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Does your regular dog walking schedule continue throughout winter? If so, are you doing anything to keep your pup warm?
While it might seem like dogs are fine to go outside without bundling up (after all, if they were living in the wild, they’d have to, right?), there are a lot of factors at play when it comes to bringing a domesticated pet into cold weather.
To make sure your pup stays warm and safe when heading outdoors this winter, answer the questions below to help you decide whether or not a coat is right for them.
1. Does your dog have short hair?
Naturally, short haired dogs tend to have less insulation than long haired dogs. That means, when they head outside in cold weather, they might have a hard time keeping themselves warm without a coat.
Short haired dogs like pitbulls or Boston Terriers, for example, will probably benefit from an extra layer when you’re out in the cold or snow (if you have trouble getting them comfortable with a coat, try using positive reinforcement with treats to help them associate it with rewards).
Long haired dogs, like Huskies or Malamutes, tend to have enough insulation from their thick coats to need anything extra.
2. Do they have an undercoat?
Beyond judging by length alone, determine whether or not your dog has an undercoat (a second layer of fur). You can tell by pulling your dog's hair back. Is there thin, wispy fur under the top layer? If so, there’s a good chance your dog has two coats, which can both serve to naturally protect them from harsh weather.
Dogs without undercoats typically have one length of fur that mostly has the same texture. If your pup doesn’t have a second layer, consider adding one in the form of a sweater or jacket.
3. Are they acclimated to cold weather?
Even dogs with the thickest and most dense fur might need an extra layer if they’re not acclimated to the cold. A husky who’s been raised in Texas, for example, won’t be ready for a hike in the snow without some time to adjust.
In fact, if you have a dog with thin, short hair who’s been raised up north, they could be better acclimated to the cold than a warm-weather dog who was bred for winter-like conditions, so make sure to spend some time getting your pup used to the low temps if they aren’t already.
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4. Are they healthy?
Senior dogs or those with health problems might have a hard time keeping themselves warm on their own. Their bodies could have trouble heating up properly when they need to.
If your dog is unable to maintain a healthy internal body temperature on their own, be sure to take them out in a coat. Dogs with heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes, for example, all struggle to maintain regular temperatures. Spending too much time outside without an extra layer can lead to hypothermia, which is risky business. Play it safe and bring a coat along.
5. Do they act unusual in the cold?
If your dog starts acting a little weird when they’re outside in the cold, it’s a good sign they’re not able to withstand the temperatures. A dog’s behavior might change when they’re too cold, and it can be tough to identify exactly what’s wrong if you’ve never seen it before.
A dog who tries to climb up into your arms when they should be running around playing is probably trying to tell you they want to be held and warmed up. Similarly, if they start whining, barking, or hiding under bushes, they’re probably too cold to stay outside. Even though it should go without saying, shivering is also a sign to take them inside right away.
Be on the lookout for any unusual behavior when you’re outside in the cold with your dog. If you see any signs of discomfort, take them inside immediately.
Who shouldn’t wear a coat?
Just as some dogs need coats outside, others don’t. If your dog is acclimated to the cold and has thick, insulative fur, forego the coat unless temperatures are severe. Likewise, if it’s not quite cold enough to warrant a coat, putting one on your dog can actually overheat them, so keep a watchful eye on how they react. If they start panting excessively, they’re probably too warm.
To keep your pup safe in all situations, keep a coat (and boots if deicing chemicals are used in your neighborhood) on hand if you think you’ll need it. Not only will you both be able to enjoy the cold, snowy weather a little more, you can rest assured your dog will be healthy and happy all winter long.
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