Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 6, 2015

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Posted at 08:30AM - Comments: (25)

I was told that this was not particularly cold; I didn't even need to use the block heater, provided at every parking spot at the hotel where I stayed.

It's one of those jobs you just don't ask a native (and lifelong) Californian to do: review dog coats. The only time I tried it, I failed; I separated the products under consideration into two categories - rain coats and warm coats - and was taken to task, rightly, for not providing a choice for dogs who have to go out in freezing rains. Because... a freezing rain? I have never experienced such a thing, much less had to walk my dog in one.

I was reminded of this recently, when I flew into Edmonton, Alberta, in order to tour the Champion Pet Food manufacturing facility north of there. I have never, ever, been somewhere so cold before - and they were having a relatively warm week for that time of year. The whole time I was there, I kept thinking, how on earth can you walk your dog in this cold? How do their paws not freeze?

Well, I guess they do; at least, the only dog I saw being walked the whole time I was there (about 36 hours) was wearing boots. I'm sure that while coyotes and wolves and even feral dogs either adapt or die in such cold, dogs who live indoors most of the time do need boots to protect their feet when being walked. The ground was just solid ice, whether frozen snow, dirt, or concrete.

The only dog I saw being walked.

On WDJ's Facebook page a month or so ago, I linked a humorous (at least to me) YouTube video of dogs who had just been fitted with boots and were walking in them for (apparently) the first time. SO MANY people commented how cruel it is to outfit the dogs so and them laugh at them, as if boots on dogs is some great cruelty. I'm telling you, cruelty would be walking an indoor dog without boots in an Edmonton winter. Or even in Boston, say, where dogs are commonly treated to frozen sidewalks and salty slush, the better to burn any cracked paw pads that inevitably develop in cold winters.

Hey! You readers who live in incredibly cold places! How do you help your dogs cope with the cold? We'd love for you to share your favorite tips and tools.

Comments (25)

I live in NYC and it gets cold here and we also get snow, since my 15 year old Maltipoo is not much of a walker when it's winter. Once it gets cold I put reusable rubber boots from Pawz on her feet and she has a nice warm coats.

Posted by: Dmae | January 7, 2015 8:58 PM    Report this comment

As a follow up to my first post.... after practicing in the house, today we tried the boots outside... Wow. Colossal failure. One fell over in about 10 minutes, the others slipped down so he was walking on the backs with the bottoms flapping in front of his toes. So, they will be a donate item. However, I did have a brainstorm ... why not use vet wrap on his feet when we go out. I have a horse so my supply is plentiful. It sticks to itself and it conforms to the feet.

Posted by: karia0429 | January 7, 2015 8:48 PM    Report this comment

Although you write about areas in Northern latitudes, we in NYC have problems with the cold also. We only had two inches of snow yesterday, but a winter coat is a must for my 100 pound Labradoodle. It's 23 degrees outside, but the wind chill makes it feel like 5. We walk at least two miles both morning and afternoon and the icicles that form around his snout make him look like a walrus!
Additionally, ice balls form inside the paw pad area and in between the toes. Compound that with salt and the usual brisk walk can be difficult. I have tried Musher's Wax, booties, you name it...the ice balls still get in there.
When we do get home, I have a basin of warm water waiting for him, and wash his paws throughly.

Posted by: Rbert135 | January 7, 2015 11:10 AM    Report this comment

Hello from very cold northeast Minnesota. Give Granite Gear a try for dog coats, backpacks and all kinds of well-made stuff. I have a polar fleece-lined rain jacket that is on it's second dog (Golden Retrievers both) and it is very effective. Try dogbooties.com for, you guessed it, great dog boots and materials to make your own boots. My friend's miniature Dachshund has very strangely shaped feet that need boots all winter long. She makes her own from thick fleece, leather soles and stretchable Velcro. They work a treat.

Posted by: carasmom | January 7, 2015 12:04 AM    Report this comment

I live in Calgary AB and like Edmonton....it gets pretty cold here. I have two goldens who need to get outside for a walk at least twice a day otherwise they go squirrelly. If the temperature dips below -20c, it is time to bring out the fleece booties. They are not thick but they do protect their paws from the cold and whatever salt or chemicals are used on the sidewalks. When the temperature is below -30c we still go for our walks, but they are much shorter in duration and we supplement their exercise with inside games. I also walk dogs at the local humane society. The dogs there may get a coat if they are short haired, but never boots. We monitor them for signs of cold and will shorten a walk if needed. Since their walks are often the only time they will get out of their kennels, we go out whatever the weather.

