When it gets icy outside, we tend to think about winterizing cars and homes. But what about the need to winterize our dogs?
Our beloved canine companions look cute in sweaters, but technically they’re already wearing one coat. Is another layer healthy, or a health risk?
Some Like it Hot (But Others Don’t)
Asking the question “do dogs need coats” doesn’t take into account that our companions vary in shape and size, breeds and background. Just like human wardrobes, the answer is rarely one-size-fits-all.
Short-haired breeds, including hairless dogs, have less insulation against that change in temperature from warm house to winter walk. Picture a Bernese versus a greyhound, or Saint Bernard versus a Chihuahua. You get the idea.
Also, if you clip or shave longer-haired canines (like poodles) you’ve altered their body’s natural protection. A sweater can help compensate.
Acclimation and Age
You might assume a strong Siberian husky is ready for anything, but if they were born and raised in Miami and suddenly moved to Juneau, they’d need time to adjust.
If a dog shivers and is reluctant to go outside, a sweater can be a good way to acclimate them to a changed environment.
Additionally, age and health bring considerations. Heat regulation begins to decline with age, so a sweater can help an older dog enjoy their walk. Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and arthritis affect skin and joints, and a warm sweater can help.
Sweater Versus Sweat
Make sure you’re not doing your dog a disservice. There are health risks for canines sporting warm sweaters they don’t need. Taking them out for exercise works up a lot of heat, and overheating can lead to heat stroke.
Forcing fashion accessories isn’t wise, even if they’re not exerting themselves and simply sitting around the house. Still, if you keep your home at lower temperatures and the humans use blankets to keep warm during winter, some dogs may benefit from an indoor sweater.
Dressed for Success
Once you’ve assessed your dog’s need for additional warmth, it’s time to determine what kind of sweater they should wear.
The first step is measuring your dog, much like you’d tailor your own suit. It should be snug, but overheating is an issue if it’s too tight. If you can’t put it on and take it off easily, there’s a problem.
Some coats and sweaters have sleeves for front legs, but these may be restrictive: your dog should also be able demonstrate their usual range of movement.
Neck and torso need to be measured, as well as the length of the sweater that should probably end at the waist. An overly long coat creates complications when it’s time to do their business. Neither of you will be happy then!
Think wool sweaters are itchy? Your dog might agree. Instead of risking a skin irritant, PetMD recommends a good blend of washable wool and cotton or acrylic. If you’re headed out into wintry weather that’s also rainy and wet, VCA Animal Hospitals also recommends an insulated waterproof coat.
Sporting That Winter Wardrobe
That’s right, one isn’t enough: you probably want a few sweaters or coats…not just for pooch couture, but to avoid daily problems. You’ll have a sweater for dry outing and save the waterproof coat for a rainy day (wet sweaters or coats will actually make a dog colder).
Discovering you forgot to wash a filthy sweater after the last outing means you have a spare, so a couple coats and a couple sweaters will cut it.
And if your canine companion is resisting one outfit for some reason, they might react better to a sweater swap.
Some dogs initially reject clothing in general. If they weren’t acclimated to wearing clothes as a puppy (which is ideal), work your pal in slowly. Reward them in the presence of the clothes, then try them on for brief periods.
Add play and their favorite things during the experience so clothing equals fun. Positive reinforcement and treats should bring them around!
Now that you’re equipped with the basics, it shouldn’t be long before your dog will have the appropriate fashion, temperature, and attitude for a winter of comfort and fun.