Winter Wear Goes to the Dogs If you think it's cold outside, consider whether your dog shares your shivers. This time of year, many dog owners put coats and other rugged outwear on their pets before heading outdoors.
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Winter Wear Goes to the Dogs

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Winter Wear Goes to the Dogs

Winter Wear Goes to the Dogs

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If sports are volatile, then so is the fashion world by design. Year after year, the fashion industry gets you to buy new things by making you anxious about what you already have. You have to worry if you're up-to-date. So maybe this is the year that millions of people will ask, is orange the new black? Or maybe they will ask the question on the mind of NPR couture correspondent Ketzel Levine.

KETZEL LEVINE: Better keep your expectations in check. Here's the question asked of a woman I see far too often. Her name is Christine Fletcher and she is my dog's vet.

Does an urban or a suburban dog need footwear?

Dr. CHRISTINE FLETCHER (Veterinarian): I've never run into any situation in my practice where I thought, boy, I really wish this dog had had booties on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Female #1: (Singing) I'm just walkin' my dog, singin' my song, strolling along...

LEVINE: OK, so by now you know we're not going to tackle any of the truly pressing fashion issues of the coming year. But footwear for dogs does land us up to our cold bellies in the whole animal apparel fray.

For the record, in places like Chicago where de-icing agents can burn paws, some dogs need shoes. But here in Portland, Oregon, where boots would be embarrassing, this reporter is observing scads of canines swaddled in rugged outerwear. And so my second question to Dr. Fletcher: Do urban dogs need manmade coats?

Dr. FLETCHER: Most of us don't really think so much in terms of what the animal absolutely needs. We tend to think in terms of what we need and project that onto the animal. It's like my mom when I go visit in L.A., and it'll be, you know, 68 degrees and she'll be like I'm freezing, go put a sweater on.

LEVINE: So let's say it's 36 degrees, you're freezing and the dog is naked. What do you do? What else? You shop.

Unidentified Female #2: That's a 20.

Ms. STEPHANIE REYNOLDS(ph) (Dog Owner): Yeah, and he's...

Mr. MATT JOHNSON(ph) (Dog Owner): He's...

Ms. REYNOLDS and Mr. JOHNSON: ...longer than that for sure.

LEVINE: Stephanie Reynolds and Matt Johnson are clearly in sync about buying their dog a coat. Rue(ph) was just adopted. He's a black and white, 60 pound, 10-year-old dog who so dislikes being outside his people have come shopping without him.

Mr. JOHNSON: We just need him to be warm because even in the house - he has such short hair - he's just shivering.


Mr. JOHNSON: It's crazy. I've never seen a dog like this.

LEVINE: Dogs shiver for a few reasons. Having ruled out fear and pain, Stephanie and Matt now believe Rue is cold. They think it's because he's a Catahoula leopard dog, a breed native to steamy Louisiana. After 20 minutes working the racks here at Urban Fauna, they're buying him a fleece-lined waterproof jacket in raspberry red.

Ms. REYNOLDS: In fact, I'm a little embarrassed doing it, but...

Mr. JOHNSON: There's a little bit of shame.

LEVINE: What's the shame about?

Mr. JOHNSON: I just should have a dog that should be able to survive the elements.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. REYNOLDS: Acclimation really is what it is. It's what the dog is used to.

LEVINE: Of course, if you've adopted a 10-year-old like Rue, there is no knowing what the dog was used to. Veterinarian Christine Fletcher says all you can do is read the body language. It also helps if you know your breeds. So I give her a hypothetical. It's 32 degrees, you're on a half-hour walk. Coat or no coat?


Dr. FLETCHER: No coat.

LEVINE: Jack Russell?


LEVINE: Airedales?


LEVINE: Dalmatians?


LEVINE: Pomeranians?

Dr. FLETCHER: Oh, with that coat, no!

LEVINE: Boxers?



Dr. FLETCHER: Pugs, no.

LEVINE: Dachshund?

Dr. FLETCHER: Now, a dachshund might need a coat.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEVINE: Did you hear that - sentiment! Just the thought of that little pickle on a cold morning walk gave my veterinarian a chill. So what chance do we mere mortals have of making reasoned decisions whether or not the dog needs a coat? The single best bet - look for shivering during or after exercise, rule out pain or fear, and when in doubt, resist plaid.

Ketzel Levine, NPR News.

INSKEEP: And we've got tips on dog wear at our Web site,

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

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