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Do Labradors Like Winter?
To understand how Labradors deal with cold, we need to look at their history. While the breed's name might suggest that they originated in Labrador, Canada, they first came about in Newfoundland in the 16th century. Labradors were initially known as the St. John's or the lesser Newfoundland dogs. They were imported to England in the early 19th century.
Canada is known to be very cold. The average summer temperature in the island of Newfoundland is 61 °F (16 °C), and during winter, it is around 32 °F (0 °C). Fishers from Britain owned these dogs and trained them to help with fishing. They grew up swimming in icy water, being an active part of the fishing industry.
Labradors would pull in nets filled with fishes, and they would also jump in freezing water to catch the fishes that had fallen off the hooks. Labs were perfect for this job because their double coat repelled cold water, and they were also excellent swimmers, thanks to their webbed paws.
As you can see, this breed is naturally comfortable in cold climates. Labradors not only have a high tolerance for winter, but they actually enjoy frosty weather. Taking a walk or playing outside, even when it is cold, is what they do! Their origin also explains why they are eager to jump in and start swimming whenever they can.
However, even though Labradors are fond of snow, they can suffer from hypothermia or frostbite if they are over-exposed to cold temperatures (more on that later).
Related article: What is the Ideal Temperature for a Labrador?
Do Labradors Get a Winter Coat?
Now that you know Labradors don't mind the cold at all, you might be wondering what makes them tolerate winter so well. The answer is that they have a cold-resistant, magical double coat. This double coat not only keeps them warm in winter but also keeps them cool in summer. We can say that Labradors are "well-insulated."
The top layer of a Labrador's coat is called the Guard or the Topcoat. It is typically rougher than the Undercoat. While the Topcoat is water-proof, it is the Undercoat that does the magic. It produces an oily residue that allows your Labrador's fur to repel water so that the skin stays dry even while swimming.
This is why nobody recommends shaving your Labrador. Shaving takes away the crucial insulation from heat and cold. Their double-coat also explains why it is not recommended to bathe your Labrador regularly. Bathing will only remove the natural protective oils, leaving the coat dry and flaky.
If you've ever owned a Labrador, chances are, at some point, you must've felt frustrated by all the shedding. Many Lab owners complain about how much they shed. Little do they know that this double coat is what makes Labradors do well in a cold environment. However, this double coat also makes you clean all the fur from your clothes and furniture.
Although Labradors shed throughout the year, they have a biannual molt the first just before winter and the other in spring. As winter approaches and the temperature falls, Labradors shed their summer coat and grow a thicker, warmer coat for the winter. And during the spring molt, the winter coat is shed. A new one replaces it for the summer.
Do Labradors Need Jackets in Winter?
After the discussion we've had so far, some questions still remain: when is it too cold for Labradors? Should your Lab be wearing a jacket in winter?
The usual consensus among dog experts is that Labradors don't need jackets or coats for winter. They can easily stay outside as long as the temperature stays above 20 °F (-7 °C). Anything below that and your Lab will eventually get cold. It's recommended to take your dog indoors if that happens.
However, there are other factors to consider, as well. Labradors' cold tolerance is influenced by their general health, age, how accustomed the dog is to the outside, and their Undercoat density.
If you're not cautious, your pet may become hypothermic. So it's better to look out for signs of discomfort in your dog and have a winter coat handy. I like the Kuoser Cozy Cold Weather Dog Jacket. It is available in 9 sizes and colors, allowing you to buy the perfect one for your pet. It is also lightweight, water-repellant, and windproof. This means your Labrador will stay warm without feeling anything.
How Do I Know if My Labrador Is Cold at Night?
Even though your dog will probably handle the cold just fine if he's healthy, you should watch out for signs indicating that your pet may be getting uncomfortable in the cold. Once you have lived with your dog long enough, you'll be able to sense when there's something wrong with him whether he's angry, sad, sick, or cold.
However, there are a few signs that you should look for to make sure your Labrador isn't cold:
- Shaking or shivering
- Barking or whining
- Seeking places for shelter
- Not wanting to walk
- Becoming visibly uncomfortable or anxious
- Having a hunched posture with a tucked tail
- Lifting paws off the ground
Ignoring these signs will lead to your pet becoming hypothermic. It is a condition in which the body temperature drops to an abnormally low level. If left untreated, it can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Here are a few signs of hypothermia:
- Weakness and lethargy
- Slow and shallow breathing
- Fixed and dilated pupils
- Falling unconscious
- Lack of mental attentiveness
If you suspect that your dog is hypothermic, do not panic. Dogs can easily pick up on the tense vibe, and it may cause them to become stressed themselves. So if you want to help your pet as best as you can, you have to stay calm. Immediately wrap the animal in a coat or a blanket. Then, place him in a warm shelter as soon as possible. You can also consult your vet and ask for advice.
The cute and cuddly Labradors can handle winter really well as their ancestors used to swim in freezing waters to help their owners. Thanks to their thick double coat, their bodies stay warm even in icy environments. Their Undercoat provides natural insulation from winter and helps maintain body temperature during winter.
So if your dog is adult and healthy, you probably won't have to worry about cold temperatures. However, it never hurts to have a sweater in your home just if you notice that your dog is cold or uncomfortable due to the weather. To help you spot that, we've also discussed several signs that indicate your dog is cold or hypothermic.
About THE AUTHOR
Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.Read more about Mark Brunson