. From furry arctic breeds with dense undercoats to sleek single-coated breeds and even hairless breeds, each breed has certain traits that allow them to thrive in different climates and environments.
For example, sled dog breeds have a unique circulatory system that allows them to conserve heat and energy when outside in cold temperatures. This is in addition to a dense undercoat that acts as insulation. For many of these breeds, a well-adapted circulatory system also protects their paws from frostbite when outside in the winter. In the same way, their thick double coats also act as insulation against heat in the summer to keep them cool.
Studies demonstrate that each breed is different when it comes to the temperatures it can tolerate. A study of sled dogs at Denali National Park found that a Siberian Husky easily tolerates temperatures well below freezing. Similarly, a Purdue University study of some smaller, short-haired breeds determined that some breeds become uncomfortable under 60 degrees.3 Other research has found that many smaller breeds prefer and can tolerate warmer temperatures better than some larger breeds.
When it comes to regulations, one-size-fits-all temperature requirements often fail to recognize best practices for canine care and can have harmful unintended consequences. What is ideal for one dog may prove dangerous for another. Breed, age, nutrition, health, conditioning, and coat density are all factors that determine temperatures and conditions most appropriate for a dog. When considering regulations on keeping dogs outdoors, there is no set of temperatures or weather parameters that will address every dog and every situation.
No dog should ever be left in conditions that jeopardize its health and safety. However, it’s important to also remember that many breeds by their very nature can thrive in temperatures outside ranges humans may consider comfortable.
When considering legislative or regulatory policy options, the American Kennel Club urges policymakers to consider a broader approach that expressly prohibits dogs from being left in conditions where their health and safety are at risk. In this way, all dogs can be protected -- and still allowed to play, run, and enjoy the weather they love best.
-“The Science of Sled Dogs: Denali National Park and Preserve Teacher Guide”, National Park Service.
- “Temperature Requirements for Dogs”, Purdue University Extension, October 2016.
-“Body size and the daily rhythm of body temperature in dogs”, Journal of Thermal Biology, Vol. 34, Issue 4, May 2009.