Doggy goosebumps
September 28, 2008 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Are my dogs cold?

These are my dogs, Cordy and Dean, sunning in Miami FL. We recently moved to Seattle WA from Miami and it is already noticeably colder here. Dean and Cordy have lived all of their 7 years in South Florida. They are totally indoor dogs, only going outside when I walk them. I keep the house somewhat heated, not letting it get below 65 F. They have dog beds and I set up an electric heater to keep their area of the house warm while they sleep. I still feel like they must be cold because I get a little chilly and often put on more clothes. Should I buy coats for my dogs? I've never been into dressing my animals and honestly, I've always thought it was a little silly. Now I'm wondering if there isn't some practicality to it in cold climates. I know Huskies and Malamutes don't need coats but maybe my dogs do?

As a followup if anyone does think I should get coats for my dogs, any suggestions where to buy them?
posted by little miss s to Pets & Animals (18 answers total)
uh…so permission was denied to view the page with your dogs. but…

i have a weimaraner. he has very short hair. we live in the NW. i put him in a sweater or a jacket when we go out in the winter. some ppl might think it's weird and silly but he's cold without them. he'll shiver. however, usually i don't put him in them in the house (and i keep the house between 65°-70° in the winter), unless he's been shivering.
posted by violetk at 6:27 PM on September 28, 2008

I don't think you need to worry, and I suspect that heating the area where they sleep is overdoing it.

They have a more compact shape than you do, less surface per volume, which means they lose less heat for that reason than you do. They also have fur, and even if it's short it's a lot. Effectively, they're already wearing sweaters, and long underwear.

I've seen short-haired labs playing in the snow without any discomfort at all. Their bodies aren't tuned for weather the way ours are. Remember, our ancestors evolved in Kenya. Their ancestors, the wolves, evolved in the frozen north.
posted by Class Goat at 6:50 PM on September 28, 2008

Here's the link, the dogs' pic.
posted by lee at 6:50 PM on September 28, 2008

What breeds are they?
posted by k8t at 6:51 PM on September 28, 2008

Such cute dogs!

They will be fine, we had a German Shorthair Pointer when I was a kid in Michigan - he was always outside, even in the winter. We only brought him in when it dropped far, far below zero - and he didn't like being inside for long. Your dogs may get a little chilly initially, but they should acclimatize pretty quickly.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 6:59 PM on September 28, 2008

They're beautiful. I love brindle coloring. You can find some nice dignified (well, as dignified as these things get) dog sweaters/coats at most large-chain pet stores. My last dog had a thyroid condition, and lost most of her fur. She wore a simple coat that fastened around her neck and underneath at her chest. We got it at Petco. My current dog has a faux suede affair with a faux sheepskin collar. I am not a dress-up-my-dogs kinda person, but she looks awfully cute in her coat. Watch your dogs when they're sleeping or resting- if they shiver, get 'em a coat (or a bunch of cheap fleece blankets they can burrow in). Otherwise, they're fine.
posted by dogmom at 7:07 PM on September 28, 2008

Cute doggies.

The key to cold weather happiness for dogs is an undercoat. That's the fluffy crinkled hairs which can been seen if you part your dog's fur to the skin. These hairs act as insulation by trapping a layer of warm air close to the dog's body, much like down on a bird. Some breeds have a lot of undercoat, some have none at all and most fall in-between. Double-coated dogs exposed to cold weather will grow thicker undercoats than dogs in hot weather climes, however, not all breeds can grow undercoats thick enough to make them happy in cold weather.

If your dogs seem to shed even more than usual every spring, they have undercoats and winter after next, they will probably be happy as...err, dogs, having had a few seasons to adapt to Seattle weather. If your pooches are all day indoor dogs, they don't need the extra heater but you might find it easier to get them outside with a sweater. I had a thinly-coated mutt who flatly refused to go outside during the winter unless wearing a blanket and I live in California. What a weenie.

Style-wise, I like these horse-blanket inspired dog coats, but I don't know if I'd pay that much for something that might only get one season's worth of wear.
posted by jamaro at 7:14 PM on September 28, 2008

There's totally a point to dressing your pooch in colder climes - all you have to do is watch the pooch. If they're shivering or get cold paws easily, then it's time to help mother nature out with a coat. Usually, that's only needed outdoors when on walks, but if your house is cooler inside, sometimes it might be useful, especially if your house is drafty (remember - they may have less body mass but also live closer to the floor where the drafts are!).

