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Hot Dog? No. Warm Pup? Absolutely! A guide to selecting the best winter coat for your pup

We never thought it would happen but it is getting chilly out there.

Humans are not the only one feeling the cold. Many beloved pups feel the chill, too. Dogs that are particularly sensitive to cold include puppies and senior dogs, as well as dogs that are small, over weight or under weight, sick, or have especially thin or short coats. Brachycephalic dogs with their adorable, smooshed-in faces, are also often extra sensitive to the cold.

Dogs who shouldn't wear a sweater or coat are big, active, or have heavy coats: Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, the sledding breeds, and similar dogs. These breeds were bred to handle even intense cold. As long as they're young and fit, they could suffer heat stroke if forced to wear a sweater. However, if your best friend is a senior (7 years or above), a cozy, windproof coat will keep those old bones warm. This is particularly important for dogs with arthritis or joint problems.

Generally, wind chill is more dangerous than actual cold temperatures. Calm, dry air feels less chilly than damp or windy air. Keep an eye on your dog in order to judge her comfort level. I s she shivering? Panting? Add or remove layers as needed to keep your pup comfortable. If your dog is playing fetch or going for a brisk walk, she might not even need a coat. If she's just taking a leisurely stroll or being carried, she'll probably need at least a vest or sweater. When that sweater or coat is on and you have any doubts, put your hand between your pup and her garment and you can feel her body temp and react appropriately.

Dogs that are uncomfortably cold while outside might start doing whatever they can to avoid the prospect - including relieving themselves inside. They might also stop enjoying the walks that are so beneficial for their physical and mental health. After all, it's hard to enjoy playing with their friends at the dog park when they're miserably cold and just want to go home.

When it's wet and windy outside, a waterproof jacket becomes the outerwear of choice for your dog. If it covers her stomach, so much the better; it will protect that bare tummy from being splashed with slushy water. Just make sure it fits properly: it should be snug enough to keep it from dragging or getting caught on something, yet loose enough to feel comfortable and to get on and off easily. It also has to let your dog take care of business while outside. That's a particularly important consideration if your dog is a boy; if the coat is too big or loose, it could end up getting drenched!

We live in a variable climate, so it's helpful to have a range of outerwear options available for your pup. A wardrobe that contains a light sweater, a waterproof/windproof jacket, and heavier lined coat will keep your best friend warm and dry (and stylish!) no matter what the weather. There are coats available that consist of a waterproof outer shell with a removable inner liner. These offer great protection from wind, rain, snow, or sleet - with the added benefit of an optional layer of extra warmth.

If your best friend is just "chilling" around the house, one of your old sweatshirts with most of each sleeve cut off adds a little warm comfort if your dog is the right size. It may not be stylish, but it is easy to launder. Keeping at least a couple of them on hand for each pet means you'll always have a clean, dry one available. A t-shirt might be a better option for smaller pets who could have trouble moving in a heavier sweatshirt. This is also a good option for when you're awaiting the arrival of that custom coat you just ordered.

Manufacturers vary in their ideas as to what constitutes a small, medium, large, or giant dog, so measure your pet carefully. If you're ordering a coat, always check the company's specific measuring instructions. Once you have your pet's measurements, it's time to think about material choices. Pure wool is nice and warm, but often not machine washable. It can also irritate the skin on some dogs. A better choice might be a washable wool blend. Try to choose a fabric that's stylish, yet still practical. After all, a coat that is exposed to mud and slush is going to need frequent laundering.

So, now that you've decided your pet needs some outerwear, here are some options, including links to the manufacturers' websites with even more choices.

Need a parka for your active dog? Or a raincoat? This company specializes in exactly that.

This company offers a coat especially designed for dogs with large necks and/or barrel chests (think bulldogs and boxers). They are Canadian so you know they understand staying warm.

A warm fleece jacket is perfect for chilly days or as a first layer for those bitterly cold days.

For seriously active dogs.

Schneiders is known for horse blankets and have adapted their expertise to making wearable dog blankets. They are wonderfully warm, waterproof and much less expensive than high fashion coats.

Even if you are not taking pup fly fishing, these are the Mercedes Benz of dog coats. Very warm and very fashionable with the Orvis logo. Price tag to match.

If you dog isn't enthusiastic about wearing that stylish new jacket, try showing her a really yummy treat, but don't give it to her yet. Let her keep that treat in sight while you're putting on her coat. Chances are she won't even notice what you're doing. Another thing you can try is to put her leash on so she's focused on her upcoming walk and then put on her coat. Of course, once your dog is used to wearing her coat, it'll be easier to put on the leash after she's wearing it.

Winter is the time to "strutt your mutt" and do it in style.

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