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Dog Winter Gear: Does Your Dog Need to Bundle Up?

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Longhaired Dachshund dog red color runs with the ball in his mouth with the snow

Guess what, folks! It’s getting cold! Winter is slowly wrapping it’s frigid fingers around us here in the north east. I know I’m not ready, is your dog winter ready? Believe it or not, but all dogs weren’t made to handle to colder climates and need a little help to get them through. Dog winter gear, jackets, hats, and boots, have become more and more advance and you can now find them to fit all sizes of dog. So, how do you know if your dog needs to bundle up or not?

I’ve probably mentioned this a few times, but our family owns golden retrievers, three actually. Our dogs absolutely adore the winter! They love playing in the snow, rolling around, digging, having a snowball war. If it involves snow they are down! And that’s great when they’re young, but I have found as they get older, they get cold too.

Lily was our last older dog. Sadly, we had to put her down last August. She couldn’t walk anymore because of an old ACL injury which had finally caught up with her. She loved winter the most out of everyone, I think. But as she got older, even though she still had a thick coat of fur, she would start shivering. I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold, so we never stay out long, maybe 10 minutes at a time. That is NOTHING to a double coated dog breed normally, but she just couldn’t take the cold anymore.

How Do You Know Your Dog Is Cold?

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Dogs don’t like to show weakness, so you have to read subtle body ques. While you’re out romping in the snow keep checking the temperature of your pup’s ears. As your dog gets colder their body is working hard to maintain temperature, to do this the blood is concentrated away from the extremities. The ears are not only removed from the rest of the body, but they lack fat reserves for insulation making them a great indicator of your dogs condition in the cold. Other signs that your dog is getting cold are shivering, trembling, or picking up their feet funny.

Dogs That Need Winter Protection

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Not every dog has the built in cozy coat of a husky. As I said earlier, some dogs handle the cold worse than others. Here are some specifics to consider when deciding if your dog needs a little winter help.

  • Small dogs aren’t able to generate and maintain the body heat needed to stay warm.
  • Short-legged breeds, like basset hounds and corgis, have bodies that lay closer to the ground. Their body heat is literally absorbed quicker by the cold ground, it’s actually the 2nd law of thermodynamics, heat flows from a warm body to a cold, it’s why ice melts and why these breeds get colder faster.
  • Lean body breeds, like greyhounds, whippets, and even pitbulls, don’t have the fat reserves to insulate against the heat loss.
  • Clipped dogs that naturally have a long thick coat, think poodles, have lost their natural cold barrier and will need a little help to stay comfortable during the cold outings.
  • Senior dogs, like our Lily, don’t regulate their temperature as well as they did when they were young. It’s just a fact of getting older, your body doesn’t work like it used to. Because of this a little helping hand will keep them more comfortable on their winter walks.
  • Heavy coated breeds can get ice build up on their furry feet so they either need to be kept trimmed or use boots for protection.

Winter Gear to Keep Your Dog Warm

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“Golden retriever decked out in winter gear. Snow boots to keep his paws dry, back pack to carry essentials and halti gentle leader on his face. Taken on the prairies in Manitoba Canada.”

You wouldn’t go play in the snow without your winter jacket, hat, or boots (Well, my husband might). Unless you have a furry monster, like a husky, your dog shouldn’t either. A jacket will keep his core insulated and warmer, a hat will protect ears from chill, and boots will help prevent ice balls accumulating between his poor little toes.

Choosing Winter Gear

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Function Over Fashion

There is always a strong distinction between performance and fashion. You always want to err on the side of performance to keep your dog warm. Many of the bells and whistles on the fashion coats actually pose a potential injury risk to your pup. Dangly strings, zippers, buttons, even those cute pompom balls can cause your dog to choke or get hung up on objects outside.

Perfect Performance

Proper winter gear for your dog needs to provide warmth and protection from the elements. Materials like cotton or wool are better insulters keeping your pooch warmer. You don’t want any of the gear to absorb moisture while your dog rolls or is snowed on, so a waterproof exterior is important. A jacket should cover him from the base of his neck to his tail, but not interfere with the potty process. It goes without saying, but winter jackets should protect the belly as well.

Should your dog bundle up for the winter? If he gets cold easily, the answer is a resounding YES! Outside play is just as important to keeping your dogs conditioning as summer play. So, you most definitely want him to be as comfortable as possible while he’s outside playing or doing his business.

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