As we discussed last time, there are many reasons why dogs love snow, but then…
You look down at your own dog. A wonderful companion. Loved and loving. But not a lover of snow. It’s true; not all dogs want to nose dive (again and again) into white winter powder. I asked a few canine science experts why some dogs would run in joyful circles if they never saw snow again.
Alexandra Horowitz: A transformed world
"What, not like snow? Putting aside the nasty accoutrements of snow—painful salt, slippery and sharp ice—there might be reasons for this. Think of how transformed the world is for the dog when it snows: its surface, its smells, its feel underfoot or on-body. While these aspects of the snow world make it riotous fun for many dogs, the same aspects might be challenging for others. A small dog might be swallowed by a snow drift; a light-coated dog is freezing. For a fearful dog, hesitant about the outside, snow means the world is transformed—but they were just getting used to it as it was, thank you."
Paul McGreevy: Snowballing, belly-cooling and backache
"While almost all dogs are supreme opportunists and fun-loving missiles, some learn that snow is not all it’s cracked up to be. These are the dogs who are simply not built for the challenge of moving through snow.
"Short dogs with short hair have bald bellies that, in snow of sufficient depth, very quickly become chilled. Extended periods in snow make them especially vulnerable to hypothermia.
"Sometimes long hair can be the problem. Spaniels and collies with long, fluffy hair between their pads are the first to ice up. They can end up with snowballs that push the pads apart in awkward directions. For dogs with osteoarthritis, this pad pushing can be painful. Carefully trimming the inter-digital hair makes a world of difference for these dogs.
"And finally, there are the lovable achondroplastic dwarf dogs, such as dachshunds and basset hounds, that quickly become tired in snow. With its extended period of suspension, the canter is the preferred gait for covering ground and bounding through deep snow for all dogs. However, with their typically long backs and short legs, these breeds can find cantering harder work than other breeds do.
"So, while they are no less full of fun, some dogs’ makes and shapes are literally game-changers."
Stephen Zawistowski: Let me count the ways
"There are probably many reasons why some dogs don't like snow. Many small breeds probably have trouble with thermoregulation (staying warm), and snow is cold and uncomfortable. Other dogs don't do well with change. While novelty is usually the spice of life, some individuals have a hard time with the sudden change due to a snowfall. How a dog reacts to snow may also change with age. Older dogs that have started to show declines in vision, hearing and probably scenting may find that snow now further obscures the world for them. How dogs react may also be a function of the type of snow. Like skiers, I think dogs tend to enjoy light, powdery snow. Wet, icy, crusty snow is more likely to clump up and freeze between their toes and be uncomfortable or painful. Dogs that have suffered frostbite on their feet and toes may be more sensitive to the cold and try to avoid snow and cold."
Patricia McConnell: Ouch!
"It hurts. I learned that myself when it snowed in Tucson, Arizona for the first time in my nine-year old, saguaro-cactus, desert-bred life. I went out, bare-handed, to make a snowman and returned to the house bawling, while squealing, “It’s burning me, it’s burning me!” Who knew that something cold could feel like fire. Perhaps this anthropomorphizing isn’t useful, but I do suspect that some dogs simply don’t like cold stuff on their paws. However, I should add that up here in the frozen north, where it is often substantially warmer in one’s freezer than it is outside, it seems to be very low temperatures or rain that bothers dogs the most. I see far more dogs who won’t go outside in the rain than won’t go outside in snow. But then, of course, there’s the 'sink into the snow over your head phenomenon' for small dogs. We really do need to teach dogs to shovel for themselves..."
Patricia B. McConnell, PhD, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (Blog, Facebook), Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Author of The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs (Ballantine Books)
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The above canine science experts reach both academic and general audiences. I recommend looking into their books and writings if you are not already familiar.
Related post: Why Do Dogs Love Snow?
Image: Bambe1964 via Flickr creative commons license.