I never thought I’d see the day that I owned a dog who couldn’t handle the cold. At all. Wally came to us from Texas, and it’s clear he’s a sunny-climate-fella and NOT cut out for Michigan winters. Since adopting Wally, I’ve become a bit of a winter dog gear fanatic. Here are our 7 favorite tips on how to outfit your dog for winter.
Outfit Your Dog for Winter
1. Invest in a Dog Jacket
Yes, you got that right. Outfit. Outfit your dog. Some dogs need a jacket. There is no shame in that game. Outdoor exercise is important, and for many dogs who have a short or thin coat, a dog jacket is a mus
Depending on the climate where you live, a more rugged or lighter jacket may be in order. Personally, we have 2 jackets for Wallace. One is for transitional spring and fall weather and doesn’t offer much in the way of stomach coverage. The other is a burlier piece, lined with body-heat-reflective material and a panel that buckles around his stomach.
My first impression was that I was NOT going to spend that kind of money on a dog jacket. Reasoning returned, and I realized that this was an investment to get my Best Friend outdoors comfortably, and he would likely use it for his entire life.
Tips: When shopping for a dog jacket, look for features that work for you like pockets, or jackets that aren’t fussy and require you to put your dog’s legs through sleeves or holes. If putting the jacket on is a chore or unpleasant for the dog, it will become more of a chore for you to chase him down
2. Don’t Ignore Paw Health
Your dog’s paws come into direct contact with the ground on walks. This means that your dog is likely stepping in toxic road salt. Even icy concrete can get to some dogs. Our 2 favorite options to help outfit your dog for winter are for dogs who need boots, and dogs who need general paw protection.
Dog Boots: Dog boots can be so fussy, fall off and get lost, or be a complete pain in the butt to put on. However, sometimes they are necessary if you don’t want to carry your miserable, freezing pooch. Some we like are Pawz dog boots, and believe us, we’ve tested a few. These Pawz are like really thick rubber balloons. They’re tough to get on, but they stay put. While they’re not insulated, they serve the purpose of keeping the paws dry and the chemicals off. A $20 package of 3 pairs lasts us an entire winter.
Protective Paw Balm: This option to help outfit your dog for winter is also one of our favorites. More rugged dogs who aren’t bothered by the cold will appreciate a good paw balm, and it serves the purpose of protecting those paws from road salts and chemicals. Our favorite paw balm is Musher’s Secret. This stuff is thick wax. It can be applied with your hands (use the rest on your dry winter skin) or with an old makeup brush. One application lasts for a couple of days. Bonus: This works well for cracked noses and dry winter human skin too.
3. Dog Goggles
You may ask, does my dog really need goggles? If you live at a high elevation or in areas that get lots of sun in the winter, then the answer may very well be “Yes”. Just like humans, dogs need eye protection. On sunny winter days, the sun reflecting from the white snow can cause eye damage.
Think of when you take your goggles or sunglasses off on a sunny winter day; you can’t see for a moment. Breeds with light colored eyes are most prone to eye damage from the sun. If you spend a lot of time on outdoor winter adventures your pup, a pair of RexSpecs dog-specific goggles are a helpful way to outfit your dog for winter.
4. Proper Hydration for Winter Adventures
Hydration during the winter is so easy to overlook, especially for our Best Friends. A vital way to outfit your dog for winter is to look out for his hydration. Dry winter weather is extremely dehydrating. Couple that with the cold, and it’s easy to forget that we need to hydrate.
Additionally, traipsing through deep snow on a hike is far more exhausting than the same walk on a clear summer hiking trail. Plus, if your dog likes to drink from rivers or lakes, that source may be frozen over in winter, further limiting hydration options.
Remember to bring your own water bottle, along with some sort of collapsible water dish so that neither you nor your Best Friend becomes dehydrated. Our favorite on-the-go water dish is this Outward Hound Collapsible Dish. It folds up to a tiny size and is made from easy to clean nylon. A win for both of you and the perfect compliment to outfit your dog for winter!
Related: 9 Winter Exercise Hacks for Dogs
5. Have You Considered a Snood?
Yes, snoods are a thing in the world of dog gear. A snood is basically a hood for your dog. Just like humans, dogs lose a tremendous amount of heat through their head. Additionally, some breeds have thin, non-insulated ears that are prone to frostbite.
Many dog jackets do a great job of insulating the body, but your dog’s head is left exposed and chilled. RC Pet Products makes a great fleece snood, and it’s reasonably priced too! A snood may be the perfect way to outfit your dog for winter.
6. What About a House Sweater?
Perhaps you have the home thermostat set to heat the house at a lower temperature during the day. I am not recommending you put your dog in a sweater when you’re out of the house, especially if you have an active breed. However, one way to help outfit your dog for the winter and ensure his comfort is to let him lounge in a sweater.
Wally has very little hair on his belly or the backs of his legs. He has one sweater he often wears in the cool house during the day, and I know he appreciates the extra layer of warmth against his skin. While people have recommended I get him a heated bed, we’re not there yet. Nevertheless, he is quite content in his gentlemanly house sweater.
7. How Cold is Too Cold?
While outdoor exercise and playtime are essential to your dog’s health, there is a limit to how much cold he can take, even if he is a heartier breed who enjoys being outdoors
Temperatures below 20 degrees fahrenheit increase the risk for cold-related disorders like hypothermia and frostbite in many breeds, so it’s best to play it safe and keep the outdoor activities to potty breaks and heat-inducing exercise, and it’s not leave your dog outside in the backyard alone for long periods of time in these temperatures.
It’s Perfectly Acceptable to Outfit Your Dog for Winter
While many breeds thrive in cold weather, some dogs need a little more TLC during the winter. Bundle that pooch up in a sweater or jacket. Proudly put those booties on or slather up those paws. Let’s face it, our dogs need to get outside and experience the world, use the potty and move their bodies. It’s healthy and as important to their mental health as their physical health. It’s ok and often necessary to outfit your dog for winter to ensure his health, comfort, and happiness.