Posted by: SharonL | January 6, 2015 9:18 PM    Report this comment

Here, (Northern New South Wales, Australia) we stick to cooling coats for the dogs, or thundercoats. Or for the Chinese created, sun-blocker coats ;-)

Posted by: Jenny H | January 6, 2015 7:22 PM    Report this comment

We live in Cranbrook BC, and yes Bea, the bullmastiff wears boots AND a warm waterproof coat... made by Greenhawk! We can dip to -20 on a regular basis!

Posted by: Barb Barbour | January 6, 2015 1:50 PM    Report this comment

I live in the Pacific Northwest. Our winter temps can be in the 20s and 30s, not the bitter temps of the Midwest. My dog is half Dalmatian and half German Shorthair pointer. She's extremely active and has a thin coat and no fat layer. I don't worry about her when she's running - even in rain and snow her activity keeps her warm. My main concern is if I have to leave her sitting in the car for an hour or two. I found a great dog coat for active dogs from Ultra Paws - it has a waterproof exterior and fleece lining. They specialize in gear for active dogs and she can run thru the woods without it getting hung up. She loves to have me put it on. Maybe she even feels stylish!

Posted by: apalmer123 | January 6, 2015 12:12 PM    Report this comment

My standard poodles loved to play outside until they had snowballs in their feet. Then they would just look at me and hold up the problem foot. Muttluks to the rescue! They are wonderful boots for dogs. The poodles only fought me once on putting those boots on. They could play at the park until I was too cold. We could go for walks on our salted streets. These boots have leather bottoms, Velcro straps and long knit cuffs so they seem comfortable, protect the hair on lower legs, and really stay on an active dog. People only laughed until they saw how well they worked.

Posted by: Carol L. | January 6, 2015 11:18 AM    Report this comment

I've lived as far north as NE Ohio where the temperature one time dipped as low as -27 (fortunately NOT a regular occurrence!). I found that our Pekingese didn't mind the cold for short periods (thick hair and furry feet)--of course they were inside other than for short dashes out to relieve themselves. Our German Shepherd LOVED the cold and snow--the minute he saw snowflakes he started whining to go out and play in it. However, when our last Peke died and we got a Boston Terrier (very little hair) she we had to look into clothes for her. For short excursions just to pee she was OK with just a sweater. Later, I moved to Kentucky (which should be warmer you'd think--but sometimes not..) and as she got older I found that she appreciated warmer clothes for longer outings such as hikes. The first time I put snow boots on her there was a learning curve to wearing them--I tossed treats around the living room so she'd learn to move with the boots on--but the first time she actually went outside in the cold snow with the boots--after 2-3 minutes of slogging around in them there was an AH_HA moment when she realized that her feet weren't cold anymore---she suddenly started running and playing--Happy, Happy, Happy!
After that, I won't say that she actually LIKED wearing the boots, but she did seem to understand that they made her more comfortable. I also got her a fleece snow suit with full legs and a hood and layered that with a top coat when needed.
And I did have a raincoat for her, too. I found that she did NOT like the hard plastic parkas (the noise of the rain hitting it seemed to bother her) so I found a softer nylon raincoat by Outward Hound that worked for her.

On the flip side--my current Sheltie mix seems to be mostly OK without "clothes" (though I do put a raincoat on her for heavy rain). As she gets older I will probably put a topcoat on her for severe cold but boots only if she "tells" me her feet are cold (she does have furry feet).

Posted by: PJKutscher | January 6, 2015 10:45 AM    Report this comment

Musher's Secret!! We don't get much snow in Vancouver, but when we do, or when it's icy and they've salted the roads I use Musher's Secret on my border terrier's paws. Works like a dream, preventing snow balls in paws, and salt burns. It doesn't smell weird, and doesn't stain anything in the house. Coats....don't need one, as she is never still long enough on our walks to actually get cold!

Posted by: Cami | January 6, 2015 10:27 AM    Report this comment

Northeast Ohioans surely get our fair share of wintery days filled with snow and frigid temps! My Greyhound's get up garb is a snood wool coat with pullover scarf to keep his ears warm, as well as rubber booties that fit his paws like a glove, yet not cumbersome. He can still 'feel' the ground with them as they are form fitting. Despite the cold, he still counts on his daily walkees!

