Humans and dogs aren't much different in winter. Both love to romp through fresh powder, go out for daily walks, and sniff each...well, two out of three isn't bad. Humans layer up with hats, gloves and jackets before going outside—though some dogs are better suited to the cold than other dogs. Think husky versus chihuahua.
- Even the most winter-ready dog can benefit from booties and other warmer gear for those long days outside.
"Some dogs were bred to be in the snow and others, while they still love it, may not have the traits to be comfortable in the cold," said Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruffwear, the Bend-based dog gear brand. "Dogs are great communicators and will let you know if they're uncomfortable. Whether it's lifting their paw if it's cold or sore, or acting lethargic because they're too cold or losing steam, make sure to keep checking in with your dog and inspecting for snow or ice buildup." Not all dogs need a jacket or sweater, but breeds with short hair, older dogs or ones with medical conditions may benefit from an extra layer.
For small dogs, those with thin hair or others outside for long periods, Ruffwear's insulated Powder Hound Jacket provides warmth and a stretch belly panel that sheds snow or water.
Another company scratching the doggie gear door is Bend-based TenCoats.
"TenCoats also makes a lightweight, insulated dog jacket that's packable," said Joshua Drgastin, Bend Pet Express products and warehouse pro. "The coats are made of parachute cloth (ripstop nylon), have a Thinsulate layer for warmth, a high-quality zipper and are water resistant." The jacket folds into a pocket sewn on the coat for easy carrying.
Ellen Gibson, TenCoats owner, started making coats that were lightweight and comfortable for her own dogs. "I'm working on a prototype for larger dogs, as well as a line of coats for chubby dogs," said Gibson. Indeed, not all dogs are created equal.
Dog booties are also recommended for active dogs to protect their pads and toes from cuts, ice burns or harsh snow-melting chemicals. "Ruffwear's and Ultra Paws Durable Dog Boots have a piece of foam on the inside that really sticks well to the dog's foot and keeps the boot from falling off," said Drgastin.
Again, all dogs are different. Some tolerate handling of their paws better than others.
"Dogs have all sorts of things that can make the task at hand tricky – fur, nails, dew claws," said Strible. "Our Bark'n Boot Liners make sliding boots on easy. Much like socks, the liners also add a layer of protection from potential irritation and enhance the fit." The gusseted construction makes it easy to open the boots wide and slide the paw in. Strible recommends giving a dog time to get accustomed to the boots by wearing them inside for short stints and using treats, toys or fun activities to reward wearing the boots.
Besides boots, the winter dog gear market also includes paw protection creams and waxes. Musher's Secret was first designed for Iditarod racing dogs, protecting dogs' feet from icy conditions or snow balling up between their toes. Made of natural waxes and vitamin E oil, the product provides all season protection. "Mystic Roots is a Bend-based natural skin care company that has branched out from their skin care products to make an organic paw stick from shea butter, calendula gel, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, beeswax and lavender," said Drgastin. The company also manufactures organic nose and skin sticks to protect sensitive spots.
Some dogs also face the issue of clinging snow.
"Some breeds, like doodles and poodles, have to deal with snow clumping to their legs which can be a serious problem," said Linda West, owner of Dogs Ltd & Training in Bend. West uses a vegetable oil spray to prevent buildup before taking those breeds out into the snow.
Other products include heated dog bowls and even a therapeutic pet bed by Caldera made of tough cordura nylon fabric. The bed includes non-toxic gel packs that are microwave friendly. Slip the warmed packs into the bed's pockets to provide therapy relief or a warm outdoor setting in a cold place, such as a job site, for your dog. Like humans, hydration is important for a dog's well-being.
"If you're looking to start exploring winter pursuits with your pup, start small," said Strible. "Just like humans, dogs need to build up their stamina and tolerance to the snow. And just like humans, the right gear can make the experience more enjoyable."