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Cold Weather Dog Protection

November 14, 2013

Cold Weather Canine Equipment

Outdoor adventures with dogs is starting to make the turn from autumn crisp and dry to winter cold and wet.  Most dogs, like people, need some protection in winter to make their excursions more enjoyable and safer.  Even Iditarod runners get paw protection.  The bodies of dogs residing in warm weather locales like California don’t adequately get prepared for winter conditions like snow, ice, rain and bitter cold.  My experience is that dogs are not particularly fond of rain but absolutely love freshly fallen snow.  Something about the tactile snow experience brings out the puppy in them.  Chasing a snowball can be an interesting game when it disappears into a snow bank and the dogs frantically try to find it. 

Some dogs, like my Pit/Bulldog blend Boojum, dislike the cold and may need extra protection whereas others require little help to deal with adverse weather.  Zuni, our Siberian Husky, was in “hog heaven” when a Colorado storm dumped 28” in our backyard years ago.  He spent the entire day breaking trail and having what I believe was one of the most fun days of his life. 

No matter what you equipment you use on your dog, be sure to provide extra fuel for warmth and endurance.  Ideally, you would feed a high quality food about an hour or two before heading out.  Caloric intake should range between 5% to 10% more than the dog’s usual feeding per 10 degree temperature drop.  This is not an exact science.  I feed my dogs twice daily in equal amounts so if we are going to be out in the cold as opposed to hanging out around the house they get 1 ½ of the daily allotment in the meal prior to going out.  A good dehydrated or raw food is best since it is digests better and therefore delivers the calories more efficiently than kibble.

Here are some things to consider to ensure outdoor winter activities are enjoyable for you and your friend.  These products provide varying degrees of warmth and protection when used in their intended environments. 


Dog coats, vests and jackets are made for numerous specific conditions just as human outer ware is so be sure to choose one that fits your situation.  If you have an insulated vest designed for cold, dry applications and use it in a winter rain, you may end up with a soggy coat that no longer functions as expected. 

Generally speaking, sleeved coats are warmer than vests but can be more restricting so if freedom of movement is critical choose a coat with stretch fabric. 

Expectation of rain or wet snow calls for a waterproof or at least water repellant coat that sheds moisture from the upper and lower panels.

  • The Element Coat by EzyDog is a waterproof, fleece lined vest suited to lots of action.
  • Ruffwear’s Cloud Chaser is a four-way stretch fabric, breathable, sleeved coat with 3 layers.
  • Both coats offer shelter from wind and have reflective piping. 
  • In clear but cold conditions the Climate Changer fleece sleeved coat works well and is quick drying. 

Will the dog be in areas of dense shrub or woody thickets?  In this case you will need a coat that can withstand abrasions. 

  • For warmth and protection, the K-9 Overcoat is a good choice. 
  • If cold temperatures are not an issue but abrasion protection is then go for the Body Guard Protective Field Vest. The Body Guard is super-tough, constructed of 500 denier cordura rip stop nylon with an added layer of black 500 denier cordura nylon for the chest and body plate.  Visibility colors and made in USA. 

Bitter cold is best fought with an insulated jacket. 

  • The Quinzee is filled with synthetic Thermore™ insulation. This insulating layer traps the dog’s core body heat keeping them warm in extreme cold temperatures.  Includes an integrated stuff sack. 

While not technically a cold weather coat, a brightly colored, reflective jacket is a good idea in the low light of winter.  They usually make decent light rain shells as well and are inexpensive. 

  • The Ruffwear Track Jacket is very popular for this purpose and you can add a light to the jacket if you like 

Paw Protection 

Ice and snow can be problematic on a dog’s paws when it gets encrusted between the pads in addition to traction issues and chemicals such as de-icers.  

  • Polar Trex boots from Ruffwear provide excellent traction, extend higher up the dog’s leg than other boots and they are insulated.  There are many dog boots on the market but most of them don’t stay on well, wear out quickly or both.




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