Posted by: Houndz6 | January 6, 2015 10:25 AM    Report this comment

I live in northern British Columbia, not quite as cold as next door in Edmonton (it's the plains), but last weekend it was -25 C. When I first moved here it would go to -40 C for days on end. And in that kind of cold, no dog other than malamutes or huskys go out for long and even those breeds suffer if left unprotected. Dogs differ in tolerance and in age. When my German Shepherd was 1, he would happily walk in -35 C weather. At 9, he manages 15 quick minutes at -20 and he happiest at -15. The little beagle cross won't go anywhere unless it is -15. Boots help most against slush and ice crystals, not cold. Coats don't cover vulnerable ankles in 10 inches of snow. Sometimes all you can do is figure out indoor games, bals thrown down the hallways, searches for treats, and the special treat flulng out the door as persuasion to go out and do what's necessary quick before running for the door. And wait for a thaw.

Posted by: Annie | January 6, 2015 10:18 AM    Report this comment

We had a Keeshound when we lived in Kansas, she loved to play in the snow. If we stayed out very long we would warm her feet and take the snow clumps off her. She loved to go sledding with the kids and would pull them. They have a long coat with a wool undercoat. It was the heat we had to worry about. Never shave them because their skin can burn. She would go lay on the air vents when they went on and laid on the van seat closes to the air vent. I would love to see a dog and summer heat article when the weather warms up.

Posted by: Candie | January 6, 2015 10:08 AM    Report this comment

I live just outside of Washington, DC, or "the land of salt in winter." We don't get a lot of snow, but at the smallest mention of it there are literally piles of salt in the street and on the sidewalks. Last year I broke down and got some booties after my poor dog would just stop walking, raise her paws, and look at me whimpering. She hated the booties at first, but within just a few minutes she was walking like a champ! Our American Water Spaniel's webbed toes fill with snow balls, so if we get outside before the salt trucks, Musher's Secret helps them slide right out.

Posted by: LauraC | January 6, 2015 9:41 AM    Report this comment

I have had many breeds of dogs over the past 36 years (Doberman, Bouvier, Italian Spinone and now Standard Poodle) and rarely have I ever put garments on my dogs. All my dogs have gone for at least a one-hour off-leash walk every day, no matter what the weather has been. If it is raining a torrential downpour I will put a water-proof coat on my dog. Certainly, if we lived in the city, I would put booties on my dog's feet if there was salt on the ground after a snow storm but my dog runs in the woods so I do not have to concern myself with that. We live in MA and ME and the winters can be pretty brutal but I have never had an issue with my dogs running gleefully through the woods au naturale. None of my dogs ever seemed to mind any type of weather the Northeast sends our way. It was always just another blast in the woods. Woohoo!!

Posted by: Hugo's Mom | January 6, 2015 9:29 AM    Report this comment

Musher's Secret! It's the greatest stuff in the world. It's thicker than petroleum jelly and is quite safe to use on a dog's paws (even if they lick it). Before I found it, my dog would stop walking every 10 feet or so if there was snow on the ground, and lift up one of her feet for me to pick out the snow clumps and ice balls. With Musher's Secret, we can walk several miles without her stopping. Just make sure to smear it quite thick in between each of the pads so snow and ice can't get in there. Look online to get the best price.

Posted by: Cate | January 6, 2015 9:28 AM    Report this comment

Buster is a 14 year old Yorkie with Cushing's. He wears a few layers these days. The first layer is a Possum-Merino coat from Rover Cozy in N.Z. Next he has a down filled coat from Joy Pet Products in the U.S., and then a genuine shearling coat from Alliedog in N.Z., which is excellent in wind, rain, and freezing rain.
He does not seem to mind being bundled up, and he even takes his time sniffing all the good smells outside. He is deaf and blind, so his sense of smell is the one he uses for all his information!
The coats from New Zealand can be ordered online according to size, and have been a great investment in warmth.

Posted by: lilbit | January 6, 2015 9:25 AM    Report this comment

Here in the mountains of Colorado, dogs are torn between loving the outdoor adventures with their peeps, and suffering from the cold. I've been selling outdoor gear for dogs in my store for 11 years, and feel that although there are some great coats, sweaters and foot gear available, more work needs to be done on designs that work for different body types, and permit full range of movement. RuffWear makes the very best dog boots, BUT they are all designed for cat-footed (round) dogs. Hare feet just can't benefit from them, as they are sized by width, and always too short for the full-foot protection. The booties for very small dogs are pitiful -- designed for cuteness but give no protection. It would be difficult to make tiny boots that are protective, but hey -- if we can make footwear for every human sport and foot shape... My own dogs, short haired mutts, get to choose when and for how long they go outside, and prefer having their feet treated with Mushers' Secret to wearing boots. Good fitting 100% wool sweaters are their preferred outerwear (Chilly Dog makes good ones that are affordable) but they would rather stay in when it gets really cold. And OF COURSE I shovel a potty area for them, and a path to it, when the snow gets deep!

