Some people laugh at the thought of a dog wearing a winter jacket or boots, but these items actually serve an important role in protecting our pets from the elements. Just like humans, they can suffer from hypothermia, and their paw pads can be damaged by ice, snow, salt, and deicing chemicals. Some dog breeds have a nice, thick coat that provides enough insulation to keep them warm outside, but those with a short or thin coat can easily get cold when the temperatures drop. Cold weather can also be hard on smaller breeds, elderly pets, or those who suffer from arthritis.
You can find entire aisles full of dog clothes at your local pet store, but just because they make something, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Some dog apparel serves more as a fashion statement, and when it comes to winter gear you want to pick function over fashion. Here are some helpful tips for choosing winter gear that will keep your pet protected from the elements during the cold winter months.
Choosing the Right Jacket or Sweater
Jackets and sweaters provide a nice layer of warmth on a chilly day. There are different fabrics you can choose from and the thickness can range from a light fleece layer to thick parka-style jackets with insulation. It probably doesn’t hurt to have one of each, especially if you live somewhere where winter temperatures can fluctuate between mild and frigid.
Getting a proper fit is extremely important because you don’t want to restrict your pet’s natural movements or their ability to eliminate waste. You also don’t want something fitting so loose that the fabric hangs off their body or causes the garment to shift around as they walk.
Sizing varies widely between brands, so pay attention to sizing charts and have your dog try the items on in the store, if possible. If you’re ordering a product online, measure the circumference of your dog’s neck, chest, and waist, as well as the length of their body from the base of their neck to the base of their tail, then use those measurements as a guide to order the correct size.
Keep these things in mind when finding the right sweater or jacket for your pet:
- Look for jackets and sweaters that provide sufficient coverage of your pet’s chest and stomach. It helps keep them warmer than something with just a thin band of fabric, and it can help prevent their fur from getting caked with snow and slush.
- Pick sweaters that are a turtleneck style to help prevent them from slipping down your dog’s shoulders as they move. The fabric that goes around their neck should be loose, not tight.
- Look for something with a small opening in the back so you can attach the leash to their harness. Or you can choose a lightweight jacket that will fit under their harness (remember to adjust their harness straps to account for the added thickness of the fabric).
- Keep their activity level in mind. Having too many layers on your dog during vigorous activity can cause them to overheat, so a light- to mid-weight coat is best for those situations.
Finding Dog Boots Based on Fit and Function
Even if your dog doesn’t need to wear a jacket or sweater, they can benefit from foot protection. Dog boots protect paws from cold snow, ice, and salt that can damage sensitive paw pads. There are a lot of great companies that sell durable, high-quality booties that take the shape of a dog’s paw and their ability to walk into consideration, but others seem to be suited for fashion instead of function.
Dog boots that are made to look like tiny tennis shoes might be cute and make for a fun photo, but they can be incredibly uncomfortable for your pet to walk in due to the way they’re designed. When choosing dog boots, always make function your top priority.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind while shopping:
- Measure the width and length of your dog’s paws to make sure you choose the correct size. Boots that are too loose can slip off, and something that’s too tight can make it difficult and painful to walk.
- If boots have a hard sole, make sure it’s flexible and not so heavy that your dog will have a difficult time walking.
- Look for boots with a Velcro strap or elastic that helps prevent the boots from slipping off your dog’s paws.
- Try to stay away from disposable booties. Yes they’re convenient, but you can save money in the long run and help keep unnecessary waste out of landfills by choosing something made to last.
The sensation of having something on their paws will make dogs walk a bit strange or even shake their legs in an attempt to get the boots off. Let them wear the boots around your home for a while so they can adjust before trying them outside on snowy and slippery surfaces.
If your dog doesn’t adjust to wearing boots, an alternative is special balms that moisturize paws and provide a layer of protection from salt and cold surfaces. There are several brands available in stores or you can make your own, just make sure you use pet-safe ingredients in the event they try to lick it off their paws.
When picking out winter gear, keep your dog’s specific needs in mind. What works for one dog might not work so well for another. Take advantage of being able to try the gear on your dog in stores so you can find what works best for your pet. Then get outside and enjoy the beautiful winter weather with your furry friend.
Lead image source: Wikimedia