The cold season is officially here. Yet another frost advisory was issued for our area, which is Canada’s southernmost, and up north, people have experienced first snowstorms. Also, Halloween is only a couple of days away. All and all, it’s time for pet owners to think about clothes for their four-legged companions. We at Pawz Club asked Natalie Gill-Carew, who is the store manager at Pet Valu in Essex, Ontario, to share her expertise in picking the right clothes for dogs and cats – for the cold weather and for Halloween.
Pawz Club: Obviously, not all dog breeds need extra protection from cold. What breeds do need some extra protection from cold weather?
Natalie Gill-Carew: Many pet parents assume the small breeds are the only ones who require protection from the cold. We see a lot of Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Jack Russells, Yorkies, Mini Poodles, Min-Pins, Mini Schnauzers, etc., who come in for coats or sweaters. There are, however, many larger breeds with short hair who will benefit from “being dressed for the cold weather.” Foot protection is also very important for all breeds as our winter elements can cause a variety of foot health issues from dry, cracked pads to frostbite.
PC: How can a dog owner tell that the dog needs warm clothes and that it’s time to put them on?
Natalie: If a pet parent needs a coat, the likelihood is, their pet could use one too. Is there frost, a wind chill, or snow falling? These are good indicators that it’s time for cold-weather protection.
PC: What types of dog clothes are available on the market?
Natalie: There is a vast array of dog attire on the market today. Here at Pet Valu, we carry everything a pet parent could possibly need to keep their pet warm and dry, including but not limited to, t-shirts, dresses, PJs, raincoats, vests, wool sweaters, parkas, and even snow pants!
There are also many options to ensure your pets’ feet stay warm, dry, and healthy. We carry socks with tread for non-slipping, rubber boots that stay on very well, Winter boots made from a variety of materials such as leather and suede and, for those winter outdoor lovers, doggy hiking boots! Pet Valu also offers some non-clothing foot protection options as there are some dogs who do not like wearing anything on their feet. We have paw-protecting balms that create a barrier between the pad of the foot and the ground. These products work very well to keep snow, ice, and salt away from the dogs’ pads.
PC: What about sizes? How do you measure a dog and how do you pick the right size?
Natalie: Similar to the human fashion industry, various brands offer various sizes. You will see sizes that range from XXXS to XXXL. To ensure the correct fit for your pet, the measurements required are the “girth” (measure around the body at the biggest section of the chest) and the “length” (measure from the back of the neck to the end of the body where the tail begins). Ensuring attire fits correctly is particularly important with male dogs. If the clothing is too big or long underneath the body, the pet parent will likely experience “messy” issues when the dog uses the bathroom! For sizing footwear, the best measurement to take is from the tip of the dogs’ nails to the heel of their pad.
PC: What body parts of a dog need to be protected most? Chest, paws, belly?
Natalie: Paws would be the number-one body part that requires protecting. Ice, snow, and particularly salt can all cause foot issues for dogs. Even hot tar or cement can be problematic during the summer so foot protection can be a year-round issue. For the wonderful pet parents who walk their dogs no matter the weather, raincoats are a great choice for spring and fall, vests or parkas for winter, and possibly t-shirts for summer, particularly for breeds with short hair or fair complexions. Just as humans require sunscreen, some dogs also need that type of protection.
PC: What can protect a dog from rain, including cold, icy rain?
Natalie: A good raincoat can do the trick. If, however, it is very cold, icy rain, a more insulated vest or parka would be a better choice. Many are water-resistant or repellent. Some even come with hoods attached for extra protection! If the pet parent uses a harness for walking, most pet clothing comes with a “harness opening”.
PC: Cats normally don’t like wearing costumes. What about dogs? Do they get nervous when people dress them up?
Natalie: I have personally had cats for most of my life. I should admit I do enjoy dressing them in Halloween costumes. Some cats will react by “freezing”; others will not seem bothered at all. It’s really all about the cat, its personality and reaction. Most pet parents know what their pet will tolerate. It can certainly be fun and entertaining to include your cat in the Halloween festivities!
PC: What guidance would you give to people who are looking for a Halloween costume for a dog? What would be the best from the perspective of the dog?
Natalie: Again, there are countless choices when it comes to Halloween costumes for dogs. At Pet Valu we carry a wide array. Some of our most popular this year are tacos, chickens, Superman, Wonder Woman, pumpkins, and jockeys. We also carry smaller accessories like hats, ties, tutus, and, of course, Halloween treats!
When choosing a costume, the pet parent will want to ensure it fits correctly, does not inhibit mobility, and is something the dog is comfortable wearing. Many pet parents enjoy including their dog in trick-or-treating. Some pets get stressed out or anxious during these types of activities. Pet Valu also has many “calming” options available to ease any of these issues.