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Image for article A COAT OF MANY COLOURS

The modern fashion trend of dressing up dogs in clothes should not be confused with the serious benefits of fitting your dog with a practical coat when heading into the hills during the winter months. There is now a plethora of dog coats available and any one of them could be just what your dog needs when the snow falls, the nights darken, yet dog and owner would still benefit from getting out of the house for an hour or so.

Dogs are not easily seen on evening walks in the countryside as street lighting does not extend to remote areas and parks may have no lights at all. But you can fit your dog with a high visibility jacket that has reflective materials so that it glows in the dark, and some coats have attachment points for miniature lights so your dog really stands out. The Ruffwear Track Jacket is one example, with three loops to attach a beacon safety light.

While many dogs cope happily in the cold - and some breeds such as huskies literally come alive when the temperature drops - other dogs, such as whippets, really struggle in colder temperatures and need plenty of insulation to make a winter walk comfortable.

Fleece coats are often used, great in dry weather, like the Ruffwear Climate Changer. These types of jackets are made of polyester fleece so it dries fast when wet and traps pockets of air within its fibres to keep the dog warm, much like fleece jackets for humans. The drawback of course of a fleece jacket is that it is not waterproof and so water will tend to soak into the material and that will make the dog colder, so in wet conditions some waterproof protection is also needed.

The Ruffwear Aira Rain Jacket was inspired by the Aira Force waterfall in the Lake District and provides the waterproof protection many visitors to the hills are looking for. While a useful addition when heading into the hills all day, this jacket would also be great for evening walks when the heavens open, your dog really want a walk, but doesn’t like the idea of getting soaked and having to shake constantly to rid his coat of water.

Snow also tends to stick to a dog’s coat and again a waterproof jacket is ideal for preventing this from building up, so you don't just need to consider such a coat for wet weather as many dogs may prefer its protection just to keep snow off. This is particularly useful when walking in the hills while it is actually snowing, as sometimes dogs tend to get frustrated and continually try to rid themselves of gathering snowflakes.

Sometimes you need to combine waterproof protection with fleece insulation, which is what most humans do on the hills and some dogs need this level of protection too. While you could fit a waterproof jacket over a fleece jacket, potentially your dog will probably be more comfortable in an all-in-one waterproof fleece coat. The Ruffwear K9 Overcoat is an example of this sort of design and is probably what many dogs are secretly wishing their owners would buy for them!

Not all dogs enjoy having a coat placed over them, so to ensure your dog loves the experience you can teach the dog to like the coat with some basic training. Just grab a handful of tasty food treats,
ask the dog to come and feed one piece of food, then show him the dog coat and feed again. Then gently move the coat toward the dog. Stop if the dog looks anxious or tries to move away, but then feed the dog. Keep repeating this process for 5-10 minutes a few times a day and each time you move the coat toward the dog he will look forward to the appearance of food and accept the coat getting closer. Finally, you can put the coat on and then feed the dog again, before removing the coat and ending the session. Repeat this a few times and your dog will love having the coat on and you can reduce the food rewards and just go for a walk.

Of course your dog may not need a coat all day when going for a walk so you might want to keep the coat in your rucksack and then just whip out the appropriate item for when the weather turns or you simply find yourself walking home in the dark. But what is clear is that whatever your dog’s needs this winter, there is a coat out there to suit those needs.

12 December 2016 by GrahamThompson

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