This is a question we are asked daily, and the answer is…it depends.
As mentioned in the last post, if you are keeping your dogs fur short and manageable during the winter months, or your dog has naturally short fur, then a coat, or sweater may be a good idea. Depending on how long your dog is out in the cold, their stamina, age and breed are all important factors. Dogs fortunate enough to get outdoors to play and exercise in winter, may need a coat for warmth. Older pets that don’t run and play to keep warm, may benefit. For most, the time to consider outwear for your dog is when there is snow on the ground and /or dangerous wind chills, like all of last winter. And of course there are exceptions to every rule; the robust dog that never gets cold, and the frail senior that seems to always be shivering! Waterproof coats are available for cold wet weather and wind breaking coats for frigid dry weather. Many of our clients who enjoy the winter with their dogs, have the gear so they never miss a hike or walk!
Paws are especially vulnerable when there is snow on the ground and the air temps are single digits. You may see your dog holding up a paw or two or even laying down to avoid the discomfort. Some will refuse to go out at all. A simple boot can solve this dilemma. Certain boots improve traction as well, giving the pet confidence on a slippery surface. Slipping on ice happens and those injuries can be serious, for people and dogs! Paw balms are available that once applied create a barrier between the paw and cold concrete, snow, ice and ice melting products that can burn foot pads. Treating pads can also help with dryness and cracks that can make the paw sensitive.
A dogs tolerance of boots is truly up to the owner. My dog has worn boots for years as a necessity. By this time he sits and waits for them put on and taken off. We make it positive and fun and his reward is to go to “OUT” so there are no negatives associated with the boots. It may take time for a dog to adjust to a coat or boots. Not a reason to avoid either one. Proper sizing and comfort will help tremendously! No one wants to wear a coat or boats that are too small or too big! The important point is that if a coat and/or boots allows the dog more outside time, or makes the little time they are out, more comfortable and safer , then perhaps it is right for your dog.
Don’t forget noses and ear tips can get frost bite too. There is not substitute for simply inspecting your dog after they’ve been out in the cold.