Why Dress Your Dog?

Have you ever asked yourself when or why should your dog be dressed for the weather? To answer this question, we turned to a professional.

During the freezing winter weather and the rainy days of fall, many dog owners might wonder if their furry companion needs to wear a jacket outdoors. Most dogs will benefit from the extra protection, as long as the jacket is suitable for the weather and meets the needs of the dog. There are a number of different circumstances where the use of a jacket further improves the dog’s well-being and to address this, we turned to an expert for answers.

For Oona Mäkiniemi, dogs and their well-being is a way of life. Her company Koira-apu Hukanhuoman offers a wide range of services for dogs, such as hydrotherapy, laser therapy and massage therapy. Oona is a trained canine massage therapist as well as a dog sledding enthusiast and a Siberian Husky breeder. In addition, she also has years of experience working as a veterinary nurse.

Oona Mäkiniemi actively competes with her twelve Siberian Huskies.

Oona has a pack of twelve Siberian Huskies at home and she actively competes in sled dog races with her canine team. So it’s no surprise that body maintenance of sporting dogs is very familiar to Oona, both at work and at home. Huskies may be known for their outstanding weather resistance, but even they are used to wearing jackets regularly to stay warm and well.

– If our training session has been particularly demanding or the weather is very cold, the dogs will be dressed warmly after we’re done training. The jackets are also worn during longer break times, before we head for the next round. The positive effect of added warmth is also noticeable in competitions. If we have to race several times during the day or the competition lasts for multiple days, the dogs recover much faster from their previous performance when wearing a jacket, Oona says.

The dogs are kept warm for a good reason. – If the muscle cools down too fast, its performance is weakened in all areas, such as power, speed, flexibility and coordination. The elastic properties of the muscle are particularly sensitive to the cold, Oona continues. – If the dog gets cold after a physically demanding workout, the muscles get stiff and the recovery slows down. Also the likelihood of muscle cramps increases, just like for us humans.

Added warmth helps the body to recover faster.

Observing the dog

Using a jacket is also necessary outside of training sessions. Cold tolerance varies in every individual and it can be affected by the dog’s age, size, health and the type of the coat. Due to this, the need for additional warmth may be drastically different between each dog, even between dogs of the same breed. You can check out our guide on Choosing the Right Jacket to find the best jacket for your dog’s fur type.

Observing the dog is important when considering the need for a jacket but it’s not always easy to tell if a dog is cold or not. Trembling and paw lifting may be easy to notice but the signs can be much more subtle. – It’s very individual. When my dogs are cold they clearly arch their backs, tense up their muscles or move very stiffly, Oona says. Also constant shaking and overall restlessness can be telltale signs.

Older dogs in particular are more sensitive to the cold. – The metabolism of an aging dog slows down, the quality of the coat may decrease and the muscle mass waste away. This leads to a decrease in cold tolerance. Older dogs also tend to move less and slower. This of course doesn’t apply to everyone, Oona says. The oldest member of the pack is 10-year-old Dexter who still runs with the rest of the Huskies. – Nowadays Dexter suffers from stiff muscles occasionally. Wearing a jacket has clearly helped in preventing this and has sped up the recovery process, Oona says.

– Puppies are also more vulnerable to the cold, as their muscle mass and fur coat have yet to develop enough to protect the puppy from the weather. Also, puppies ability to regulate heat is inefficient. Especially puppies of a small breed are prone to get cold a lot easier, Oona points out.

In addition, many diseases can sensitize dog to the cold. For example, various skin diseases as well as metabolic diseases can affect the quality of the dog’s coat. It’s also recommended to protect dogs with joint diseases from the cold. In these cases it’s advisable to discuss the need for additional warmth with your veterinarian.

10-year-old Dexter suffers occasionally from muscle stiffness and gets to wear a warm jacket more often.

Key to overall well-being

Oona’s company Koira-apu Hukanhuoman offers various welfare services for all types of dogs. She almost always advises to bring along a jacket for the dog, regardless of the reason of the visit. – Especially after a hydrotherapy session, it’s advisable to dress the dog into a jacket. The fur gets wet in the pool and especially during colder season it’s important to stay warm as the dog is, for example, taken back into a cold car, Oona says.

The most cold sensitive dogs may need to wear a jacket all year round. A light breeze can feel cold even in warm weather, especially if the fur is drenched. – The airflow replaces the heat on the surface of the skin with cool air. This can cause the dog to feel chilly, especially short-haired or single-coated dogs. Though this applies not only to hydrotherapy but also to rainy weather, Oona adds.

A jacket can also come in handy after a massage or laser therapy session, although it’s not as necessary. During the treatment, the dog’s blood circulation increases and the muscles warm up, thus wearing a jacket prevents the so-called cold shock when stepping outside.

– In addition, all types of dogs in recovery should be kept warm at all times, Oona continues. Tecna, 2-year-old Siberian Husky from Oona’s pack, cut off her Achilles Tendon last year and began a long recovery process after the surgery. – Throughout her recovery period, Tecna has been wearing a jacket outdoors. Her undercoat has not developed enough to withstand the cold winter weather as she has now spent so much time indoors, Oona says.

After hydrotherapy, it’s recommended to dress up before going outdoors.

Interest in the well-being of dogs is constantly growing and dogs can be seen wearing jackets more often than before. Oona has also noticed a positive change in the mindset towards dog clothing. – I’m glad to see more and more customers having jackets for their dogs. The change can also be seen in dog sledding circles, as people continue to invest more on the post-performance care of their dogs. Especially in racing circles, Oona adds.

– In summary, when deciding whether to use a jacket or not, observe your dog and take into account its breed-specific needs. Pay attention to the dog’s activity level, as it’s easier for an active dog to keep itself warm than it is for a calmer one, Oona concludes. Keep an eye on your dog during outdoor activities and training performances and adapt your gear accordingly. When choosing the right jacket, you can also check out our guide on Choosing the Right Size to find the best possible size and fit for your dog.