Winter Essentials for Dogs
New winter products are making it easier for pet parents to have snow-covered fun without risking their dog’s safety.
You would never go for a walk in the winter without bundling up with a coat and boots. So, why would you bring your dog along to face the cold without some protective gear of its own? The winter season brings plenty of new dangers to our four-legged friends—hypothermia, irritated and dry skin, cracked paws, and exposure to chemicals. Luckily, owners are increasingly realizing the importance of winter safety, and manufacturers are answering with innovative new solutions.
“Consumers have a growing awareness of the importance of protecting their dogs from the elements and extreme weather,” says Sue Manders, national account manager for Baxter, Minn.-based Ultra Paws. “With growth in health and wellness, and the connection with our best friends, outdoor gear is growing steadily. Retailers are adding additional SKUs each year and seeing solid returns on their investment.”
Walking on the ice and snow in bare feet sounds unbearable, but when you take your dog outside during the winter, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
“Dogs need paw protection in the winter months just like people do. They are subject to the same harsh elements of winter,” says Cindy Magiera, CEO of Chicago-based Saltsox.
Magiera and her husband developed Saltsox winter boots for dogs after a particularly bad winter in Chicago, in 2012. The couple was worried about the well being of their pups, Zeke and Zoe, but they couldn't find a product that was durable, comfortable and easy to use. So, they created it themselves.
“We have a couple of features which make our bootie unique, including our highly durable thin sole which allows the dog to maintain their natural sense of balance when battling icy, salty and snowy conditions,” says Magiera. “Next, we use a stretch-Velcro closure system, which allows you to cinch the bootie tight so they stay on, but at the same time does not restrict blood flow because of the stretch factor.”
It’s not just the cold that pet parents should be worried about when it comes to dogs’ paws—it’s also the chemicals used to melt ice and snow.
“Winter poses some unique threats, including frost bite and snow build-up on the paw, and burns from snow melt chemicals people use on the sidewalk, as well as liquid chloride municipalities spray from trucks to de-ice the roads. These chemicals burn your dog’s pads,” says Michael Friedland, president of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Pawz Dog Boots, LLC. “We’ve all seen dogs limping along on three legs. And no, this does not mean only one paw is hurting; [it means] a dog can’t lift more than one leg at a time without falling over.”
Pawz Dog Boots utilize natural rubber for a biodegradable, reusable and waterproof product. The innovative design provides year-round protection, so dogs can walk on any surface—hot or cold—without worry. And, as an added bonus, pet parents can also rest assured that they can maintain a dirty paw print-free home.
“Pawz are designed to slip on easily and fit securely without zippers or straps,” says Friedland. “They do not have a hard sole, so dogs feel the ground which offers maximum comfort and a sense of security.”
For dogs that can’t stand wearing boots, Paws Dog Boots also offers Max Wax, an all-natural paw wax made of bees wax, lanoline and vitamin E. The solution creates a hydrophobic barrier between sensitive paws and the snow or other contaminants. Pet parents simply apply a thin coat on pads and between toes about once a week for year-round paw health.
Staying Warm in Style
Dogs come in all different shapes, sizes and coats. Unfortunately, not all are made to thrive in winter climates, so they need a little extra help to fend off the cold.
“Dogs with short, thin or fine coats feel the cold quickly. Cold weather apparel helps keep dogs comfortable, warm and dry,” says Manders. “Apparel also has the added bonus of adding a little fashion flare and helping show off the unique personality of each dog.”
Ultra Paws offers a variety of outerwear, including coats, snowsuits and scarves, to keep pets both warm and stylish when temperatures drop.
“Ultra Paws is a high-quality outdoor lifestyle dog brand at value prices. We’re the only company with products so unique they are patented,” says Manders. “Ultra Paws provides solutions in a variety of climates and terrain, where the dog needs protection from the elements, like their humans.”
The company’s Weather Master Dog Coat, for instance, features a cutting-edge Ultra-Heat thermal liner that reflects the dog’s body heat for extra warmth. The outer material is waterproof, durable and reflective to improve visibility at night. It also features a high collar of soft coral fleece for extra warmth around the neck. The coat comes in nine different sizes, so all breeds can enjoy a long romp in the snow no matter how big or small they are.
One of the keys to the winter dog category is timing. Retailers should make sure to have the products on display before the weather actually turns, usually around October. “Start stocking early in the season. Weather related items sell out during a weather event, so have the inventory on hand,” advises Friedland.
Take advantage of the visual appeal of apparel by creating physical displays showing how the coats, scarves and boots look on pets. Also, posting pictures and videos on social media can help customers visualize the products on their own pets much more effectively than just hanging them on a rack.
Of course, the most important tool at a retailer’s disposal is the company’s employees and the connection they make with customers.
“Retailers should actively educate their customers of the [winter] dangers and offer solutions to them including protective boots, jackets and paw wax,” says Friedland. “This is especially important for brick-and-mortar retailers that have the advantage of being able to speak with their customers at the point-of-purchase and help guide pet owners to make the right choices and increase sales.”
Overall, industry experts expect the winter pet product category to continue its upward trend, especially considering the increase in intense winter storms across the U.S.
“There are so many radical climate changes happening. Here in the Midwest we have had mild winters, followed by heavy snowfall and below zero ones and if it is not here, then it is happening somewhere else on the planet,” says Magiera. “There are pet parents out there living all over the world and we are all looking for the perfect winter product for our dog.” PB