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4 Questions and Answers About Keeping Your Dog Warm in the Winter

Now that we are deep into the winter months and starting to break out the down parkas and fleece, many dog owners are wondering if they need to invest in a coat or sweater for their pup. Plus, there are so many cute styles of doggie sweaters (that argyle!) and coats (that faux fur-lined parka!) Here are some questions and answers that can help you decide if a sweater or coat is right for your dog.

Question 1: Do all dogs need coats in the winter?

Answer: Not every dog requires extra warmth when going outside during the fall and winter months. Dogs with short hair or thin coats, young puppies, seniors, and dogs with health issues require an extra layer of protection from the elements. Of course, whether or not your dog needs protection also depends upon your local climate. Dogs are more likely to need extra protection in Minneapolis or Boston than in Miami or Los Angeles.

What about large dogs? Many people believe that warm outerwear is mostly for small dogs. Large dogs with a thick coat, such as Siberian Huskies, do not need a coat in the winter. However, some large dogs, such as greyhounds, catch a chill easily, so they will need a sweater or coat. While most sweaters and coats are made for small dogs, some retailers offer them in larger dog sizes.

4 Questions and Answers About Keeping Your Dog Warm in the Winter

Question 2: What is the best type of winterwear for my dog?

Answer: Ideally, the winterwear should cover the dog’s neck and belly, along with covering the back from neck to tail. The sweater or jacket should be snug but not tight so your dog has proper mobility.

Beware any decorative snaps, zippers, or Velcro fasteners that may become entangled in your dog’s fur or rub against their skin. If you have a male dog, make sure the outerwear is designed to not get soiled when he does his business.

Choose a proper coat or sweater weight depending on your climate. Just like human coats, thin insulation for dogs has also come into fashion. You want to make sure the coat will keep your dog warm without overheating them.

Make sure you measure your dog before choosing any item of clothing. Most manufacturers provide measurements for their clothing that include the length of the dog from neck to tail and the girth around their chest. If you are in doubt of any of the measurements, ensure the manufacturer has a good return policy before ordering.

Check this video for more tips on measuring your dog:

Question 3: Will my dog be comfortable wearing winter coats and sweaters?

Answer: While some dogs naturally take to wearing warm winter clothing, other dogs are less comfortable with it. If you don’t know how your dog feels about clothing, try putting it on them when they are inside and wait for a few minutes to see their reaction.

  • If they try to scratch or pull off the item of clothing, take it off and try again on a different day to see if they will tolerate it for longer. You can often build up a dog’s tolerance by increasing the amount of time by a few minutes each day.
  • Some dogs may not tolerate clothes at all. These dogs will “freeze in place” and seem unable to move. If your dog reacts this way, remove the clothing immediately to relieve their discomfort. It is possible that your dog may tolerate a different style of clothing. Some dogs don’t like having their legs restricted, but will tolerate a cape-style jacket that leaves the legs free to move.

4 Questions and Answers About Keeping Your Dog Warm in the Winter

Question 4: Do I need to do anything special to protect my dog’s paws?

Answer: When dogs walk on snow, ice balls can form between the pads and toes of especially furry dogs. This can cause the dog to develop sore paws. To decrease the chance of ice balls during the winter months, keep hair between the pads and toes neatly trimmed.

Another danger to dogs during the winter is the salt used to melt ice on roadways and driveways. Too much salt on your dog’s paws can lead to chemical burns. Try to avoid walking your dog on sidewalks and driveways that are covered in deicing materials.

Additionally, some dogs may lick the salt off their paws or even off your own boots. Store winter footwear out of your dog’s reach, and wipe off your dog’s paws when you come inside from a walk.  

Some dogs will tolerate dog booties to keep their feet free from ice and salt. Frostbite on paws is also a potential issue if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors. Try to do multiple short walks instead of one long walk to decrease your dog’s exposure to cold air.

Do you have any more questions about keeping your dog warm in the winter? Leave a comment below!

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