Prepare thyselves and thy pooches, the season of blizzards, blistering cold and transit shutdowns is fast approaching (please forgive the ad nauseum Game of Thrones reference, I couldn’t help myself).
Unless you’ve just moved from some sunny part of the country that never sees snow, you realize by now that winter in NYC is tough on all of us, including our dogs. Though we like to think of them as self-sufficient, most are nothing like their wolfy ancestors and cannot be expected to mush through the worst elements like Balto. The less dense the fur, the greater the need for a coat, and all dogs need paw protection when salt is on sidewalks. So let the tourists from Alabama gawk and laugh at the silly dog wearing clothes and shoes. Hold your head up proudly knowing that we treat our dogs like family members here, not like livestock.
When I first began walking dogs, good coats and boots were scarce, but the pet product industry seems to have caught on to the opportunity in making smarter, more durable designs. Whereas once PAWZ (the colorful little balloons that you see abandoned in the snow one at a time) were the only paw-coverage game in town, now there are tons of options that are easier to put on and won’t tear due to friction or long nails. My favorite among these is a boot that happens to look a lot like classic Wellies (you can’t discount the adorability factor in anthropomorphizing our dogs), made by a brand called Good2Go that can be found at PetCo. It’s a silicone boot that’s nowhere near as expensive as Muttluks or Ultra Paws and is pre-bent at the ankle, which, in my experience, makes for much more comfortable and willing wear.
There are many versions of the ergonomic, curved boot now, and while some have fancy tread like a tire and claim to be all-weather, I’ve found that few are truly waterproof, nor are they as easy to put on, or as likely to stay on, as the Good2Go. The rubbery texture on the entirety of the boot is key, because it sticks to fur and stays in place even through fits of rebellious paw shaking and biting. It’s equally useful in rain and snow, eliminating the need for different footwear throughout the year. This is the paw protection I’m recommending to all my clients this winter.
Lionel (above) and Lola (below) prove that these boots are made for walkin’ (I can be cheesy, this is a dog blog!).
Progress in coat design is also being made steadily now, and this year’s offerings are the best I’ve ever seen. I was so disappointed by the lack of size variety (a medium-size coat that fits a Beagle will NOT fit a Bulldog) and body coverage in the only designs available up to last year that I toyed with the idea of making my own. Raincoats that only cover dogs’ backs lead me to believe that no one ever bothered to test them on actual dogs, and they kind of make me want to drag a mop across a rainy, filthy street and then bring it into the homes of the coat designers and make them snuggle with it. There should be just as much shielding of the legs and stomach as of the sky-facing bits, because water mixed with someone’s dropped lunch and various other matter that was once inside of animals and people* is WAY more offensive than plain old rain (*Soapbox Alert-Can blue-collar men be taught to carry tissues rather than expectorating the contents of their sinuses onto the sidewalk?! This is my Christmas wish). You don’t have to be a germaphobe to see the value in a rainsuit. And if you’ve ever walked a Havanese in snow that’s more than a couple inches deep, you know that you will set out with a dog but return with a miniature abominable snowman, because long, silky fur gathers powdery flakes like a magnet. That’s not fun for anyone, least of all the poor, freezing, clumpy pup, and a snowsuit is the answer. In general, if there’s moisture involved, full-coverage is best.
It’s as if this fact became an epiphany in 2015, because a Google search for “dog snowsuit” no longer yields the response “did you mean dogs know suits?” and rather presents several seemingly fabulous options for ear-to-tail protection. I say seemingly because I have yet to try them all, and most are such new products that there are no online reviews. After doing some investigating, I’ve singled out what I think will prove to be the best.
I’ll start with raincoats since those are essential to most of the dogs I walk, the majority being curly, fluffy, easily-dreadlocked little things. Even short-coated dogs appreciate not getting drenched, and are more likely to actually walk in the rain and get their parents’ money’s worth out of me. Plus this coat is just about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, and I can’t wait for one of my clients to buy one so that I can walk an astronaut dog.
The Push Pushi coat, with its brilliant umbrella-like, foldable hood would be perfection if it were mated with a rainsuit like the one pictured below. Given its lack of undercarriage coverage, it would be best suited to a dog with short, straight fur, like the Boston Terrier in the photo.
This Urparcel rainsuit would make my job SOOOOO much easier, and would give us more time to walk, since I tend to spend several minutes cleaning my pups’ tummies when we return. It’s available in six sizes.
As for snowsuits, there are several options that look sensible and effective, from lighter-weight and convertible to puffy and cocoon-cozy. I found two of my favorites, plus several others that look very promising, on BaxterBoo.com. This site is a new discovery for me, and if its customer service is as good as its selection, pricing and product descriptions, then it totally rocks. This is the only online pet store I’ve found that provides neck and chest circumference in addition to body length of all its coats, plus a super helpful guide to measuring your dog. Most of the rainsuits and snowsuits they sell come in six or more sizes, ensuring great fits for Frenchies and Viszlas alike.
The Zack and Zoey Expedition snowsuit made its way into the wardrobe of one of my furry clients, per my recommendation last year, so I can attest that the detachable back legs and hood are convenient. The suit itself is mid-weight, warm but breathable, so it’s comfy for dogs of varying fur types. It’s available in six sizes.
The description of the Hurrta Slush Combat Dog Suit on BaxterBoo.com advises that this suit is ideal for the wet weather of spring and autumn, for the express purpose of keeping dogs with long fur clean, but I’m listing it as a snowsuit since it’s all my Doodles and Poos will need when the weather outside gets frightful. Insulation is unnecessary for dogs who already have plenty of that. It comes in 20…count them, 20!…different sizes.
The Muttluks Reversible Dog Snowsuit is another that one of my clients has purchased, and it is the best-insulated I’ve personally tested (or that I’ve personally watched a dog test), making it ideal for short-coated dogs like Bostons and Jack Russells. The pup who wears this coat is, in fact, a Boston. Riley looks a little like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story, with legs so puffy he shouldn’t be able to move, but he does, and it’s worth it because we get to play with snowballs and he’s toasty warm. It is available in 10 sizes.
As much as I love snowsuits, not every day is a snowsuit day. Standard coats and parkas still have their place, and they provide enough warmth without being constrictive overkill on cold, dry days. I suggested this Canada Pooch coat to a client for her Beagle pup, and it saved her from shivering when the temperature dropped drastically a few days ago. It’s Sherpa-lined, which feels dreamy against my skin and seems to feel pretty good against Piper’s fur. I also love that this has sleeves on the front legs, with the lining extending throughout, keeping her chest snuggly. It is all-around a high-quality, well-made coat, and is available in 13 sizes (the fit chart at CanadaPooch.com even shows the silhouettes of different breeds above their ideal sizes, removing any guesswork). Piper models the coat for us in the video below.
Some dog walkers balk at the extra time and effort involved in putting boots and coats on their dogs, and have no problem with making a Greyhound shake and chatter in frigid temps and lift her salt-burned paws in agony. I believe it’s my job to make sure my pups are happy and healthy in addition to empty and exercised. New Yorkers, and especially Chelseans (my new word for Chelsea residents…it will catch on), are known for being well-dressed, and if there is a reasonable call for dog clothing, why not let our dogs mirror our stylishness? I draw the line at doggie Louboutins, which I’m sure someone is already inventing.