Brrrrrrr, it's cold - coat or no coat for your furry friend?

Brrrrrrr, it's cold - coat or no coat for your furry friend?
January 12, 2011 by Colleen Safford

Does my dog need a coat? 

Some people are quick to put a coat on their pooches because they simply love to accessorize the fur kids. Seeing a Husky in a coat always makes me giggle, but you do see it often in NYC.    The coat isn't really serving any function but certainly conveys the message , "I've got a caring owner."  

Owners with a dog who don't like wearing a coat are confused about how necessary it is and how much they should force the issue.

 The truth; our dogs have survived without these gorgeous human-constructed coats for quite some time. As it turns out, nature has equipped our pooches quite well. So, don't feel like your dog is in danger while out on a quick potty jaunt without his Burberry beauty picked up at your local boutique.

Colleen puts a coat on her dog when....

I personally will coat a dog (other than the Husky, St Bernard, Bernese, buoyant Labrador types) for  stop and go type walks. For example, if you are going to stroll your neighborhood with your Vizsla type dog at a slow-poke human pace, stopping at street lights and gabbing with neighbors - then a coat can help your doggy stay warm.  If you are throwing your pint-sized pocket pooch into a carrier with very ventilated mesh siding, then a sweater  or coat might be nice.

Colleen doesn't put a coat on her dog when....

Even my no meat on my bones Boxer girl doesn't really need a coat when going to the park where she will race around with friends and really get her body warmed up.

Colleen wishes she put a coat on the dog....

While a coat might not be necessary for warmth during big romps in the park or potty jaunts, it can prove  useful for keeping a dog's fur free of snowballs. If you have a poodle - doodle - bichon type - their coats tend to act as snow vacuums. I spent hours over the holidays removing and thawing snowballs from our curly furred guests.  In these scenarios, a coat can act as a time saver for you and it will keep your home free of puppy snow puddles. Snow puddles are better than the other puddles puppies can make - but still -  they get your socks wet!

What to do with a dog that hates coats....

First thing you need to ask is whether your dog hates coats or whether he has general issues with having his body and paws touched (other then when he wants to be petted). 

If it is the latter, then we'd need to have a very, long step by step discussion about desensitizing your dog to touch (and way down on the list of priorities---- having the coat put on and off).   If your dog has sensitivities to handling and touch, ditch the coat for now until you contact a trainer about the issue. There is no point in further deteriorating your relationship over a coat that is not really necessary.

If your dog is simply slightly questioning the wearing of a coat, I would suggest taking a look at your current coat. Some dogs dislike the sound and sensation of velcro coming apart at removal. It spooks them.  They want to avoid the coat all together as a result.  In these cases, I recommend trying a buckle or clasp closure coat.

If the coat is too thick and stiff, a dog might feel awkard walking. Try a sweat shirt or sweater type material. Keeping in mind, these materials are not great in snow - they collect it.

Coat = Treats! Toys!!

If you want your pooch to love getting ready for the cold, here's what to do! 

Grab 10-20 pieces of your dog's food.

As you grab the coat and your dog sees it - toss a few pieces of his food or treats to the floor for him to snack on. Toss 3-5 more pieces as you bend down to put the coat on. Keep tossing little pieces of food for your dog to snack on while you are buckling and closing the coat.   Voila! Your dog is contented while hunting and pecking for food!

Once coat is on - SQUEAK!  SQUEAK his favorite toy, toss it or play a game of tug with him for 30second to a minute.

Finally, bust out your leash and say, "Wanna go for a walk!?"

 For the purposes of owner supervised walks and park play - there is no steadfast answer to the coat debate. Sure a coat can aid in keeping your pooch a bit warmer, but if it's putting either of you at risk for a bite - call a trainer. If it's making your dog miserable - take the play indoors on particularly inclimate days or when your dog is showing signs of being a bit chilled.  An indoor game of fetch or tug of war can burn some extra energy! 

If your dog is content and seems totally unaware - hey, if it makes YOU feel better, go for it! : )

Warm wags!



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