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When is it too cold for small dogs?

November 2, 2011

Beachtime, 50F/4C, just a mesh vest

Having a small dog in cold wet weather can be tricky. The simplest answer to this question is to have a raincoat or jacket handy and put it on if you see your pup cold (signs include inactive, clinging because it wants back inside or held, shivering, ice on fur, etc). Fig’s older friends know to ask for a coat when they need it, so we hope Fig will learn this.

I learned the hard way to never to put an insulated waterproof jacket on Fig unless it dips below 40 or pours cold rain (not sprinkling for a moment!). I was putting rain jackets on when he didn’t need it and now he hates coats. He got too hot a couple times. Dogs can’t regulate heat as well as humans and all waterproof material traps heat. LESSON: Never leave your dog in a car wearing a waterproof jacket, unless you are personally wearing a sweater, hat, and gloves. Seriously – take the waterproofing off, unless it’s freezing outside. It is dangerous. Enough said. Please remember this.

Fig was 100% obedient until he turned 8 months old. Now he is constantly trying to make independent decisions. Another schnauzer owner asked me whether Fig has developed the Schnauzer Pause yet. He defines this as the 30 second pause between calling and coming where they survey the area to make sure there is nothing better to attend to first. He has owned many Schnauzers of all sizes and he said they all did this. Then he called his dog and I completely cracked up. It was seriously nearly 30 seconds of her standing completely still and just turning here head and ears to make sure there was nothing else more interesting. Then she came quickly trotting to him happily, as if there had been no lapse in time.

You do does not always know best though. Fig is now hiding when I need him to go out to pee. He dreads his rain jacket and getting the cold wet.  The dread is ridiculous because once he gets outside he prances happily a minute later. I completely lost my patience this weekend. He had not peed all night and it was 11am. He keep his distance and keep pacing nervously out of reach when I called, even with treats. No do can hold it this long without developing bladder infections later in life. I am not proud of this, but after 10 minutes of trying to lure with treats and praise him he ran into his crate and I physically lifted the crate and dumped him. He cowered still until I got the leash.

You must nip dog drama in the bud, or it gets worse. I know too many dogs that walk all over their owners. To nip it, you need a plan to get them outside the fastest and doing their business efficiently.  Walking Fig gets him to do his business. Putting him in the backyard is typically unsuccessful. I am now hiding the jacket until he is leashed and outside and never giving a command, if I plan to put the jacket on.

How do you gauge warmth requirements when you have a Broadway star?

Because Fig now hates his coats (still fine with a T-shirt or light sweater), I thought about just growing his fur out completely.  I took him for a test walk in the cold pouring rain with friends. His other tiny dog friends begged for their jackets. It was 50F/10C and wet. He shivered when he stood still, but opted to steer clear of the jacket and keep warm by jumping around and trying to wrestle the whole time. In the end I decided he didn’t need a coat for the walk because he kept his heart rate up. When he got back to the car and had to sit while wet and cold, it was a different story. I didn’t have enough towels to get him dry and he was less pleased. It was not a big deal though, because he was steaming for about 10 minutes.

Fig doesn’t have rainproof fur because he is shampooed more than most dogs due to my allergies and his tendency to get completely muddy and full of moss. His natural oils are stripped even though I only rinse him most of the time (I use shampoo once a month and if truly needed). This means that when Fig is wet drying him is very hard. He is like a sponge. I carry 2 dog towels and a blanket in the car now, so he can curl up under something when he is wet and cold and I can’t dry him, rather than thickly cloth him when warmer than 40F/4C.

When I will be going into a store or a friends house and I don’t want to upset others when his wet doggie-ness, so he wears a coat them too. A sporty raincoat can win over people that would freak out about a wet dog otherwise. Clothing makes him more poodle-like in people’s minds. Fig wins cuteness awards in his raincoat because he is very well mannered in public and his fuzzy eyebrows make people weep from the cuteness.

So what’s the rule of thumb for mini schnauzers?

32F/0C and lower: Warm coat on and watch paws for icicles. Ice on the fur is not good because it burns. You can put beeswax or similar human balms of wax/oil on their fee to prevent ice.  Beware of salted roads because it causes chemical burns; pick up your pup when you hit rock salt or put booties on them.

up to 40F/4C: Coat on, unless active the whole time outdoors (when he plays with other dogs and goes running). Fig is an active pup, so he only wears a light layer, if anything, in this weather. I keep a blanket and towels in the car for when he has to ride home rain/mud soaked because he looses his heat very fast when still.

50F/10C and higher:  No coat. I only put a thin coat on when I need him to stay clean of mud or rain to enter a public building or friend’s house.

80F/26C and higher: Fig is black, so I put a bright mesh jacket on him when very hot. It helps reflect light. so he tolerates sun longer. It’s sort of like putting your toddler in a white tee to protect from sunburn.

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From → Equipment, Health

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