By Sandra Hutchinson
When the mercury outside begins to drop, my thoughts turn to couture — canine couture, that is.
Some people may think it’s ridiculous to dress a dog in a coat or sweater, but as it turns out, there are sometimes very good reasons for doing so.
This is in contrast to dressing your dog in a goofy Halloween outfit, which may get a lot of laughs from the humans, but which is likely an unpleasant ordeal for your best friend. (I once considered dressing one of our Wheaten Terriers in a hot dog outfit so she could march with the dachshunds in a parade, but wisely thought better of it when the hot dog “buns” kept sliding off her back.)
Sarah Sutherland, owner of Sutherland’s PetWorks in Hudson Falls, N.Y., recommends the use of dog coats in our northern New York climate. She says that “In this day and age, most dogs are used to being indoors so their coats are set up for being indoors most of the time and they can’t handle the cold weather. A coat keeps their core temperature up.”
She says while some breeds, like German Shepherds and Huskies, have double coats, and can generally handle cold weather, most dogs are not bred to be outside in the middle of winter, especially for an extended time or for a long walk. She notes that even dogs with heavy coats may have poor circulation as they age, or have compromised immune systems or other issues, and need extra protection.
Ms. Sutherland adds that at least as important, if not more so, is protecting dogs’ paws, which are usually the first part of the animal to get frostbite. She says if your dog won’t tolerate wearing booties, then you can consider a product like Musher’s Secret, which is a waxy balm that covers paw pads.
I did more research on the Internet. Not surprisingly, one of the best perspectives I found on this question of whether dogs should wear coats is on the Orvis Web site.
Ah, Orvis. That bastion of high quality sporting and outdoor apparel and equipment, with a focus on fly fishing and the shooting sports, is also very dog-oriented, and sells dog jackets and other canine items. Dogs are welcome at the flagship store in Manchester, Vt., which, lucky for me, is located only about 40 miles from my home. There’s also an Orvis outlet store in Queensbury, N.Y., several miles south of Lake George Village, which also welcomes dogs.
Orvis favors retrievers, but we terrier folks can deal with that since we know that our dogs do not retrieve anything, let alone dead game birds, but prefer instead to chase squirrels and chipmunks.
Orvis says breeds better suited to the cold than others, because of the nature of their fur and their amount of body fat, include Siberian Huskies, Malamutes and Saint Bernards. Their dense coats have an insulating layer that traps heat.
Breeds may need extra insulation in very cold weather, says Orvis, include the Chihuahua, Greyhound, French Bulldog, and some terriers and pinschers. Orvis even goes so far as to suggest that “it’s possible these doggies are as uncomfortable outside in winter as you’d be if you ventured out naked.” (Emphasis mine.)
Toy dogs, small and light-bodied breeds, and breeds with very short or thin hair might need a jacket or sweater in the cold. Orvis also suggests that dogs “whose bellies are close to the ground” like the Dachshund and the Corgi, might need protection from the cold and snowy ground and sidewalks.
The mention of Corgis by Orvis got me thinking about Queen Elizabeth II, who is known for her lifelong love of Corgis. Remember Holly, the Welsh Corgi who appeared in the James Bond sketch during the opening ceremonies of London’s 2012 Olympics? Sadly, Holly passed away this fall, leaving the Queen with only one Welsh Corgi, Willow, and two Dorgis (Dachshund/Corgi mix), Vulcan and Candy. Click here to see the Annie Leibovitz photo of the Queen with her dogs that was published as the cover of the Summer 2016 issue of Vanity Fair magazine.
Does the Queen dress her Corgis and Dorgis in coats? While I wasn’t successful in finding a photo of the royal dogs so attired, I did discover that the Royal Collection Trust in England (“the home of official Royal gifts”) has released a new line of pet products, including a blanket coat made in Hunting Stewart tartan, the official livery tartan of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s residence in Edinburgh, Scotland. Naturally, the coat is shown worn on a Corgi. Click here for shopping information.