Many dog owners have taken their dogs outside during the recent polar vortex and snowstorms only to shake their heads (and the rest of their frozen body parts) at how happy their canines were to see the snow. Some dogs take it well beyond just happiness and jumping up to catch some snowflakes; certain dogs just love to bound, run and roll in the white stuff.
Rafi, a black Labrador retriever, is one of many dogs who go all out when winter arrives. In the video below, Rafi lets loose as soon as he is taken off leash. He races through the snow, and drops down to roll through the cold, wet precipitation, making sure to get both sides of his body. Why do some dogs exhibit this type of behavior in the snow?
The answer may be as simple as snow is fun for dogs to play with. "Dogs like to manipulate their environment," says Stanley Coren, a scientist and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and and an expert in canine psychology. "They will play in pile of leaves, just like the way kids do – the mind of a dog is very much like that of a 2-year-old. They will roll and bounce in it – it's really the fun of manipulating something. It is essentially play behavior."
Not every dog will engage in this behavior, however. Dogs who have thicker coats, such as Siberian Huskies or retrievers, were bred to live in cold, snowy, wet conditions; therefore, they are more likely to revel in the snow. Even though they were built for these conditions, many thick-coated dogs will roll and cover themselves in the snow simply because it is fun and enriching.
Then again, dogs in more temperate climates who rarely get the chance to enjoy snow may immerse themselves in the newness of it. The new smells, scents, tracks and environment are stimulating and entertaining to a dog. "Many animals from temperate areas seem to really enjoy frolicking in the snow. I think it relates to the sensory qualities of snow and the bracing effects of cold weather," notes George M. Burghardt, a psychology professor from the University of Tennessee.
If you are worried about the snow and cold getting caught in your dog's paws or being too frigid for his well-being, keep in mind his genetic makeup. Dog owners might be shivering out in the snow with their canines, but that does not necessarily mean that the dog is too cold. John Bradshaw of the University at Bristol states that "dogs' ability to turn up their metabolism as the temperature falls means that snow will cause them far less discomfort than it can do for us!"
Many dogs, such as Rafi in his viral video, find a snowy landscape to be too fascinating and fun to pass up. Keep that good thought in mind the next time you are in the bitter cold watching your dog dance and roll around in the snow, wishing he would hurry up. Your dog is having a wonderful time being a dog.