Think your dog doesn’t need to bundle up during the winter? You may need to think again. A lot of pups come with a built-in winter coat, but many of them need extra insulation during chillier seasons and in colder climates. Similarly, in extreme weather conditions of any kind, most pups can benefit from a pair of booties for their tootsies.
Which Dogs Need a Winter Coat?
There are a few things to take into account when deciding if your dog needs a winter coat:
Smaller breeds like Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Pugs, Terriers, and Miniature Pinschers are among the most likely to need a coat during the cold winter months because they have less body fat. Thin breeds with short coats, like Greyhounds and Whippets, also need extra layers when it’s cold out.
The cold-tolerant dogs like Huskies and Newfoundlands have double-layered coats. They are bred specifically to withstand the cold of Northern climates, and often have anatomical, physiological, or behavioral traits that help them deal with cold conditions. For example, in addition to their thick double coats, Huskies sleep with their tails wrapped around their faces to keep their nose and eyes protected from the cold.
Under certain circumstances, even larger breeds accustomed to the cold could use winter coats — if they live in areas with subzero temperatures or if they spend a lot of time outdoors during the winter.
Coat color can also factor into a dog’s ability to handle cold weather — dogs with black or other dark-colored coats can absorb warmth from the sunlight on sunny days, thus making them less susceptible to cold.
Adult dogs are far better at regulating their body heat than puppies or senior dogs, so if your pooch is very young or very old, consider getting them a winter coat.
If your dog has been recently injured or ill, a winter coat might be a good idea while they’re getting better, as they’ll be more vulnerable to colder temperatures.
Dogs with a higher level of body fat are also better protected against the cold. However, if your pup has a few too many extra pounds, it’s better to help them lose the weight and just invest in a winter coat for them than let their extra weight do the work.
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Which Dogs Need Shoes?
Unlike with coats, breed doesn’t really factor into a dog’s need for shoes, since all pups’ paws are exposed to the conditions of whatever ground they’re walking and running on.
When considering if your dog should wear shoes outside, think about whether you would want to go out there barefoot. If it’s nothing but soft grass or sand, you can skip the shoes. If the ground is going to be very cold, very hot, or very rocky — in other words, uncomfortable for your dog’s paw pads — they could do with some shoes.
Additionally, throwing on your dog’s shoes when it’s super rainy or muddy out will make it easier to keep them from tracking a mess into your home — especially if your pup loves splashing in puddles and squishing their toes in the mud.
Shoes are also a good idea with particularly active dogs and senior dogs. If you often take your pooch hunting, hiking, running, or biking, shoes will help protect their sensitive paw pads from long term wear and tear. Senior dogs, meanwhile, can have a tendency to drag their feet when they walk; shoes will help reduce friction on their toes.
Why Dogs Might Need a Winter Coat and Shoes
Just as humans can’t spend too much time out in the cold without some kind of protection, dogs shouldn’t either. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can lead to frostbite and hypothermia, especially in smaller and thinner dogs and dogs with short coats. Frostbite in particular can affect any dog, since no matter the breed, their paw pads and noses will be exposed.
While frostbite is not typically a life-threatening condition, it does often precedes hypothermia, which is very serious business. Hypothermia occurs when a dog’s body can no longer maintain a normal temperature, affecting the central nervous system. It can also affect the cardiovascular, respiratory, and immune systems, in some cases to the point of a coma.
What Kind of Winter Clothes To Get Your Dog
If you decide to get your dog a winter coat, you’ll have numerous options. Fleece and wool are among the most common, but if you live in a snowy or rainy area, you’ll want something water-resistant — essentially a miniature version of a waterproof parka.
If water-resistance isn’t something you need to worry about, you may want to try a sweater on your dog first, as it’ll be easier for them to move around in. This will help them get used to wearing an item of clothing before you move on to a coat, which offers less flexibility.
As far as sizing go, dog coats are sized S, M, L, and XL. Here’s a general guide to what size your dog may need:
• XS - Toy breeds like Chihuahuas, Pugs, and Yorkshire Terriers
• S - Smaller breeds like Beagles and Cocker Spaniels
• M - Mid-size breeds like Border Collies, Bulldogs, Dalmatians
• L - Retrievers and similarly sized dogs like Labs, Boxers, and German Shepherds
• XL - Larger dogs like Akitas, Bloodhounds, and Dobermans
Keep in mind that different shops may use different sizing guides and different breeds have very different body shapes, so be sure to compare your dog’s measurements to the measurements provided by the brand you’re considering. If your dog falls in between two sizes, size up so it doesn’t end up being too tight.
Figuring out the right shoe size for your pooch could be a little trickier, since many dogs may not want to let you hold their paw long enough to get their measurements. To make things a little easier, trace the outline of each paw (including toenails) on a piece of paper to use for measurement. Make sure your dog is standing or sitting so there’s enough pressure on it to make the paw splay out as you trace it; otherwise, the shoes you end up getting will be too small.
In the case of shoes for dogs, there isn’t really a set size guide, so you’ll need to use the sizing guide of whatever company you’ve decided to purchase from. If you’re buying online and won’t be able to try the shoes out on your dog beforehand, it might be worth it to buy a set one size down and another one size up and return whichever two don’t fit.
It’s important the shoes fit snugly, but not too snugly. If they’re too tight they could lead to discomfort for your doggo, and if they’re too big they could make your pooch trip.
Should You Get Your Dog a Winter Coat and Shoes?
If you’re still not sure if you should get a winter coat for your pooch, it’s generally better to be safe than sorry. Try it out for a few walks/play sessions and see if your pup seems more comfortable. You can always set the coat aside if, after a few outings, you feel it’s not benefiting your dog. Plus, winter coat shopping means the added bonus of having a little doggie fashion show!