Labradors are one of the most popular breeds around the world. But how do Labs handle the cold? Do Labs get cold? Do they thrive in winter?
As a dog expert, I get asked often by readers about how certain breeds will cope in different weather. These are not silly questions! We all want our best friends to be comfortable.
A lot of owners worry about Labradors and if they can handle cold, specifically winter. If you are trying to find out if your labrador can take winter and how to care for it during the cooler seasons, we’ve got the answers!
In this article we cover
- Do Labradors enjoy winter?
- How the double coat keeps Labs warm
- How cold is TOO cold for a Labrador?
- And tips to manage particularly cold winters
Labradors don’t usually get cold during winter because they are historically winter dogs. However, just like other dogs, labradors can also experience frostbite and hypothermia. You should keep your pet inside and warm once the temperature goes below 20°F.
Most labrador owners aren’t well-versed in keeping their labradors healthy and warm. In this article, we will show you why labradors are good with cold weather, tell you about their coats, and how to take care of them.
Do Labradors Enjoy Winter?
Labradors are originally from Newfoundland. They were first known as lesser Newfoundland dogs and St. John’s dogs.
Canada is a cold country, and Newfoundland island’s average summer temperature is 61°F, while it is about 32°F in the winter. British fishers owned labradors and made use of them as swimming and fishing dogs.
Labradors are comfortable in cold climates, and they have the right build for it as well. They tend to enjoy the cold weather! Labradors live for taking walks during the cold, swimming, and playing outside.
Even though they are fond of snow and were bred for cold weather, they can still have hypothermia and are still susceptible to the cold.
The Labrador’s Double Coat
Most labrador owners complain about how much fur they shed, but they don’t know what the fur is for. The labrador has what is called a double coat: a soft and thick undercoat and a topcoat.
The upper layer is known as the topcoat or the guard. It consists of glossy, rough hair that keeps the undercoat protected from the environment. The undercoat is the reason your labrador enjoys the cold; its soft and silky nature keeps your dog warm and protected.
The undercoat also keeps your labrador dry, even when it’s swimming. This means that cold weather and water won’t be able to touch your labrador’s skin. You should never shave your labrador because although it will grow back, its fur won’t serve the same function as the original one.
What Temperature is Too Cold for a Labrador?
There is no specific temperature that is too cold for all labradors because of their different ages, but as a rule of thumb, you should keep your labrador protected once the temperature goes lower than 35°F. Even dogs with double coats start to feel a little cold once the temperature falls below 20°F.
Wind chill is an important factor to consider if you and your dog are outside during winter. To understand better, read this example:
Your dog might not feel cold with a temperature of 24°F, but if there is a chilly wind, your dog will feel it directly on its skin, which will make it feel cold. [How to tell if your dog is cold]
How Cold Weather Affects Labradors of Different Ages
Puppies and old labradors are the most susceptible to cold. Although puppies are healthy and more energetic, they are also still weak, which means they are slightly more prone to diseases.
Older dogs are usually less energetic and have weak immune systems, which means they tend to fall sick more easily. You should always make sure to take precautions against your dog having hypothermia or frostbite.
Pay special attention to sick labradors because they are already immunocompromised and will be more susceptible to diseases. You should always try to keep your ill and old dogs safe and warm, especially during the winter.
Should Labradors Sleep Outside During the Winter?
The answer depends on each labrador because they all have different levels of health and tolerance. Some labradors might be able to sleep outside without falling sick, while others might even develop hypothermia!
Labradors being able to handle sleeping outside depends on the following factors:
- Damp fur: If your labrador has wet fur from bathing or going swimming, it’s better to keep it inside to prevent it from catching a cold.
- Age: Very young and old labradors are more susceptible to the cold and shouldn’t be left to sleep outside.
- Weight: Fatter labradors tend to be more comfortable sleeping outside. This is because fat is an excellent insulator against cold weather.
- Sickness: If your labrador is sick, you should keep it inside and take care of it, making sure it is warm.
- Cloud coverage: Clear nights are usually colder than cloudy ones.
- Conditioning: If your dog is used to staying outside during cold weather, it will be able to sleep in the cold without falling sick. (Thought expect some cold ears!)
How to Care for Your Labrador During Winter
Here are some ways every labrador owner can take care of their pet during the winter season:
Use an Insulated Kennel
Keeping your dog in an insulated kennel is a great way of making sure it doesn’t catch a cold or fall ill because of the weather. You can buy a durable and insulated kennel to make sure your dog is warm and comfortable.
A good kennel keeps your dog warm during the winter and cool during the summer. It should be comfortable enough for your dog to sleep and be insulated, so your dog doesn’t lose body heat to its surroundings. It should also be spacious, so your dog doesn’t feel cramped or claustrophobic.
Reduce the Time Your Lab Spends Outside
Regardless of if your dog spends a lot of time outside or not, you should limit it. Spending an extended period outside can make your dog more susceptible to diseases and can lead to issues like hypothermia and frostbite.
Provide Your Dog With Healthy Food and Lots of Water
When you shiver, you burn more calories than when you sit still. You should give your dog more food and water during winter to bulk up its immunity and compensate for the extra calories it is burning.
Winter makes dogs get dehydrated easily, so make sure yours always has access to fresh drinking water. Try to make sure the water isn’t too cold so you don’t trigger issues with your dog’s system and the environment.
Take Your Dog for a Winter Checkup
You should take your labrador for a checkup before winter starts. This will help you know how exactly it is feeling and where it stands health-wise. It will also bring any health conditions your dog has to light, which will give you an idea of what steps to take during winter.
For Dogs that Spend Lots of Time Outside
If your dog spends a lot of time outside, you should make sure it is always well-fed, hydrated, and warm. You should dress it in protective gear such as coats, scarves, and sweaters.
Here are some other things to do:
Dress Them in Winter Protective Gear
You can dress your dog in protective gear to make sure it is warm. Make sure its chest and feet are covered because they are the most sensitive parts of your dog’s body.
Keep an Eye out for Frostbite
Frostbite happens when the body’s extremities freeze as a result of low temperatures and lack of heat. Even your labrador, with its double coat, is still susceptible to frostbite.
You should avoid leaving your dog outside for long periods without protection to make sure it doesn’t suffer from frostbite. If your dog is going out, make sure it is warm and well protected. Dogs with heart diseases, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses are more susceptible to frostbite.
Labradors are cold-weather dogs, but they still need to be protected. Make sure to pay special attention to your older and very young labradors to make sure the cold isn’t affecting them too much.
It is always better to be safe than sorry, so take protective measures before your labrador falls sick.