I am often asked what dogs need to be safe and comfortable in winter. The truth is, this depends on the dog! You need to look at whether your dog is bred to be an outdoor dog in winter or not, is your dog a large breed, small breed or somewhere in between? Also, consider your dogs coat, age and history when deciding what your dog needs.
For example, a large Great Dane still needs a jacket in winter as this breed does not have an undercoat to keep them warm, however a Siberian husky is built for winter and will be perfectly content relaxing in the snow with no jacket at all! That said, I do have my favorites and things that I think are great additions to the canine winter wardrobe!
Let’s talk jackets:
Each dog is different, some will need a light jacket on when you feel it is cool enough to wear one. I personally have a fall jacket and a winter jacket for my own dog. He has short hair and is quite picky about the temperature outside, so it serves us well to keep him warm.
For Ruffwear, consider using their comparison chart to help you determine the best jacket for your dog and the conditions you will use it in. The Powderhound Winter Dog Jacket has a hybrid of synthetic insulation and technical stretch fabric, making it an ideal choice for outdoor activities. While the Vert Dog Coat is waterproof and windproof while remaining breathable for your dog. This is the jacket my own dog wears in winter! Ruffwear has many other coats, so you are bound to find the perfect fit for your canine friend!
Kurgo makes some wonderful coats for dogs as well. For example, the North Country Dog Coat has plenty of creative features to keep your dog warm and comfy in the cold months of Milwaukee winters, and it has an led light for added safety at night. The Portsmouth Foul Weather jacket is built to handle the freezing rains of fall and winter in Milwaukee with a heavy duty, waterproof outer material. It can easily be layered over their Loft jacket for an all season alternative (a bonus is that the Loft jacket comes in a wide variety of colors/patterns so you can find the perfect style for your canine buddy!).
Moving on to Boots/paw supplies:
Milwaukee winters are brutal for our pups pads! Between ice, the cold cement and all the salt used, their poor paws take quite a beating in winter. I recommend a good paw pad balm like Mushers Secret Paw Wax to help protect paw pads and prevent them from drying out. For a local provider, try Alices Garden Dog Paw Balm for sale at Fischbergers Variety.
The goal is to protect the paws and pads of our dogs. The cold weather and salt can dry out the pads, causing tiny cracks which are painful when walking on salt, or in the cold. Boots are great, but you will need time to desensitize your dog to them. I love the Polar Trex boots from Ruffwear for winter. They are a bit more expensive, but have clever features built in like a zippered gaiter over the hook and loop closure to protect it from snow build up, and it offers great traction! The one caveat is that Ruffwear sells their dog boots in pairs- not fours- to accommodate different paw sizes from front to back, so be sure to order two pair.
Pawz Dog Boots come in 7 sizes and provide your dog protection from the salt and cold wet pavement. They can be a little tricky to get on, so practice before needing them, but they are an option for dogs who seem to be able to remove other boots. They also come in a variety of colors so your pooch can express their inner fashionista!
What about the car?
We all love to take our dog to different parks, go sledding, hiking, etc but winter in Wisconsin can be messy! From slushy roads, to muddy hiking trails, our dogs are bound to get messy and who wants that in their car?
I use a hammock from OKMEE in my backseat. It is made of a. scratchproof, waterproof material and has access to seat belts to keep your dog safe while driving. There are several brands and types to choose from on sites such as Chewy and Amazon though, so take a look and find the one that’s right for you! The hammocks protect the seats and interior of the car from any mess your pup might bring in. An added bonus is that they connect to the headrests of the front and rear seats, making installation a breeze and allowing you to store your pets supplies underneath the hammock behind the front seats.
Protecting the interior of our car is only pard of the equation. We also need to be able to keep our dogs safe while we drive. I always recommend a hard side crate for inside the car as my first recommendation. In case of an automobile accident, the dog is safely contained inside and not susceptible to being thrown from the vehicle or worse, getting scared and running away. Also, if there is an accident, your dog will be understandably upset, and possibly injured, being in a hard sided crate allows emergency personnel to safely assist human passengers and to transport your dog to a vet or animal hospital if necessary without risking injury to them. I personally have the Petmate VariKennel in my car, but there are several brands.
For dogs who have crate aversion, they still need to be restrained to keep them safe. Kurgo offers a nice variety of seat belt restraints. These keep your dog safely secured to the seatbelt in case of an emergency.
While you are out having fun:
Winter time is easy to forget to keep your pup hydrated. We think of offering them drinks of water when it’s hot and humid out, but the dry winter air and increased activity means that your dog will require water while out having fun with you too!
Collapsible bowls are convenient and easy to take with you. Some have lids, so you can bring extra food for your dog. Also consider taking water in an insulated water bottle to prevent freezing of the water. We hike with a Hydroflask bottle and love it! Another great option is the IronFlask sports water bottle.
Treats and food are necessary if the fun takes you from home for several hours or if your pup is going to be active for a significant amount of time. Treats are also great for training new behaviors and reinforcing. desired behaviors! Treat pouches are bags that clip your belt or around your waist for hands free carrying of your dogs treats without stuffing your pockets.
I love the RoyalCare silicone treat pouch. It’s small, lightweight, comes in a variety of colors and has a magnetic closure. For those wanting more carrying capacity, I recommend the PetSafe standard treat pouch. The pouch is larger, has a hinge closure that allows the pouch to remain open, but close quickly if needed. It also has an extra pocket for waste bags and other small supplies.
With winter just around the corner, now is the time to get your pets winter gear together. I hope you found some new equipment and supplies in this guide. The most important thing to remember is to have fun and be safe!