What Snow Does To Dogs

Is yours more energetic and less attentive?
By Karen B. London PhD, February 2011, Updated February 2021
snow changes dog behavior

As strong as the kinship is that we share with dogs, this year’s nutty winter storms have hit members of both species differently in many cases. Most of the human inhabitants of the US are already completely sick of the snow. They are tired of shoveling, and clearing off their cars, and being stuck on the roads. Many dogs seem to fell differently. Snow is fun for most dogs, and, along with cooler winter temperatures, it really changes them. One of the most obvious changes is that dogs are more energetic, especially when they are outdoors.

That extra energy can be a good thing. The extra exercise is great for dogs who join you on any skiing or snowshoeing adventures. And you probably have company while shoveling snow. People shovel the snow and dogs try to catch it as it flies by to the piles. And I love it when a dog is happily tired in the evenings after a day of outdoor snow adventures.

However, if your dog is super peppy because of the snow and crisp air, it can be exhausting if the snow does not make you similarly inclined to be more playful and full of joy. It’s not ideal when dogs are invigorated by the weather but their people consider winter storms an inspiration to sip hot cocoa while reading a good book in front of the fire.

Energetic dogs are more likely to misbehave with destructive chewing, barking, whining, chasing the cat, and any of a number of undesirable actions that result from being full of energy with no outlet for it. When they do go outside, they may be less responsive because they are so distracted.

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The way that snow changes many dogs is a big deal this winter since so much of the country is experiencing extreme and even record-setting amounts of snow. The more you are able to follow your dog’s lead and enjoy the snow, the less tedious and stressful your wait for spring will be.

How has the snow affected your dog?

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life