The natural coats of dogs share some features with the the coats humans wear to stay warm. Depending on the type of dog you own, he may have a single or a double coat. Double coats should do a pretty decent job preventing Scruffy from dispersing body heat. Single-coated dogs, on the other hand, may require some extra protection to allow them to live comfortably in cold climates.
Natural Double Coats
Double coats are purposely crafted to help keep Scruffy toasty through the winter. Just like your warm winter coat, a double coat comes with a fleecy interior layer of insulation meant to prevent loss of body heat. This layer is made of short, dense fluffy hairs. On the other hand, the outer layer is made of long, stiff guard hairs. This layer is naturally water-repellent and is meant to protect the dog from the winter elements. Thick double coats are often seen in many Northern breeds, such as Siberian huskies or Alaskan malamutes.
Natural Single Coats
Single coats are often seen in dog breeds deriving from places with hot climates where a heavy coat is not necessary. Examples of single-coated dogs are Chihuahuas, Afghan hounds and salukis. These fellows are equipped with the outer guard hairs, but unlike pups with double coats, they lack that insulating inner layer of undercoat. Just as you would feel chilly wearing a lightweight spring jacket in the dead of the winter, these dogs may suffer when temperatures plummet.
Artificial Doggie Coats
Don't toss that coat your grandma knitted for your pooch: If you always thought dogs wearing coats looked silly or were simply spoiled, think again. Many dogs actually do need some extra protection to brave the winter weather. Small dogs such as Chihuahuas, toy terriers and miniature pinschers benefit from a doggie sweater, and so do lean, single-coated dogs such as whippets and greyhounds. This applies to large breeds as well, along with older dogs, puppies and dogs recovering from a recent illness.
Choosing a Doggie Coat
Choosing a doggie coat can be overwhelming because of the large variety of options. If you live in a snowy area, look for coats made of water-resistant fabrics. If it's just plain cold and windy, a fleece or wool coat serves its purpose. Make sure the coat fits snugly, covers most of your dog's stomach and ends by the base of the tail. The coat shouldn't interfere with movement or make it hard for your dog to relieve himself. With the right winter gear, your dog will stay nice and toasty so he can finally enjoy the beautiful sights of nature while walking through the winter wonderland.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.