Friday, March 19, 2010


There is really very little that is better than seeing a dog in the snow. Dogs love snow. Dog’s don’t have the preconceived notions of snow that people have. Dog’s don’t have to shovel. They don’t have to drive. And they don’t have to park in the city when the drifts are so high that you can’t see your car if you are lucky enough to have gotten one of the two parking spots left after the storm. They don’t have to worry about being towed for not thinking ahead and moving their car out of that one last spot on the day the blizzard hits. They just love the snow for snow’s sake.

For a dog, snow is about as cool as it is for a five year old. Another creature with no preconceived notions about it. It’s fluffy, it’s white, it’s sometimes sticky, sometimes blow-y, and falling quietly from the sky it accumulates really quickly. At night it’s not there and then in the morning it is. It’s sort of magical in its own special way. The only problem is that it’s cold.

Dogs don’t always notice when they are cold. In fact my dog Bobo didn’t start noticing that she was cold until she was over 3 years old. I noticed she was cold because when she was cold she acted like an ass. She jumped, she barked and she spun around in the air. She completely lost all sense about her. She acted like a lunatic. And somehow, mysteriously, she developed ear flaps and completely misplaced her ability to listen and certainly to comprehend any of her previous training. As a German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) neither her behavior nor her reaction to cold was particularly surprising. GSPs have short fur. Very short fur. They can adapt to the cold, but in order for that to happen, they need to be out in the cold. Oddly enough the GSP is a popular dog for winter pulling for the sports of sledding and skijoring (both as a purebred and as a cross-breed), but to see my Bobo in action, one has to wonder if that is a good idea. The way she used to behave you’d be lucky to make it out of the driveway without being pulled into a gully or flipped in the air. The GSP is an ideal working dog and they can (and do) run for hours on end, but their coat in the winter is a little sparse.

I thought for awhile that Bobo would figure out that she was cold and just come inside, but such was not the case. She insisted on being out in the snow because, well she just likes it. So in order to keep her from freezing her little cropped tail off, I bought her a winter coat. In fact I bought her several winter coats, all with different attributes, levels of warmth and style. In general I had two problems with most dog winter coats. 1) they were not waterproof and even more importantly, 2) they all were kept on with Velcro. Velcro is a great product, don’t get me wrong, but when you have a dog that shoots through the woods at 40 MPH, Velcro doesn’t work very well. Velcro comes undone, and Bobo looses her jacket. If you are ever hiking in the White Mountains, and you come across a discarded dog coat, it’s probably hers.

And then I found Ruff Wear.

Ruff Wear is a product line for active dogs. This gear is not for the faint at heart. It’s functional, and it works. It’s not for the fluffy pocketbook dogs that wear clothes because it’s cute. Ruff Wear makes dog products for dogs that work. They make products for dogs that need clothing for protection, not for dogs that wear clothes for the aesthetic pleasure of their people. And Ruff Wear seems to have it figured out.

Ruff Wear makes a variety of different dog coats, but the K-9 Overcoat is the greatest winter dog coat ever made as far as I’m concerned. The inside is fleece lined so it’s warm and soft, the outside is polyester and abrasion-resistant so that the crazy dog who tends to run into sticks, is a little more protected, and it’s made of recycled materials (which is great for those of us who care about such things). It is really easy to put on and take off since you don’t have to thread the dog’s legs through sleeves or anything. Dressing your dog consists of putting her head through a large opening at the front, folding the chest portion under your dog and clipping the top and the bottom portions together on the sides. It definitely makes the whole process significantly less challenging.

As previously mentioned there are no sleeves. This feature has its benefits and its liabilities. It makes it very easy to get the coat on and off and it does not restrict the dog’s range of motion, but it can be bad on a really cold day since there is less body covered. Also the chest portion leaves the dog’s belly exposed, which for most dogs is not a huge problem. For Bobo it does tend to be a little chilly since it has taken three New England winters to grow some fur there and what is there is a meager at best.

Overall however, the Ruff Wear K-9 Overcoat is a fantastic product and I would recommend it to anyone with an active (perhaps accident prone) dog who enjoys the snow but doesn’t much care for the cold. It keeps Bobo warm, dry and safe. She still acts like a nut when she is cold, but since she’s generally not that cold anymore, the times that she acts like a complete lunatic are seriously minimized. She’ll even listen when we are outside now. I’m even considering trying skijoring next year.

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