Today, we’re going to discuss ways to keep your pooch and yourself warm and comfortable as the seasons change and we approach the coldest times of the year. Let’s start this discussion from the human perspective and see how the rules we follow for staying warm outdoors also work for our dogs.
C = Clean: Clean clothing layers will provide the most warmth in cold weather, as fibers lose their ability to insulate when they get matted with dirt and oil. Similarly, your pup’s innate protection from the cold—their coat—will not be a very good insulator if dirty and matted. Best to keep your pooch and yourself clean.
O = Overheating (Avoid): We’ve all overheated when bundled up for the cold and we know how it feels when sweat-soaked layers no longer provide the warmth they used to. Your pup has a slightly different issue here as dogs don’t sweat. Rather, an over-heated dog will pant and lose moisture off of their tongue which can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is usually associated with hot weather but it’s a very real threat in cold weather too because when we are cold we are less likely to have big hydrating gulps of water.
L = Layers: Layers allow fine adjustment of insulation and better regulation of internal temperature. A jacket over a sweater over a shirt over a thermal undershirt is better than a parka over an undershirt in most cases, because the latter only allows extreme warmth or insufficient warmth. With regard to your pooch, think of their fur as layer one; if they have a thick winter coat, then think of it in terms of layer 1 and 2. Then consider how many layers you are wearing and make sure they’re getting as much protection as you are. And, if either of you overheat on your walk, just remove a layer!
D = Dry: This one’s obvious, but needs to be reiterated: Water at 32° feels a lot colder than air at 32° because it is more dense. Keep your pooch and yourself dry, and you should stay warm enough on most winter walks even if a little underdressed.
These basic principles of staying warm outdoors understood, let’s finish up with some little life-hacks for keeping your pooch comfortable around the house.
If your pup sleeps in your bedroom then it’s easy to make sure they’re comfortable. If they sleep elsewhere, like a laundry room, it’s easier to overlook proper insulation. You’re going to want to insulate windows and perhaps add a space heater to the room to make it more den-like.
Layers again! This is especially important during winter power outages. Getting swaddled up in blankets and being warm in an otherwise cold house can still be a pleasant experience—for you and your dog!
Okay, so this probably doesn’t need to be suggested as its the intuitive first step for pet owners when they or their pup are cold. Nonetheless, hugging and cuddling have known physiological benefits, and if they can also keep your warm then it’s even better.
Mammals require calories to keep their core temperature up, so if it gets really cold, its a great excuse to do some extra snacking and to be a little more liberal with dog treats and between-meal snacks.
Hopefully you’ve found help here whether you plan on hiking or hibernating over the holidays. Happy thanksgiving to you and your extended family and pack.