The best dog for an Alaskan climate is one that comes with his own thick fur coat to keep him warm and cozy while enduring the state's notoriously cold and stormy weather. A pup making his home on The Last Frontier must be able to brave the elements.
When one thinks of dogs living in Alaska, the immediate image is of a Siberian husky pulling a sled. The mystic of the Iditarod, a sled dog race commemorating the 1925 diphtheria serum run to Nome featuring hundreds of teams of these quick, majestic and sturdy dogs, only adds to the theme that the Siberian husky not only adequately survives but also efficiently thrives out in the ice and snow. Named for its region of origin, the Siberian husky is not a particularly large dog, weighing between 35 and 60 pounds. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in a beautiful and warm coat. Winter temperatures in interior Alaska often dip to 75 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, putting the double-layered coats of these hardy dogs to the warmth test. According to the American Kennel Club, the husky has a thicker coat than most breeds of dogs featuring a dense, cashmere-like undercoat working as an insulator and a longer, coarse top coat that sheds moisture. Described by the AKC as a working dog, the husky is an excellent choice for human companions who enjoy outdoor winter sports such as sled racing or skijoring -- a sport in which people ride on cross country skis pulled by dogs.
A cousin to the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan malamute is a direct descendant of Arctic wolves living in the most northern reaches of Alaska. According to Dog Breed Info Center, the Mahlemuit Eskimo peoples began using the dogs for transportation about 3,000 years ago. Since then the Alaskan malamute has become a go-to choice for polar explorers due to the dog's tenacious spirit, keen sense of direction and well-developed sense of smell. It's one of the reasons author Jack London chose to model his lead character Buck after a malamute sled dog in the novel "The Call of the Wild." While the book was set in Canada's Yukon Territory, the similar conditions conquered by malamutes in its plot mirror the environment that dogs living in Alaska often face. The malamute also has the double-layered coat that sheds dirt as well as ice and snow.
This breed is popular anywhere snow is a regular part of the landscape because he can pull up to one and half times his body weight on a loaded sled, according to Pet Place. Known for the beauty of their pure white fur, the Samoyed coat is so thick it is difficult if not impossible to see the dog's skin, especially in the winter months. The resulting Samoyed wool is a favorite of weavers, according to Dog Time, because it results in beautiful and warm clothing.
This is another breed named in part for the region of the world from which he hails: the Canadian eastern seaboard province named Newfoundland and Labrador. While stocks of these hardy, dark-colored dogs most likely came from a combination of Viking explorers and later British colonial settlers, the breed established itself as a dependable worker in the maritime province, helping to haul heavy, fish-laden nets from the sea and to rescue humans fallen overboard, according to Dog Owners Guide. This ability is due to a great lung capacity and the presence of a natural oil in both layers of their fur that adds protection from cold and moisture. While his origins are farther south, the Newfoundland is a welcome addition to the canine population in Alaska, where fishing the state's lakes, rivers and bordering oceans still puts humans in need of a canine companion such as the Newfoundland, which is willing to risk its own life in rescue situations.
- Pet Place: Top Dogs For Cold Climates
- Dog Time: Dog Breeds' Tolerance of Cold Climates
- Terrific Pets: The Best Breeds of Dogs to Stay Outdoors in the Winter
- Dog Breed Center: Cold Weather Dogs
- Dog Breed Info Center: Alaskan Malamute
- American Kennel Club: Breeds: Siberian Husky
- Sled Dog Central: Skijoring Information
- Paw Nation: Dogs: Siberian Husky
- Dog Owner's Guide Profile: The Newfoundland
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.