Make wearing winter clothes an enjoyable experience for your dog.
Dogs wearing clothes? Really? Yes, really! Dog clothes is not just for toy breed dogs carried in purses. Those dogs are very cute, but today items for dogs to wear come in all shapes and sizes – from Chihuahuas to Great Danes - and for many different purposes. Granted, if you have a St. Bernard or an Alaskan Malamute, your dog isn’t going to need a winter jacket. But how about some boots to protect his paws from road salt and other chemicals?
If you browse through a dog supply catalog, either in the mail or online, you’ll find many different options for dog clothing and accessories. Most are strictly decorative, of course. A neighbor’s daughter has a long-haired Chihuahua who is always wearing clothes; usually little dresses that look like doll clothes. Personally, I think that’s a little much, but the dog is happy and so is the teen-aged daughter, so who am I to judge?
Winter clothing can be important for many dogs though, especially in colder climates. Short-hair dogs such as Doberman Pinschers, Jack Russell Terriers, Rat Terriers, Miniature Pinschers, and Greyhounds feel the cold quickly and may start shivering long before we do. These dogs will appreciate a sweater in the house and a jacket outside on cold days and nights.
Rain jackets have become popular for dogs of many sizes and can protect the dog on cold, rainy or snowy days. These offer advantages for you too. If your dog doesn’t get quite as wet while walking in the rain, it will take less time for you to dry him off when you get home.
Boots for dogs have been around for many years but have increased in popularity. Boots can be especially important in cold climates, both to protect the paws from salt and chemicals, but also to protect the paws from snow and ice building up between the pads. They can also provide more traction. My dogs have all been introduced to boots, not for the mild winters here in San Diego, but for hot summer days when the asphalt is hot and could burn paws.
Whether you’re looking at clothes to keep your dog warm inside, protective clothing for winter wear outside, decorative clothing, or boots for winter wear, make sure the items fit your dog correctly. The clothing should be comfortable for your dog and not constrict his movements. It shouldn’t rub under his front legs or in the groin. His tail needs to be free and he should be able to relieve himself.
The makers of boots offer detailed instructions as to sizing the boots and it’s important to follow their directions. Your dog will be just as uncomfortable with poorly fitted boots as you are with shoes that don’t fit.
Introducing Clothes and Boots
Introducing your dog to clothes and boots can be tough if your dog has never worn anything previously. Have some treats at hand and an old tee shirt that is ready to be used as a rag. Drape it over your dog, praise him and pop a treat in his mouth. Remove the shirt and do it again. Just toss it over his shoulders, back, or hips. Laugh, pet your dog, and make a game out of it.
The next day, put one of your dog’s legs through the arm of the shirt, praise your dog and give him a treat. Do this with each leg in turn, one at a time, and then put his head through the neck opening of the tee shirt. Again, keep it fun.
Using a couple of old socks (even if they are huge for your dog), place them on two of your dog’s paws. Laugh, giggle, pet your dog, and give him a treat. Wrap a scarf around your dog, put some ear muffs on him, or a hat. During all of this your goal is to teach your dog that wearing things like this is fun. You’re also teaching your dog that he can trust you.
Then, when you get some boots for your dog or a winter jacket, introduce it the same way. Keep it light-hearted, fun, and use treats to reward him for his cooperation.
When asking your dog to wear clothes of any kind, keep an eye on him. He can get a leg out of the leg hole and get all tangled, the clothes could rub him raw, or he could panic. Supervise him and keep checking that everything fits, is safe, and is worn correctly. Make sure, too, that your dog doesn’t get overheated; especially when wearing something in the house. Be safe.
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