I’ll say it: it gets cold in the winter in Vancouver.
It may not be snowing, or minus 25 degrees, like it is “Back East,” but I’d argue that being by the water, the cold is damp, almost bone-chilling.
And if you’re feeling that cold, the odds are your dog is too.
If you consider dog coats and sweaters just silly-looking and dumb accessories, that’s totally okay. Lots of people do, and I don’t blame them. Some of them look ridiculous. But there are actually some breeds that need a little help braving the winter weather.
The quilted navy Commuter Coat from Yaletown’s Barking Babies boutique
The American Veterinary Medical Association says that small breeds weighing less than 10 pounds are more likely to get colder, faster than their larger parts, and require additional protection.
Those tiny dogs, especially ones that are short-legged and close to the ground, are the most likely to need some insulation: Chihuahuas, miniature pinchers, French Bulldogs, Dachshunds and Yorkshire terriers fit into this category. You know, the majority of dogs in downtown Vancouver.
The same goes for naturally slim dogs: Whippets and Greyhounds, for example.
Hip Doggie Urban Ski Vest (PetSmart)
Very young puppies, seniors or dogs suffering from a health condition may be more sensitive to the elements as well, and are less able to regulate their internal temperature. Conditions like heart disease and arthritis can be affected by weather.
The body type of your canine is also important here. Dogs with a stocky build and little fat, like pit bulls, can get chilly despite their size and dogs with a short, fine or single-layered coat may appreciate a jacket.
Of course, some dogs are bred to have double-coats to withstand the cold, and will never need a coat. These breeds include huskies, Malamutes, chow chows, Saint Bernards, Labrador retrievers and German Shepherds.
Seymour, who is hella skinny, rocks a custom jacket from Buggsly
Even if you have a larger dog that doesn’t normally get cold, it’s worth investing in protective gear if you spend a lot of time with your pooch doing outdoor activities in the snow, like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Because there’s no fur on your dog’s stomach, it’s less protected against ice and snow.
You may also consider getting booties to protect their feet, but even I think those look weird.
What to look for in a dog coat
The material: For Vancouverites, having a waterproof-dog jacket is pretty key to staying dry in our perpetually-rainy climate. Jackets that have reflective details make it easier for people, bikers and cars to see your pooch when it’s dark out. PetMD suggests looking for a blend of washable wool and cotton or acrylic to avoid itching.
Clear dog raincoat from Barking Babies
Make sure to consider ease of movement, especially if you have an active pet. The garment should cover their stomach but the legs and genital area should be kept free so they can explore, run and go to the bathroom. Anything that has full-length sleeves or a hood can impede your dog’s movement.
Look for something that is easy to take on and off, and doesn’t have a lot of complicated clips. Velcro fasteners tend to break down over time.
Martha Stewart Pets Cable Knit Dog Sweater (PetSmart)
Here’s where you really need to take cues from your dog. When you’re shopping, if they freeze in place for several minutes after you try on the jacket that’s a decent sign that this isn’t the right option for them. Try on several and see what works best.
And a note here: Just as important as keeping your dog warm is to knowing when they might be too hot, and it’s time to take the coat off.
Where to buy said coat
Most major pet stores these days contain protective dog clothing. My 15-pound Norfolk terrier has a custom-fit jacket from Buggsly that’s waterproof, reflective and easy to remove – and I’d recommend that to any pet owner. PetSmart, Barking Babies and Bone & Bowl also have great stock.
Click here to see Vancity Buzz columnist’s segment on CTV Morning Live about the best coats for dogs.