Why do dogs like snow? Maybe it shows they have something in common with us humans.
Any dog owner will be familiar with the sight of their best friend going outside and finding something different about the neighbourhood that wasn’t there yesterday.
Few things delight our canine friends more, than when the night before has brought snow. But what exactly do dogs love so much about the change in weather?
Many experts agree that dogs and humans might not be so different, in that regard.Just as humans – particularly children – can often see the snowy landscape as an adventurous wonderland to play in for hours on end – the same can be true of dogs.
However, the great fun that is to be had in the snow, might not be the only reason dogs enjoy it so much, as we will find out shortly.
Why dogs like the snow
Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell, spoke about the simple joy all animals might feel when their regular environment is suddenly visited by snow. She said the snow is new and different and it turns the world into one big playroom for animals that love to play.
Gordon Burghardt is the author of – The Genesis of Animal Play: Testing the Limits.
He agrees that animals really enjoy frolicking in the snow, and thinks it relates to the sensory qualities it can bring, and the bracing effects of cold weather.
Burghardt’s fellow author, Alexandra Horowitz, wrote Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. She said:
“The question of ‘why’ is a bit imponderable, but if I must ponder I’d say that here, dogs might be more like us than we’d expect: there is a pleasure in a changed landscape, a topography re-shaped by fallen snow.
“Dogs like the ‘new’, of course, and what could be more new than their entire world covered with this icy blanket? Smell is changed, too, and we can for a moment see some of the otherwise invisible markings (like tracks or urine) which are so engaging for dogs.”
Another reason many experts believe dogs enjoy the snow so much, is the wealth of new information that is suddenly on the ground.
A dog’s sense of smell can be anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than a human’s.
This means that they get a huge amount of information from the things they smell.
John Bradshaw, is the author of Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior, Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet.
He says that snow changes the sensory characteristics of everything it touches, from visual appearance to scent.
This means that snow can renew a dog’s interest in its familiar surroundings, which, in turn, switches on their exploratory behaviour.
Its not only a dog’s sense of smell that stokes their interest – the feel of the snow on their paws is also a source of fascination to them.
Horowitz added: “More than anything, I suspect that the very sensation of snow on the body is engaging for dogs. Have you ever run through the shallow waves of the sea? Why does kicking up sand and seawater make us happy? I can’t say. But it is clear that it does.
“While on snow: research found that dogs have exceptionally good venous anatomy in their paws, which leads them to do better in the snow than we might think (more blood flow and warmer toes).”
So, there you have it. It seems dogs enjoy the fun of a different environment as well, as becoming fascinated, by a new world to explore.
More on dogs from Scientific American