As to where to buy: well, I'll be self-promoting a wee bit here (but it's how I became a specialist in this topic). Here's a link to hundreds of styles of winter coats or sweaters, if you prefer.
posted by twiki at 7:56 PM on September 28, 2008

Thanks lee for posting a working link. I don't know why my original link isn't working. My flickr setting is set for anyone to see.

k8t, they are some kind of hound mix, shelter dogs so I have no idea. They are siblings though. Their coloring is completely different but the shape of their heads and bodies is identical.

jamaro, I will look to see if there is a difference in their shedding. For short hair dogs, they shed a lot more than I ever would have thought.

dogmom, I am going to try really hard not to fall into getting them coats for their cuteness but I am going to watch for shivering. Unfortunately, one of my dogs has some anxiety issues. She shivers heavily when she gets scared. You would think I would know if it was for reasons of being cold or fear, based on context but she is unpredictable in what new thing she is scared of.

Thanks Glass Coat and The Light Fantastic. That is reassuring. I'm hoping they are tough dogs and can handle the cold to come as well.

Violetk, as much as I want to just let them be dogs and adjust, I may follow your lead and put a coat on them when it starts to get really cold for their walks. It's only been as cold as the mid 50s so far. I guess I need to wait and see how anxious I get about the mid 40s.

Thanks again all. I'm going to check out the horse-blanket dog coats now (thanks jamaro)
posted by little miss s at 8:16 PM on September 28, 2008

In my experience, dogs get more upset at wet/cold paws then cold bodies. But even then, this is probably only a major concern for walkies. If they seem touchy about going out in the winter, keep in mind that it could be their precious little toes that they're worried about.

Adorable dogs, by the way.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:45 PM on September 28, 2008

or a bunch of cheap fleece blankets they can burrow in

This is a great idea for inside the house. That way the dogs can regulate their own temperature to a degree, whereas with a coat on they can't. You should easily be able to show them what the blankets are for and if they're cold the dogs will burrow, if they're not they won't. If you see them burrowing a lot then you could look at an inside coat or turning up the heat or whatever.

I may be biased though because my sister-in-laws Dalmatian is totally adorable when he runs in with his blankie then lies down and carefully drags it over himself so he can snuggle.
posted by shelleycat at 9:52 PM on September 28, 2008

I met someone with a Mexican hairless dog in Seattle. He said the dog didn't need any extra help in the temperature department, which came as a surprise to me. I would still consider a coat more for rain than just cold - depends how long you walk your dogs.

And yes, a heater for them is overkill if the house is reasonably warm.

As for where to buy, I like Bark in Ballard and Railey's in Fremont.
posted by O9scar at 11:53 PM on September 28, 2008

No coats are needed unless your dogs are chihuahuas which I didn't see that you mentioned. Dogs don't need any threads that mother nature didn't intent them to have. You live in Florida - not Finland. Major diff. Give them cod liver oil to generate some inner heat on their own if this is a major concern. Otherwise - keep them out of drafts, put on the odd space heater when it reaches 20 or below, provide ample floor coverings - and give them plenty of love. They will be fine.
posted by watercarrier at 12:55 AM on September 29, 2008

Throw blankets are nice to put around because they are so much easier to toss in the wash regularly compared to unzipping dog bed covers and then getting them back on post-wash. They'll build themselves nests with them if they need to bundle up.

You'll know they are cold if they pile up uncharacteristically on each other, or if you find you can never get up off the couch because you are covered in dog (and they're not wanting attention, they're just determined to be up against you). Or if they are actually shivering. In the NW, you may find raincoats help you out in the winter to keep them from coming in wet and being unhappy then, but most dogs are fine at 65 degrees if they are dry.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:48 AM on September 29, 2008

Dogs don't need any threads that mother nature didn't intent them to have. You live in Florida - not Finland.

The OP doesn't live in Florida any more; she and her dogs moved to Seattle, hence the question.

Some dogs do need coats to go outside in winter. I'm thinking here of the long-and-lean hound breeds that tend to have very little undercoat or body fat, like violetk's Weimaraner. You know your own dogs best, so you will probably be able to tell if they are cold. If they're unhappy wearing coats while walking, you'll be able to tell that too (for example, they'll try to get the coats off.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:00 AM on September 29, 2008

Those two look like they'll just curl up together if they get cold. I worried about Radar, but he just curls up in a ball and puts his tail over his nose and goes to sleep.
posted by legotech at 3:01 PM on September 29, 2008

If they were cold, they would be getting on top of you to steal your heat, or cuddling together. Or shivering.

Take them camping in the snow - you'll soon see what they do to show you when they are cold!

I'm sure they're fine - and they're adorable.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:37 PM on September 29, 2008

One other thing. If you get too proactive about keeping them warm, you can derail their acclimatization. Try not to anticipate their chilliness, and let them tell you when they are truly, desperately cold. If you keep the house too warm, they will not develop their undercoat, and that will hurt them in the long run. Far better to let them be a little chilly and get used to their new climate - which they will if given the chance.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:11 AM on September 30, 2008

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