In what temperature ranges are Labrador-type dogs comfortable outside?
My wife and I would like to get a dog for our family, specifically, a Labrador-type dog, but we don't want to leave it inside for extended periods. It's not as bad as us both being gone 8AM - 5PM each day, but there are times when it would be several hours.
Dogs, of course, are equipped with built-in fur coats. I wonder, if I built a very nice dog house that was dry, shaded, protected from wind and the elements (pretty much everything except for heated) and had plenty of fresh water, whether it would be comfortable in a wide range of temperatures.
Please cite a reference, actual real-life examples or experiences, or a comparison to similar dogs who live in the wild (versus saying "I think X degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit is too cold").
It really depends on where you live and on the dog (breed/coat, age, health, personality). Each dog is different and has different needs. Some dogs can withstand the cold, but really hate it and should not be forced to endure it.
Puppies should never be exposed to the cold for extended periods. Adult labs will be fine, just make sure to give them extra food during the colder seasons.
An adult lab will be fine outdoors year round, if provided an adequate dog house:
- Large enough for him to stand, turn around, lie down and stretch in
- Not oversized (since it needs to hold your Labrador's body heat to help keep him warm)
- Heavy wind flap on the entrance door
- Nonporous bedding inside
Regarding keeping your dog indoors
Plenty of dogs are fine in the house all day. Any behaviour trouble (destruction of property, potty accidents, etc) is usually the owner's fault and not done out of spite. E.g. dogs don't think "you were away all day, so I'll punish you by peeing on the bed or destroying your shoes". As long as the dog has things to entertain him during the day and gets enough exercise (especially in the morning), he'll be fine. Perhaps consider crate training or restricting him to a space within the house or getting a dog door.
"Adequate dog house" is a key point. The wolf needs a den to trap body heat. Also, "doing fine" and "comfortable" may be different things. On the other hand, see Herriot's description of a farm dog that preferred to sleep outside the front door rather than inside by the fire -- I don't remember the breed, though.
I would also add this to the above list https://inspiredogs.com/do-labradors-get-cold-at-night/
I run a dog rescue in Delaware. This question cannot be answered well without knowing where you live and the varying temperatures. A Lab will generally not do well in more extreme temperatures. Over 27 °C (80 °F) and under about 10 °C (50 °F) for more than a few hours the animal will not be comfortable.
In most climates you either need to provide air conditioning or heat at some point during the year. In Delaware we need to provide both in the hotter part of summer and colder part of winter. For the dogs that spend more time outside we provide kennels in an enclosed building with heating in the winter and shade, fans, and very good ventilation in the summer.
We do not adopt to people who plan to keep their dogs outside because there is no reason to do so. It probably isn't a good time to own a dog if you are not home for extended periods and cannot have someone walk your dog. If you have to be out of the house and you have a dog that chews or is learning to be house trained, you can gate off a laundry room or bathroom so he/she has a comfortable space to stay until you come home.
If you have other questions you should consult a trainer or rescue in your area.
As far as cold if you have a good dog house that they can get out of the wind and rain they can deal with -18 °C (0 °F) or even -29 °C (-20 °F) if they came into the season. Meaning they had time up build up the coat by being outside. If they are outdoor dogs the indoors will be too warm for them in the winter. If they are indoor dogs (no winter coat) then I would not leave them out under 0 °C (32 °F) for long periods. Under 0 °C (32 °F) I pack the dog house with hay. Two dogs will warm each other.
As far heat if they have shade and water they can deal with 37 °C (100 °F). I live in Houston and leave my dogs in a shaded kennel. They have a horse trough they can get in and get wet. Over 32 °C (90 °F) I have shop fan I blow into the dog run.
It is also a duration thing with heat. 4 straight hot days and they will dehydrate. Let them in the house to cool off.
Young and old dogs have more trouble with the heat and cold. I had a lab that lived to 15 and in the last few years even 32 °C (90 °F) was uncomfortable for him so I would leave him in all day.