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Clothing Optional! Does Your Dog Need a Winter Wardrobe?

The Paw Print

Essential Pet Blog


All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray

I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day

The Mamas & the Papas California Dreamin’

Cold nights and chilly mornings have come to Arizona, so winter must be here. In fact, in speaking with the grandkids in Vermont and watching Midwest weather patterns, I recognize it has arrived in other parts of the country as well. Dogs enjoy spending time outside during cooler winter months, but should they have a winter wardrobe? Does your hound need a cold weather coat or sweater, or a shiny, yellow rain poncho and reflective hoodie? In most cases, the answer is no. Nevertheless, many dog owners are bringing winter dog coats and sweaters out of storage or madly shopping on-line for fashionable winter attire. Below are a few guidelines for choosing canine winter wear.

Generally, temperatures at or above 45°F, or when dogs are outside for 10 minutes or less will not require any special winter gear. However, when temperatures fall below 45°F, some cold-averse breeds can get uncomfortable and need protection. As a general rule of thumb, large dogs with thick, dense coats, like Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies, are well protected from the cold. Dogs that have long hair such as Pomeranians, Chow-Chow, Husky and Great Pyrenees, or those with thick double coats, including Huskies, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, don’t need help keeping themselves warm.

Very small dogs have a harder time retaining body heat and may benefit from a sweater or coat when outside during the winter, especially for extended periods of time. Shorthaired breeds such as Chinese Crested, Chihuahuas and Italian Greyhounds may need cold weather wear. Chihuahuas and French bulldogs don’t generate or retain enough heat to spend a lot of time in the cold. Pembroke Welsh corgis, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds are low to the ground and can be affected by low temperatures. Dogs with lean bodies, including greyhounds, and dogs with close-cropped hair, like poodles, may also benefit from additional layers. Dogs that are very young, underweight, elderly or ill might benefit from coats or sweaters when it’s cold too.

When walking your dog in the winter, don’t forget about their paws. While a jacket can help warm their body, paws need protection from getting wet and cold. Ice melt products spread on roads can also be irritating or toxic if ingested.

Most dogs have enough fur to keep them warm outside during the winter, but if you do purchase outerwear, follow the above suggestions and make sure it is appropriate for your dog’s size and personality. It should fit snug enough to trap body heat, but not so tight to cut off circulation or impair mobility. But whether a coat, sweater or poncho or no outerwear, when all the leaves are brown and the sky is gray, take your dog for a walk on a winter’s day. Also, be sure that you and your pets have a safe and fun holiday season by wearing masks, sanitizing your hands, social distancing and buying something special, like matching ugly Christmas sweaters for both you and your dog.


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a vet and his dogABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Brown holds a Doctorate Degree in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the University of California at Davis, a Master of Science Degree in Animal Science and Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Physiology from the University of California.  Following discharge from the Air Force as a Captain, he owned and operated the largest veterinary hospital on Cape Cod for almost twenty years. Brown is the past President of the Yavapai Humane Society Board of Directors, Branding Committee Chairman for National Animal Supplement Council and member of the American Veterinary Medical Association.  He writes and lectures frequently on the benefits of natural and organic foods and supplements for animals and lives with his wife and a Golden Doodle named Charlotte.

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