Is my dog's sense of smell better in the winter?
November 7, 2006 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Two-part canine question regarding noses and sweaters...

How does the cold weather effect my dog's sense of smell - can she smell things that are farther away? In other words, does my pup pick up on different olfactory hues in the winter compared to the summer?

Oh, and is putting a dog in a sweater ever justified?
posted by sneakyalien to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Of course it's ok to put your dog in a sweater. Dogs don't like to be cold any more than humans do. Besides, it's cute and dogs really love their sweaters.
posted by gokart4xmas at 8:33 AM on November 7, 2006

I don't know the answer to your first question, but I expect that the weather does affect smell.

And yes, if you own a dog with little body fat or with poor cold tolerance (either by breed or condition), then if you live in a cold climate a sweater is not only justified, but often essential to the dog's comfort and health. I'm not generally a fan of dressing dogs up (not because the dog cares, the difference is in our eyes, not the dogs' - the reason dogs often look uncomfortable or unhappy in antlers/sweaters/booties/whatever is simply that people have not desensitized the dog to the item appropriately), but I also don't see any harm in it most of the time (as long as it's not affecting the dog's heating/cooling abilities or movement).
posted by biscotti at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2006

To hop onto the back of this question, is there a good way to tell when your dog's cold enough that a sweater would be a good idea?
posted by COBRA! at 8:47 AM on November 7, 2006

My greyhound had a very distinguished dark green waterproof fleece-lined coat - it was more like a saddle blanket than, say, a doggy London Fog - for cold and wet outings, since they don't have much body fat.

I think getting/keeping a 90lb dog in a sweater might have been more than either of us would have stood for, but he did occasionally wear t-shirts. I would hold it out and he would step into the sleeves, and then put his head down for the shirt to go over. He rarely did anything he didn't want to do, so I figure that was acceptable to his doggy sensibilities.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:50 AM on November 7, 2006

is there a good way to tell when your dog's cold enough that a sweater would be a good idea?

My 25 pound dog shivers. Figured he was cold, got him a polar fleece coat and no more shivers. He loves his coat and is very agreeable to me putting it on him, which I imagine is in part because of the association of going outside.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:53 AM on November 7, 2006

Most scent compounds are more volatile when warmer, making them easier to smell. I don't know if a dog's sense of smell particularly is affected by the cold.
It's also possible that, with nearer scents muted, strong scents from farther away might be more noticeable. That is, something that would be drowned out by nearby plants and animals in summer might be able to overcome that in winter. But that's just spitballing.
posted by katemonster at 8:57 AM on November 7, 2006

Is there snow on the ground?
posted by yerfatma at 9:36 AM on November 7, 2006

Not to be another add on to this question, but I'm curious about the first question as well. My dog used to go nuts in the winter when I'd come in. He'd very thoroughly and excitedly sniff at me for what seemed like forever when I'd come in fresh and cold from the outside. Not nearly the same level of sniffing over I got in warmer weather. In fact I don't think I even got a sniffing over during the summer when I'd come home.

I always assumed the pockets of outside, cold air leaking out of my parka or jacket was the cause since lighter summer clothes meant not that much outside air trapped in what you were wearing and you'd smell more overwhelmingly of yourself (sweat and whatnot) rather than the unfamiliar outside air scents. Crackpot theory, but the best I could do.
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:47 AM on November 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

I never put a sweater on our AmStaf. As long as we're walking she stays warm enough. Her feet though are a bigger problem. When it's under 10 her paws freeze pretty quickly and she ends up trying to walk on three paws.

Don't forget their feet. Besides the cold, they pick up a lot of sand and salt between their pads which is a bad thing.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:54 AM on November 7, 2006

Response by poster: I always assumed the pockets of outside, cold air leaking out of my parka or jacket was the cause,

That is a good point, and my pup goes Crazy in the frosted early morning grass in a way that she doesn't seem to in the summer! I mean, she gets frenetic - as if she were hot on the trail of some vermin, and this really seems to be a fun game for her!
posted by sneakyalien at 9:55 AM on November 7, 2006

Dogs are just smart enough, generally, to let you know what they want. They want a walk? They'll cry by the door, or bring you their leash, or whatever else they associate with going outside. Put a sweater on 'em to keep 'em warm, and when they're too warm, they'll probably start pawing at it to get it off.
posted by davejay at 10:48 AM on November 7, 2006

It is never, ever, ever okay to put a dog in a sweater. The only dog clothing that is okay is booties, and that only if you live someplace that salts the sidewalks. I swear, clothing dogs is why we have Republicans in our country: it's just one big ball of stupid.
posted by dame at 10:51 AM on November 7, 2006

RUNNING our country . . . sigh
posted by dame at 10:57 AM on November 7, 2006

Sweaters/coats aren't stupid (although they are expensive, crikey. You could spend more on a dog's wardrober than a person's!) if it's cold out. In NYC during the winter, I rarely see a dog outdoors without one.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:05 AM on November 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

That's because New York is one epicenter of lifestyle stupid. It is not okay.
posted by dame at 11:18 AM on November 7, 2006

From watching my chow, I am sure that the smell of snow changes about every 2 degrees F. He must re-sniff the entire yard then.

He also enjoys sniffing the wind more in the winter than in the summer. This could be because he finally isn't overheated, and he's just happier and more active in cold weather.

I won't touch the sweater question. It isn't an issue when you have a chow.
posted by QIbHom at 11:47 AM on November 7, 2006

NYC dogs are just wimps. It's colder here and I don't see a whole lot of sweatered dogs.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 1:29 PM on November 7, 2006

That's because New York is one epicenter of lifestyle stupid. It is not okay.

No, dame, you're stupid. My dog was bred for freezing temperatures and is happiest in the snow, but there are lots of breeds that would at best be miserable and at worst very sick if they went out on their regular walks without sweaters or coats. Chihuahuas are the usual targets for dog sweater haters (and not without good reason, I make jokes about frou frou outfits all the time myself), but greyhounds are large regal animals who happen to have little to no body fat and no way of keeping themselves warm outdoors. Would you prefer they got pneumonia or just stayed indoors all winter?

Putting a sweater on a dog that doesn't need one is silly, but not putting one on a dog that does is irresponsible. Denying the latter just because you think clothed dogs are ridiculous is plain dumb.

NYC dogs are just wimps. It's colder here and I don't see a whole lot of sweatered dogs.

I'm going to go on a limb and guess that NYC's variety of dog breeds is as rich as our variety of ethnic backgrounds, not something I gather Minneapolis has going for it.
posted by lia at 1:52 PM on November 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

First question? No idea. Second question? What lia said. Dogs without adequate insulation in the form of thick fur and/or body fat need protection from the cold. I would not let my greyhound outside for any length of time without a coat or sweater if the temperature were below freezing; any greyhound rescue organization will tell you the same thing. There are other breeds of dog -- chihuahuas, for one -- for which this is true as well. This isn't about a fashion statement; it's just plain common sense that dogs bred for warm weather aren't well suited for the cold. Luckily for my dog, I am more concerned about his health than I am about protecting the sensibilities of people who don't like seeing animals in clothes.
posted by purplemonkie at 3:45 PM on November 7, 2006

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