When Does My Dog Really Need a Coat and Booties?

Doggie fashion has become mainstream: there are dog coats, sweaters and slickers galore. Fashionistas will be predisposed to don a coat on their dog just because it’s winter, while there are those who view dog fashion as frivolous and think nature has provided. So, what’s the real deal?

2. Sundance coat and booties

Super Smiley staying warm with his jacket and booties!

Like humans, dogs need to keep their organs and limbs at an optimum temperature, theirs being between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Larger dogs with more body mass and fur have no problem doing this in snow and cold weather — and dogs that evolved in these climates like Siberian Huskies and St. Bernards actually love and thrive in the cold and snow. But logically, just as a non-clothed person would be cold in a room where they would be perfectly comfortable with a light sweat suit, there are dogs that are candidates for a little help from our fashion friends.

There are four categories of dogs that are candidates for warm protective gear:

  • Small dogs like Chihuahuas, Yorkies and toy breeds. They just aren’t large enough to generate and store heat in cold weather.
  • Larger dogs with extremely thin builds like whippets and greyhounds. They, too, are not able to generate and store enough heat to combat frigid temperatures.
  • Elderly dogs and puppies. These dogs may be fragile for different reasons, but both need special care to stay warm and well. Senior dogs may also have arthritis and joint pain, which can be exacerbated by cold weather.
  • Chronically ill dogs and dogs recuperating from an illness or those in hospice. These dogs, like humans in this category, may have a harder time maintaining a regular body temperature, even if they are not challenged by cold temperatures.

With this in mind, if you are saving on the heating bill and some of those cold drafts are creeping inside, dogs in these categories may also benefit from wearing a sweater indoors as well.

As for booties, it’s hard to imagine a tiny toy breed or a chronically ill dog going for a hike in the snow, but if they did, or if a thinner dog like the Whippet took a snow hike or a long stroll on a freezing sidewalk, booties would be a good idea. Super Smiley has found that a pair of children’s socks inside booties add insulation and also provide a cushion on the boot material, which is often made of a type of water resistant rubber or vinyl.

Booties also are actually a very good idea in hot weather. However, it’s very important to know that they are not a 100 percent perfectly protective heat barrier. Hot streets can get hot enough to fry an egg, so the booties will heat up as well. They can also retain heat and become like tiny ovens that can actually contribute to a dog systemically overheating on a hot day. So, for hot days, booties are good for crossing streets, walking across hot sand or in areas where there may be broken glass, sharp objects, chemicals or cleansers present, but should not be kept on for hours during a hot day’s hike. Super Smiley has worn all of the above and he actually let me know exactly what he needed. I’ll let him tell it…

Super Smiley here, and yep, I’m a big dog with a lot of muscle. But when Megan and I hiked across New England, we found out the first night in the tent that I am a big, muscular and extremely cold-natured dog! I do have short hair, but Megan still assumed I was big and would be keeping her warm! Nope! That night I was sooo cold. We both got in the sleeping bag and after that, each night I wore a sweater and another coat layer, and … sleeping socks! Then I was fine for that trip.

6. play in snow different crop

I love sweaters!

When we walked in the day, even though it was cold, I was fine too, but if we stopped at a coffee shop and stopped moving, I would get cold again. So the point here is to look at your dog and listen to your dog. If he is in the categories above, or like me, if he’s not but he has short hair and he gives you signals, learn to tune into your dog — like he looks like he’s getting stiff, is starting to shut down, or what I do is I look real hard into Megan’s eyes and start to crawl up into her lap, that signals to her that I’m cold and I need my sweater, her coat or that we need to move! In picking a sweater or coat for your dog, I suggest making sure it doesn’t cut into his under arms or fit too tight around the belly. And, make sure that it fits so that your dog can relieve himself without wetting anything. Good to plan that ahead!

As for the booties, yes, I’m a cold-natured dog and if we are in cold rain or in snow, I need my booties. When you first put the booties on your dog, just put one on one paw for about five minutes and give him a treat. Then take it off and later do another paw. When we first get them on, we don’t know what they are and we walk funny and it’s just better if you let us get used to them before we get all four on and we get taken outside with these weird things binding our feet. And like Megan said I’ve found that socks add a layer of warmth and cushion from the bootie material. But, just like in the summer when the boots might get too hot, in the winter, once we get out of the snow or rain, I need the boots to come off so my feet can dry and warm up to room temperature. That is when a blanket comes in! Yes, I’m a big dog who is pampered, but by learning all this stuff I get to share it with you so you can pamper your dog too!

Until Next Time, Woof and Super Smiles!

From Super Smiley and Megan Blake, The Pet Lifestyle Coach®

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