Baby it’s cold outside! My little terriers start to shiver when temps drop below 50 degrees. Every morning I layer them in their finest fleece sweaters, and off we go for a long walk.

Do dogs really need protection from the cold?

Dogs come equipped with fur which is in essence their own layering system. But a lot of pooches have short, light layers of fur and some are just not genetically well appointed to handle the cold winter temperatures of New England. Without an extra level of protection, your light coated dog is probably very uncomfortable in winter temperatures.

Because small dogs travel close to the cold ground and generally have lighter fur, they are the most likely to need extra insulation. Short-haired dogs and those that are very lean (think Whippets and Greyhounds) tend to shiver easily, and would most likely appreciate an extra layer of protection.

Even your large breed dog will benefit from a coat if the temperature drops below zero or if he spends a lot of time outdoors in the cold. Obvious exceptions are double coated breeds who were bred to survive extreme cold temps (Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, Saint Bernards). Senior dogs and puppies as well as dogs recuperating from illness and injury are more sensitive to frigid temps and would benefit from a dog coat this winter.

Just like winter wear for humans, dog coats and sweaters come in a variety of styles and materials (fleece, polyester knits, wool). Water resistant fabrics (think parkas for humans) are great for the snowy South Shore. I also like water proof rain coats for the rainy New England spring season.

An ideal fitting dog coat or sweater should fit snugly and cover your dog’s chest and stomach and extend to the base of the tail, keeping legs free for walking, running, and toileting. I personally like dog coats with hind leg straps to keep the back of the coat in place. If it’s possible, try the coat on your dog to make sure it fits him properly. It’s also important to ensure it’s easy to get on and off. My terrier’s wardrobe includes Irish knit wool sweaters that are adorably cute and warm, but very impractical to get in and out of!

Some of my favorites are fleece fitted jackets that can be used on their own or as a base layer under other dog coats.

I also like insulated water-resistant coats for cold and raw winter walks. I use these styles over a fleece base layers on the coldest days.

There is an unlimited selection of dog coats in boundless styles and functionality. Remember, dog coats and sweaters are not just for fun, for many of our furry friends, they are a necessity in the cold weather. With the right cold weather gear, my terriers and I enjoy our early morning hikes right through the snowiest New England winters!