Posted by: LaurieR | January 6, 2015 9:25 AM    Report this comment

I live in upstate New York with my two Welsh Terriers, and it gets cold, snowy, sleety, icy, and generally miserable in the dead of winter. My dogs have winter coats from a Sweedish company named "Obtrack". These are the best coats for them. Made from great materials, and best of all, covers the belly, which is important in deep snow. The coats are waterproof, wind resistant and warm, and fully adjustable. There is a high neck collar for extra warmth. On their feet I use "Musher's Secret" out of Canada... It protects the paws, prevents snow balls from forming in between their toes, and prevents the salt from the roads from hurting their feet..

Posted by: Darcydorwart | January 6, 2015 9:23 AM    Report this comment

We have heavy fleece coats with a waterproof outer shell and attached snoods; and specially made greyhound booties (longer in the leg to help keep them on better) for when our kids go out into the Maine winters. But mostly they just want to stay inside.

Posted by: YIKMDLF | January 6, 2015 9:00 AM    Report this comment

I live in Michigan, too, and currently we're experiencing bitter cold weather. I have a Catahoula Leopard who is short-haired, single coated, and she wears a lined, ripstop nylon, full-body coat, so it's both warm AND freezing rain proof. I also have a German Shephard/Rottie mix. She inherited the Shephard's robust double coat, so she goes out without a coat. But they both wear boots either when it's this cold, or warmer, sometimes even in the summer when sidewalks can burn their footpads. The salt in winter not only can burn their feet, but when they wash, they lick that salt off and swallow it, and it can harm their health in other ways as well, so I'm very careful about keeping their boots on them. I would love to find them boots that like to stay on their feet though. The pups are like toddlers who keep losing their mittens. LOL

Posted by: BClare | January 6, 2015 8:57 AM    Report this comment

I live in Chicago with my best friend, Buzz. Buzz does not tolerate the cold well. He is a Puggle. Today it is 1 degree outside. We use baloonies for the feet, a sweater and a coat over the sweater. The coat covers his chest, which is important because he is low to the ground. It also has a hood that covers Buzz's huge ears. The baloonies, Buzz prefers over the boot/sock type booties. With the baloonies, he can still feel the ground and that makes all the difference to him. Salt is EVERYWHERE here, so the booties are a must!!! Now when Buzz comes in, he has his own electric blanket. My dog hates cold weather!

Posted by: liz1 | January 6, 2015 8:51 AM    Report this comment

I live in Michigan. My little dog has a medium length coat. However, he was adopted from a shelter in WV so is not used to the treacherous winters we get here (today it is -3 with the wind chill). I bought him a water repellant oilskin coat. It's lined with fleece and has an inner layer for warmth. After looking at a number of coats that left the last 4 inches of his back exposed, I contacted Yuppy Yaps (in New Zealand) and Cathy made him one that is fitted to his length and height. She's wonderful. She sells her products on eBay but if you contact her directly and send measurements she will make to fit. It was no more expensive than lesser quality store bought ones, better made, very durable and perfect for him. Shipping didn't take very long. We have boots. We're practicing using them in the house first before dealing with the icy/snow lumps/bumps outside.

Posted by: karia0429 | January 6, 2015 8:46 AM    Report this comment

My 7 year old Shihtzu/Bichon, Oscar, LOVES to wear his winter boots. He was less than a year old when he experienced his first Minnesota winter. He took to his boots immediately! He wears the Muttluks winter boots. I don't even think he attempted to get them off. He quickly found out that he could play in the snow much longer when they were on. He also has a down winter jacket that covers his tummy. Up until it got REALLY cold (we're talking -30 wind chills), we were still heading out for walks. I'd like to get him a snood so that his ears are also covered. I know they sell dog hats, but there are holes for the ears. What good is that?!

We've just adopted a 6 year old Maltese/Poodle girl. I need to get her a pair of boots too. The three of us have only gone on one walk where it was warm enough to not wear boots. Jackets, yes.

We have an awesome electronic dog door that allows the dogs full access to our big fenced yard, so they can quickly run out, go potty, and then run back in. Sometimes it's a two-trip adventure.. run outside, pee, run inside. Warm up, then run outside and do a "big job" and run back in. The husband blows all of the snow out of the backyard so that they don't have to step in the snow.

In the non-fiction book "The Adventures of Tom and Atticus", the author has his miniature schnauzer wearing a snowsuit and boots while climbing mountains. Smart guy and even smarter dog!

Posted by: KimberlyO | January 6, 2015 8:46 AM    Report this comment

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