Oh, the Weather Outside Is Frightful! (So Get Your Dog a Sweater)

Cold-weather cover-ups are a definite YES for your small, short-coated, low-body-fat dog!

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
December 15, 2011

Q: I live in New Jersey and have a 1-year-old 20-pound short-haired Dachshund mix with very little body fat. As the weather is getting colder, should I consider putting any clothes on him? He enjoys walks very much, even in very cold weather, but when it falls below 40 degrees or so, his little body starts shivering (even as he wags his tail on the walk). Any advice?

A: A definite yes to a cold-weather cover-ups for your small, short-coated, low-body-fat dog who is shivering!

People often think of clothes for dogs as wussy. Look, your dog doesn't read Vogue Hommes. He doesn't care about style.

Small dogs really, truly do have a harder time retaining body heat in cold weather than big dogs do, because their surface-to-mass ratio is higher. Short-coated and single-coated dogs have trouble in cold weather too -- many a Pit Bull hates going outside in February, believe you me. When it's really, really, really cold, even a medium-size dog with a full coat may prefer a little coverage.

Whether you choose a pull-on sweater or a jacket that closes with Velcro strips depends on how comfortable your dog is with handling, since it's usually more handling-intensive to put a sweater on. A jacket may be better insulated and more water-resistant than a knitted sweater, too. You can get decent-quality sweaters and jackets inexpensively if you stay out of posh boutiques. It's reasonable to have two, one for so-so weather and one for those really ugly, frigid days.

As for booties, it depends. A good cover-up may keep him warm enough, but many of the substances used to melt ice on sidewalks and roads sting doggy feet something fierce. Does he hate having his feet handled? In that case, you may want to have a trainer help you teach him to be more at ease with foot-touches.

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