Working hypothesis: All pets are superheroes in disguise. Evidence I’ve gathered includes watching a friend’s cat successfully run sideways up a cement wall (like Spidey) and discovering a black dog’s technique of disappearing into the shadows to eat another dog’s food (invisibility!). The primary power of my dog, Biscuit—a mix of indeterminate origin, perhaps Chihuahua/rat terrier—is a preternatural cuteness that saps her enemies of all strength. Grown men wither before her, reduced to babbling about doggy kisses in a singsong voice as she gets spit all over them. It’s heartbreaking to witness.
I’m more inspired by her other superpower: She weighs just under ten pounds but can sprint like a greyhound and jump four feet high from a dead standstill—and she thrives on five-mile runs. Alas, she’s not invincible. Her kryptonite? Winter.
Don’t get me wrong. B loves snow. She’ll go bounding through massive dumps (of up to four inches) until she’s nearly catatonic from cold, and it’s entirely up to me to rescue her before she’s on the brink of death. But I couldn’t bear to deny her the pleasure, especially since winter heavily overlaps with what we call squirrel season—when the squirrels spend a lot of time on the ground, gathering nuts. B’s main mission in life is to seek and destroy rodents. (No success yet, but not for lack of obsessive-compulsive effort.) Given the extended time this requires outside even in icy wind and weather, it was incumbent on me to find some winter gear that’s sturdy, warm, and flexible enough to see her through her dangerous addiction. Here are some of the best options out there.
For Snow Days
Land’s End Quilted Dog Coat
B’s first coat ever was a Land’s End model—the Pet Squall Jacket—and after five years it’s not even close to collapse. It’s water-resistant and fleece-lined but suffers from the major design flaw of having a Velcro collar closure that doesn’t hold up to constant use. I loved everything else about the jacket so much that I actually hand-stitched extra-large snaps to the collar to keep it closed. But even better, the company’s newer model, the Quilted Pet Coat, is an entirely different and equally warm design that not only solves the collar problem but also provides better under-body protection from the elements—especially in the vulnerable rib-cage area. And at $29.50, it’s the only quality dog coat I’ve found that fits a tight budget too. landsend.com
All-Natural Base Layer
D-Fa Ice Barker
Made from soft merino wool, D-Fa’s light jacket stays warm when wet and dries quickly using your dog’s body heat. While it might be a bit much for cold-weather dogs like labs and huskies, pointers and other short-hair breeds will love the added comfort—especially on days when you’re far from the living room hearth. One thing to note is that because dog’s don’t sweat, breathability isn’t so much an issue of transporting perspiration as its drying when it gets wet. $119, d-fa.com
When Speed Counts
Ruffwear Cloud Chaser
Besides making you feel like your dog is a protagonist in an eighties movie that involves a lot of aerobics (see: Jamie Lee Curtis, Olivia Newton-John), this flexible soft-shell jacket (see: spandex) envelops a pooch’s core in microfiber fleece and moves with her. This is canine activewear at its best—lightweight, breathable. Replete with racing-stripe-like reflective strips and a full side zipper, the Cloud Chaser may as well be called the Squirrel Chaser. $74.95, ruffwear.com
Foggy Mountain Snuggler
Besides fighting those evil-natured rodents, B’s other primary aim in life is to cuddle. Foggy Mountain makes that possible even when she’s out and about. The Snuggler is not unlike the beloved Snuggie: It’s sort of a blanket that’s been cinched and folded in just the right places, providing a self-cuddling environment, so Biscuit can feel swaddled in love even when she’s lunging at pant legs out on the sidewalk. This coat is seriously warm, and on those supercold days when it takes B approximately 1.2 minutes to decide that for the sake of her extremities she’d better go back inside, this is the one I’m reaching for. $38.95, truefitdogcoats.com
For Après Chase
West Paw Design Reknitz Sweater
I just realized that for weeks I’ve been pronouncing this REK-nitz, when all along it was REE-nitz. As in reduce, reuse, recycle, re-knit. Made from reclaimed cotton—which is greenspeak for scraps salvaged from the cutting table—the Reknitz is B’s go-to in the great indoors. It comes with a pre-cut hole through which a leash can be attached to a harness for walking, but we prefer to rely on it to guard against drafts, since I’m not always around to lift the blanket draped over the couch so she can climb under. $34, westpawdesign.com
Ruffwear K-9 Overcoat
When it comes down to it, the jacket I reach for most often isn’t one that serves any highly specialized purpose. Because when it comes down to it, my dog isn’t Lara Croft. For the most part she just goes on walks, every day, no matter what. And for that ongoing, essential activity, the K-9 Overcoat is, well, just right. Sturdy and warm, it offers good coverage but doesn’t smother her either, and it’s built to last. Plus, the expandable waist strap and thick plastic buckles that click into place make it the easiest one to pull on and off. Plus, it looks like a cape. $64.95, ruffwear.com
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