When the cold weather comes, a dog coat can quickly become an essential accessory to preserve your companion's health. Indeed, some breeds of dogs are very sensitive to the cold, simply because they have not been selected to resist it.
Other dogs are sensitive to it because of their health or their old age, as it is particularly the case of old dogs suffering from arthritis. It is then up to the owner to make sure that his companion does not suffer from low temperatures and spends a comfortable winter.
What is a dog coat?
As the name implies, a dog coat is nothing more than a piece of clothing that you place on your dog's back to protect him from the cold or rain.
While some owners like to dress up their dogs for fun - which, by the way, can be detrimental to the animal's well-being - the primary purpose of dog coats is not to be pretty or funny, but to keep your dog warm.
There are many different types of dog coats on the market, from the warmest, most padded coats, to sweat-proof jackets for sportsmen, to raincoats that protect your pooch from the rain.
Why buy a coat for your dog ?
All dogs are not equal in front of the cold, and if an Alaskan Malamute will appreciate to be able to roll in the snow and will not be afraid to face the blizzard, it will not be the same for a Greyhound Whippet or a Doberman.
As you can imagine, these differences are mainly due to the thickness of their respective coats, the Malamute being generously provided with undercoat, and the Greyhound having only a very short topcoat.
The dog's fur against the cold
To put it simply, a dog's fur is made up of two types of hair: the undercoat, also known as the underfur, and the outer coat, also known as the underwire. The undercoat plays a major role in maintaining the body heat of animals, since it has a strong insulating power.
Some dogs have developed a very dense coat to protect themselves from the cold, while others have lost this hair which was useless in warmer habitats. Water dogs that regularly chase their prey in lakes or marshes, for example, have developed a more waterproof jar hair, to the detriment of the fluffy hair that takes a long time to dry and would have been detrimental to them in the wild.
The selections made by humans to obtain ever more beautiful and/or efficient dogs have abounded in this sense, making dogs with the most beautiful topcoat reproduce with each other, which has given multiple breeds devoid - totally or partially - of fluff. These dogs are often recognized by their long, curly, wavy or rough coat. For example, Poodles, Yorshires, Wire Fox Terriers, Setters, Cockers, Long-haired Dachshunds, and Portuguese Water Dogs have little or no fluff.
A common mistake is to confuse a long or hard coat (because of its "rustic" appearance) with a warm coat. Contrary to popular belief, long-haired or wire-haired dogs often have a hard time maintaining body heat, and the same is true for curly or frizzy dogs.
Unsurprisingly, the dog breeds with a full coat are the primitive dogs. They include Nordic dogs (Husky, Malamute, Samoyed, etc.), but also Japanese primitive dogs (Akita Inu, Shiba Inu...) and Spitz.
Sheepdogs are also rather well endowed with stuffing, and mountain type molosses (Newfoundland, Leonberg, Saint-Bernard...) are also very resistant to cold. However, dog breeds are not everything, and even a Husky can wear a coat if his health requires it or when he is suddenly exposed to cold temperatures to which he has not had time to get used.
Morphology, age and health: other factors in a dog's vulnerability to cold
Now, consider the nature of your dog and its vulnerability to cold. Small dogs, especially toys under 4 kg, get cold extremely quickly. A very large dog, such as a Great Dane, will be more resistant to the cold than a Chihuahua, although both of these dogs are not made for low temperatures because of their short coats.
Similarly, dogs with a frail build will be more vulnerable to the cold, regardless of their size and coat: slender Greyhounds will suffer more from the cold than massive American Stafforshire dogs. The age of the animal is also important: puppies are unable to regulate their body temperature, so they should not be exposed to cold or heat.
Older dogs' bodies don't work as well as they used to, and they too may have trouble keeping their bodies at the right temperature in winter and summer. Dogs with osteoarthritis will also have much less pain if their joints are kept warm, which helps the synovial fluid to become more viscous and avoid aggravating the friction that causes inflammation.
Sick, injured or recovering dogs may be tired and, like puppies and older dogs, have difficulty maintaining a steady body temperature if exposed to cold. Habit also plays a big role in a dog's vulnerability to the cold, and a dog that is used to sleeping outside at all times will be able to handle the weather better than a dog that lives in an apartment.
In short, if your pet combines several factors of vulnerability (old and sick, convalescent and rough-coated, short-coated and suddenly confronted with a very cold climate, etc.), it is all the more important to protect it well. It should be noted that all dogs, even those in good health and with a coat with stuffing, are likely to be bothered by the cold as soon as they are confronted with unusually low temperatures.
Choosing a coat for your dog
Finding the right coat for your dog is not just a matter of being pretty, and it is important to look at the products that will really suit your companion. To do this, it is necessary to take into account several criteria related to both the morphology of the animal and its lifestyle.
First of all, it is important to take your pet's measurements to know what size coat will fit him. Don't neglect the importance of these measurements: it is obvious that a coat suitable for a Cocker Spaniel may be too small for an American Staffordshire Terrier, even if both dogs are the same height at the withers.
So be sure to collect all the information you need: neck size, chest size, waist size, chest width, back length and leg height. Once you have done this, you will need to refer to the grids of each brand, as they usually cut their products differently from each other.
Next, consider the climate you will be exposing your dog to. Are you planning to take your dog to a winter sport, or are you just planning a 10-minute hygienic outing in the rain?
Depending on the answer to this question, you can choose a coat that is more or less warm, waterproof or not, antiperspirant...
Antiperspirant coats for dogs are especially suitable for athletes who risk catching a cold by keeping their hair wet with sweat in a cold environment.
The material and cut of the coat are also important. Dogs that are not used to being dressed up may not be able to stand being wrapped in a tight-fitting coat that is too covering. For these dogs, a coat that is more like a blanket that will keep their loins warm may be easier to bear.
For the more sensitive dogs, a coat that covers the belly will be more suitable, especially if they are going to be walking in the snow. As for the choice of materials, it depends on your budget: synthetic (acrylic, nylon, polyester...) is less expensive than wool, and wool is more fragile, not waterproof... But also warmer.
What is the purpose of a dog coat?
A coat is used to protect your dog from rain, wind and cold when temperatures drop. It helps to keep your dog healthy and comfortable, so that you can enjoy your walks in the winter as well as in the summer.
Should I put a coat on my dog in winter?
Despite the fact that some owners believe that dogs are hardy animals that are perfectly resistant to the cold, not all dogs are equal when it comes to low temperatures and some can really suffer. For healthy dogs with a thick undercoat, a coat is rarely essential, but it can prevent the animal from getting soaked by the rain... And the owner from having to dry him when he returns from a walk. For fragile dogs, small in size and/or with fine, curly or hard fur, a coat is often necessary when the temperature drops below 5°C.
Where to buy a dog coat?
You can find dog coats in pet stores, in stores that specialize in "fashion" for dogs and in general or specialized online stores.
How do I choose the right coat for my dog?
The ideal coat for your pet must be carefully chosen according to its size, but also its vulnerability to the cold and the climate to which you will expose it. Choosing a coat for your dog is not always an easy task, but given the vast choice of products on the canine market, you should end up finding an item that will suit your companion.
Remember to take all the necessary measurements to choose the right size and read the brand's recommendations on them. Not all coats are cut the same, and a dog that measures a size S at one brand might float in a size S coat at another.