I used to think that dressing dogs in jackets and shoes was silly and unnecessary, however, now that I’ve had dogs for several years, I see the purpose, especially during the winter.
While some dogs, like huskies, come with their own built-in insulating layer of fur, others with shorter coats, puppies, or senior dogs are more prone to the cold and may require a winter wardrobe. Other dogs tend to tear their paws or form ice balls in between their paws after playing the snow and need paw protection.
The right winter gear for dogs can keep them comfortable and you worry-free, so that you can continue your outdoor adventures together, even when the temperatures drop.
Not all dogs require jackets in cold weather. We never used one for Sora, as she rarely showed signs of being cold. Laila, who is a skinny little thing with shorter fur, tends to feel cold more easily.
Breeds whose bellies hang low to the ground like dachshunds and corgis, short-haired miniature breeds like chihuahuas, senior dogs, and lean-bodied larger breeds like greyhounds might require an extra layer to stay warm.
Keep in mind that some dogs won’t take to wearing a jacket easily. The right size should fit comfortably and allow for full range of motion. Jackets that are too tight or too loose will feel uncomfortable and cause chafing on your dog.
What to look for when selecting a dog coat for cold weather:
- Fabric that covers the neck and belly, as these are key areas where dogs lose heat.
- Jackets that are waterproof and windproof will keep your dog warmer in extreme conditions.
- If you use a dog harness, then factor that into the coat size when doing your research and also make sure the jacket has an opening to accommodate the leash.
- Look for a jacket that has considered dog safety at night or in hazy conditions. This means the jacket will include reflective piping or stickers and/or a space to put a safety light.
Our Winter Dog Jacket Recommendations
We currently use a Kurgo Loft Jacket. It’s not terribly thick, but it keeps Laila plenty warm and is lightweight. This reversible dog coat and the fabric is water resistant. We took Laila backcountry skiing during some heavy snow and while the jacket got wet, it wasn’t soaking through all the way. The jacket goes on easily and secures using Velcro around the belly, to allow for adjustable fit for varying dog sizes.
There are countless winter dog coats available on the market. I’ve talked to friends who have used other brands and though we have not used the below coats ourselves, I can confidently recommend the following jackets:
- The Hurtta Extreme Warmer is a waterproof dog jacket that contains a reflective foil inside to provide extra warmth. A lined hood covers the entire neck to protect the ears and provide additional warmth. Lastly, the jacket has plenty of reflective taping to ensure your dog is safe in the dark.
- Ruffwear makes several jackets for winter activities. Two we would recommend are the Powder Hound and the Vert. The Powder Hound is a hybrid jacket that uses synthetic insulation for warmth. It’s weather resistant and great for cold-weather activities like snowshoeing or dog walks.
If you’re a bit more adventurous with your winter activities, the Vert it probably the best choice. Inspired by mountain working dogs, this jacket is a fully windproof and waterproof coat, yet breathable so your dog won’t overheat. The fleece lining provides a cozy layer for your pup and leg loops keep the jacket in place if it’s especially windy. You can also pop the collar like a college bro and give your dog some extra warmth around their neck and up their cool factor.
- I’ve been seeing Voyagers K9 Apparel coats all over my Instagram feed lately. These stylish jackets are breed-specific, which means that the jacket will actually fit your dog perfectly, rather than just kinda fit. If you have a mutt or a dog whose breed isn’t on the list, they’ll make you a custom jacket.
This small company has thought of everything in their design: the pipeline reflective edging, adjustable fleece neck gaiter and chest strap, and windproof and waterproof protection. The jackets come in a variety of colors and look so cozy that I kinda want one for myself.For dogs who need an extra layer, Voyagers also makes the Tummy Warmer, a fleece dog wrap that doubles as a calming jacket. It is designed to fit below the winter coats to also provide additional warmth.
A common assumption about dogs is that their paws are tough and can handle any surface, including snow. Like human skin, dogs’ paws can crack and chap, and it hurts. Additionally, snow can cause “snowballing” or ice build up in between toes, which is painful for your dog. If you notice your dog limping during a winter hike, this could be the reason.
Again, we’ve been lucky with both Laila and Sora, who have seemed to handle the snow quite well. After backcountry skiing for the first time with Laila, I did notice that her paws seemed a little raw thanks to the crusty snow. She wasn’t limping and didn’t seem in pain, but I just put some HempMy Pet coconut oil on them after we finished.
For those with dogs with more sensitive paws prone to chapping and acquiring snow balls in their paws, members of any dog hiking group will recommend Musher’s Secret. This wax-based paw balm protects the paws from ice, snow, salt, and chemicals used on pavement during the winter months. For an organic option, you can try Natural Dog Company Paw Soother. Both products are completely safe for dogs.
If you want to see our thoughts on and learn more about HempMy Pet CBD Oil for dogs, check out our review.
An alternative to paw balm are dog boots. Again, we have never had a need for using dog booties with our dogs, but they work great for some pups. It can take awhile for them to become accustomed to wearing them, so practice indoors before lacing up to go out for a snow day.
Our recommendation would go to the Ruffwear’s Polar Trex booties. These feature a Vibram sole provides traction, and the insulated softshell fabric offers breathable, weatherproof protection in cold and inclement weather.
Like humans, dogs need eye protection, too. On sunny winter days, the reflection off the white snow can cause eye injuries, like pannus. Think about when you take your ski goggles off and become blinded by the snow. It’s super bright and you have to squint.
Certain breeds and dogs with light-colored eyes are most susceptible to eye damage. Consider getting a pair of RexSpecs to keep your pup’s eyes safe for future adventures.
Related post: Can Dogs Get Altitude Sickness?
Water has this funny habit of freezing over when temperatures dip below 32°F. What this means for your dog is that they may not have the same access to water sources as they would during a summer hike. River beds may be more dry with the lack of snow melt or completely inaccessible and lakes could be frozen over.
Bring sufficient water for both you and your dog to prevent dehydration. We use insulated water bottles from Hydroflask and Klean Kanteen. An insulated water bottle will keep your water from getting ice cold during your hike, or if you prefer to bring a hot beverage (for the human, of course), then it’ll stay piping hot.
It’s nice to bring a warm travel bed or sleeping bag for your dog if you plan to stay at a viewpoint for a bit or to have for them to curl up in when you return back to the car. It also provides a layer between their body and the snow or cold ground if they want to lie down while you snack or take photos.
We have several that we love, including the Kurgo Wander Loft Bed (you can see our review here). It’s a bit large to carry hiking, especially if you have a bigger dog, but it’s perfect to put in the back of the trunk or on the seat for a warm spot for your dog to lay in the car.
Let’s start with the Ruffwear Highlands Bed. It’s super lightweight and perfect for backpacking. It’s light enough that Sora could carry it herself, and Laila probably as well. This bed compresses easily into its stuff sack and the integrated sleeve can accommodate the Highlands Pad for additional insulation.
The Whyld River Doggy Bag is pretty much on-the-go dog bed perfection. Like the Highlands Bed, it packs down into a small size and is lightweight. It’s a bit thicker than the Highlands bed, so may not fit as easily on a dog’s back, leaving the human to find space in their bag to carry it on the trail (which I do all the time and it’s not an issue). The bed is cushy and plush and warm and I want one for humans. It fits together with several snaps so that your dog can make herself a little bed and you can cover her up for extra warmth and cuteness. Also, they ship internationally, woo hoo!