Protecting our Pups from the Winter Cold and Snow

While those of us in Southeast Wisconsin can likely agree we’ve had a mild start to the winter season, we know not to get too comfortable as it’s just a matter of time until we get our first heavy snowstorm of the season. This is Wisconsin, after all. As I searched the back of my closet for my winter coat earlier this year when we had one small tease of snowfall, I realized it was time to get myself a new jacket. But dog moms and dads alike can’t forget about our beloved dogs who may need some extra protection from the blistery weather that’s to come this season, too!

Depending on your dog’s breed, size, coat and temperament, you may want to get a winter coat and possibly some booties for your dog to protect them from the snow, cold and extreme outer elements we face here in Wisconsin. And while not all dogs need to have outerwear, it’s a good idea to consider your dog’s needs and extra requirements that may come with the colder temperatures.

If you’re finding yourself struggling to get your pup the exercise and outdoor air he needs this winter season, let us know! We are happy to bundle up and take your pup on a daily walk or help pet-sit in your home whenever you need an extra hand! If you’re interested in learning more about our in-home pet sitting and dog walking services, reach out today!

So how do I know if my dog needs to wear winter gear, you ask? We have some tips on determining just what your pup needs this winter season! Here are some thoughts to consider.

Dog’s Breed

While not all dogs will need to wear winter gear, many breeds such as dachshunds and Yorkshire terriers will benefit from the additional warmth of a cozy winter jacket. Dachshunds in particular have thin winter coats that won’t protect them from the cold temperatures, and their short legs make it hard for them to walk or run through deep snow drifts. Yorkshire terriers are also especially challenged during winter weather. Their short height also makes it hard for them to get through thick snow, and when they do, their hair may become matted and tangled. The Chihuahua and other breeds with thin coats and/or short hair will also benefit from the warmth of outerwear, while breeds such as a St. Bernard or Siberian Husky, with their thick, dense coats, will not need the additional protections of outerwear since their natural, thick coats already keep them well protected.

Dog’s Health Status

Senior dogs and puppies, and dogs with certain medical conditions, especially those with weakened immune systems, should wear extra protection in the colder temperatures. Dogs with diseases such as hypothyroidism, which can impair or decrease your dog’s hair growth, are more susceptible to the cold weather elements. If you are unsure of your dog’s specific needs in colder weather, be sure to check with your dog’s vet.

Dog’s Size

While it may seem obvious that larger dogs wouldn’t need outwear protection, this isn’t always the case. There are many “large” dogs that don’t necessarily have a thick coat. Think of greyhounds, for example. While they are large, they actually tend to be more sensitive to colder temperatures and would probably appreciate the comfort and extra warmth that a jacket or sweater would provide.

On the flip side, many small dogs have a hard time simply navigating through the thick snow on top of being unable to maintain their body heat. Their thin coats and lack of extra body fat put them at higher risk of hypothermia. And these smaller dogs also may find themselves sinking into the deep snow, becoming trapped as many don’t have the strength or height to push through. Because of their small size, they are also more likely to feel the snow and ice beneath them. These smaller pups will feel warmer and more comfortable in a cozy sweater or jacket to protect their little bodies from the snow beneath them.

Outside Temperature

If the temperature is around 45 degrees or above, your dog likely will be fine without any outerwear. However, a good rule of thumb is to consider your own temperature. If you feel cold, chances are your dog is, too. And even if you think your dog can “tough” it out, he would probably be more comfortable with a coat or sweater on if you are also more comfortable with a coat or sweater. It’s also important to consider the amount of time you will be outside. Spending ten minutes or less outdoors may not require outerwear for your pup, but any longer than that and you will want to get him bundled up, too!

Check with your vet if you have questions about the specific breed of your dog and what extra precautions you can take to protect your pup from the winter weather. Each dog’s needs and requirements should be assessed and determined separately.

Tips for Choosing the Right Outerwear

Once you’ve determined if your dog needs outerwear protection, it’s a good idea to do some research! I don’t know about you, but when I make a purchase for myself and my family, I like to know the item is of good quality and will last me and my family through more than just one season. When looking into what outerwear to purchase, you’ll want to take into account the quality of the fabric, fabric choice, ease of wear, size, and whether to choose a sweater or jacket, among other options. While these are all up to your personal preference, we suggest going with a material that is water-resistant and easy to care for. There are a few additional things you can do to be sure you purchase the right outerwear for your pup.

Before going shopping, take a measurement of your dog so you know what size outerwear to buy. You can use a tape measure and measure from the base of the dog’s neck (where a collar would be) to the base of the tail. You may also want to measure the size of your dog’s chest so you don’t buy a coat that will be too loose or too tight. (It’s important that your dog will be able to move, walk and run freely even with his jacket on). You should also have a general idea of your dog’s weight to help choose the correct size outerwear. However, what’s even better is taking your dog with you to choose out his new digs!

