Sizing up your winter gear

Sizing up your winter gear.

Dogs do not come in convenient sizes or proportions for off the rack fitting. Ordering online is even worse. Here are some tips to make outfitting your pup for our winter a little easier.

Boots. Boots come in all manner of forms, from thin rubber “balloon like” boots to insulated mukluks, and many styles in between. Some have long attached socks, some have Velcro bands, others actually have zippers or Velcro laces like human shoes.

Dog’s feet, however, are not shaped like human feet, or even the same from breed to breed. It can be tough to find a style that suits your dog, but generally, the less structure, the more likely it will fit. The balloon and fleece booties are pretty universal and easiest to put on in general. More structured boots need to be matched to the dog and its walking style.

There are socks that have been dipped in rubber or that have rubber grippers on them, usually in smaller sizes. These can work for some harder to fit dogs that still need some structure.

When trying to size boots, most companies will use a combination of the width of the dog’s paw, and its length. At minimum, if you are shopping without the pet, these are the numbers you need to bring. Some just use S, M, L, XL type of sizing, so those require either bringing in the dog, or multiple trips if you get the wrong size. Like regular shoes, do not wear them outside until you are 100% sure they fit right, as once they are “used’, they are generally not returnable.

Coats are another issue. Dog’s bodies come in a larger variety of shapes than their feet, so sizing coats is harder than sizing shoes.

The general measurement that most companies use is length, usually from where the collar would sit on the neck to the base of the tail. Most companies sizes range in even number increments of inches for this measurement. 6” or 8” being the smallest, 36” the largest I have seen. This is about the only sizing they work on, unfortunately dogs that vary greatly in their proportions. Some are long, some short, some slender, some thick. So, in my experience, very few dogs fit a coat perfectly, especially if they are not adjustable.

Some coats are like horse blankets, basically a blanket that goes over the back of the dog, with straps that go around the neck and belly. These are very adjustable, and most likely to fit a wide variety of dogs.

Others utilize elastic closures, or have a set neck opening but the part that goes under the belly is closed by Velcro straps that are adjustable. These have a wider range of fit, and can sometimes fit the deep chested dogs (like Boxers or Danes)

Many of the stylish coats that look like mini people parkas will fit normal shaped dogs, like a Poodle or Schnauzer, and even some short legged dogs, like Maltese and some Terriers. Fitting these coats is very individual, and like people clothes, a Sml from one manufacturer can fit completely different than a Sml from a different one, so it is always best to bring them in for a fitting.

Winter style is one thing, but sometimes you have to abandon style for function. And always, take into account what clothing may do to the dog’s coat. Some need extra attention due to the tangling that can occur from the friction of the coat, or the moisture that might build up under the fur. Make sure outerwear doesn’t cause more harm than good, remember, most dogs have perfectly good fur coats already, if groomed properly.

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