It gets pretty cold during winter up here in Michigan…does my dog need a winter coat? I know some buy sweaters for dogs, which I’ve always thought was a little silly. Is it safe to take my dog outside in winter without a coat? She’s a Shih Tzu, for what it’s worth.
- Christy in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Brrrr…those Michigan winters are no joke! We give you props for thinking about your dog’s safety in cold weather.
Here’s the skinny: There’s no easy-peasy answer to this one.
It depends on the temperature, it depends on the breed, it depends on the duration, it depends on the…you get the idea.
For most dogs, Mother Nature gives them the coat they need for winter weather. In fact, by buying a winter coat for a dog, you might be conditioning her body to rely too much on the jacket. Dogs’ bodies, like ours, respond to stimuli in our environment – including cold. Cold signals to a dog’s body that it’s time to grow that fur a little thicker.
There are caveats, of course. Shaved breeds have less natural protection against the cold. And even a thick, furry winter coat isn’t enough to safeguard against prolonged exposure to brutally cold temperatures. Never leave a dog outdoors in winter for a prolonged time without shelter.
Just because your dog can go outside in winter without a coat doesn’t mean she will go outside. Anybody who has stood on a snowy porch trying to coax and cajole a dog to step outside and go potty knows that all too well. Dogs are like us…most would rather be curled up with a snuggly down comforter than standing belly-deep in snow amid a swirling wind.
Here’s a pro tip: Don’t forget a towel to dry your dog when she comes in from the snow. A dry dog is a happy dog…and a healthy dog!