Since fitting outerwear for your pup can be harder than buying clothing for yourself, bring your dog with you, if possible! Trying before buying can save you a trip back to the store if the item was to not fit properly or happens to be a fabric your pup doesn’t agree with. Additionally, some stores may not accept returns on outerwear for pets, so having your pup along for proper fit will help ensure you buy the correct item the first time around.

When choosing outerwear for your beloved pet, look for apparel that will cover the neck and upper chest to ensure he is getting the ultimate protection from the cold. Another good rule of thumb is for the sweater or jacket to end around the waist, as to not cover the lower belly area of your pup. To keep your dog as comfortable as possible, keep your pup’s legs free, too, so he can easily walk, run, and of course, relieve himself!

Additionally, when checking the sizing of the clothing for your pup, look for pieces that are easy to put on and take off and that won’t be too difficult to squeeze over your dog’s head (but that your pup also can’t tug or take off by himself). And be aware of any extra zippers, strings or snaps that may irritate your pup’s skin. Some outerwear may also be too bulky, which can drag on the floor or get caught easily on branches or other items, so make sure it is snug enough without being too tight.

As you observe your dog wearing his new outerwear, check for signs that he is uncomfortable in his new digs. If you see him excessively panting, scratching at his clothes or any other noticeable changes in their behavior, it may be a signal that he is uncomfortable in the new apparel. Try on a few different options when shopping for your pup’s outerwear to choose gear that is not only practical but comfortable for your pup.

Tips for the Dogs that Refuse to Wear Outerwear

After all of that, some of you may come to learn that your pup just isn’t having it! No matter how many pieces you try on, you might not find one that your dog will tolerate.

Unfortunately, not all dogs know what is best for them, so it is not uncommon for some dogs to simply refuse to wear any type of clothing. If this happens to you and your pup, there may not be anything you can do. You can however, at least try to help change your dog’s perception of the winter gear.

While it may be best to introduce outwear and clothing to your dog as a puppy, we know this isn’t always possible. Try letting your pup sniff and “check out” the clothing to get used to it before trying it on. You can also try setting out some treats on or near the outerwear to help your pup get accustomed to their new outerwear. Using praise and rewarding with small treats may also help when introducing new items.

If your dog still refuses, you will want to be extra diligent in watching your dog’s cues while outside that may let you know he is getting too cold. If your dog begins to shiver, hold up their paw, or whine to you, it may mean he is much too cold and needs to go back inside. Pay close attention to his cues; just as we are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite, our dogs can be, too. Shorten the time you spend outside in colder temperatures, especially when below freezing to help prevent these serious risks from occurring.

Are you worried your dog is spending too much time indoors, especially during the colder winter months? Reach out to us! We don’t mind the cold and are ready to take your pup on some winter strolls through your neighborhood. As pet owners ourselves, we all understand the love and attention our fur-family members deserve! Give us a call today to learn more about how we can help you meet the demands of caring for your beloved pet!

Don’t forget about their Paws!

While dog’s paw pads are typically pretty “tough,” opting for some dog booties to use during the winter months is another option to consider! This is especially important not only to protect from the cold, freezing temperatures of the snow and ice on the ground, but also to protect your pup’s paws from the chemicals that are sprinkled on the sidewalks. Salt and other de-icing compounds can irritate your dog’s paws and some can even be toxic if your dog was to ingest/lick these chemicals from their paws.

Introducing your dog to their new booties may go best if you start by trying them on indoors. Use praise and reward with treats and see how well your dog adjusts to wearing them. If your dog has a hard time wearing booties or refuses, you can also try putting a small amount of petroleum jelly on the bottoms of your dog’s paws before going outside on a sidewalk that has been salted. This will create a barrier and will help keep your pet’s paws protected while walking outside. Just be sure to wipe them with a warm cloth upon returning inside.

When choosing booties for your pup it is best to, again, take your dog with you to the store to pick them out together! Try out a few different styles of boots to find what works best. You may find that some boots come off too easily, while others may be too hard to get on and off. Asking questions at your local pet store in addition to trying on different brands, sizes, materials and styles will help ensure you purchase the right booties for your dog. If you can’t get your dog to the store, try tracing your pup’s paw on a piece of paper to know what size to look for. And don’t forget to factor in your pup’s nails so that the boot is not too small and uncomfortable.

Keeping these tips in mind this winter season will help your dog thoroughly enjoy the winter wonderland just as much, (if not more!) than you do! However, if you happen to be one that just can’t stand the cold weather, reach out to us! We can take over on these cold, winter days and become a consistent dog-walker and companion to your pup, in addition to being available for your other pet-care needs!

From our pet-loving family to yours, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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