Coffee the beagle is ready for Canadian winter.

The small hound, rescued from Tennessee earlier this year, has gear for all the elements: red booties for its paws and three varieties of hooded jackets. Coffee's Toronto owners Pratichi Dixit and Chinmaya Sadangi spent upwards of $200 fitting the five-year-old dog with the season’s essentials.

“Canadian winter would have been very harsh for him the first time, being a beagle and coming from a place which is not very cold,” Dixit tells They adopted Coffee in September, from the Toronto Humane Society, which said he was likely a lost pet.

They noticed Coffee shivering when they went outside in the fall, so they invested in his winter wardrobe: he has a yellow water-resistant coat for rain and wet snow, a cozy grey hoodie accented with a bushy tail and bunny ears, a blue fleece sweater and the quintessential Canadian parka with a faux-fur hood.

“We really wanted to give him the comfort of feeling warm when he goes out for walks,” says Dixit. “It’s definitely huge preparation if you have a dog in cold weather.”

Dog coats are a bonafide industry today. Shops around the world sell everything from merino wool and fleece sweaters to trench coats and puffer jackets. But are they necessary? It’s not clear cut, according to some veterinary experts who say the animals generally retain heat well enough already.

“(Dogs) are pretty efficient at holding on to heat,” says Nova Scotia veterinarian Dr. Troye McPherson, the immediate past president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. “They don’t sweat through their skin. They only lose heat really through their pads and through panting.”

Dogs don’t have sweat glands in the skin, so heat loss doesn’t occur there, she says. That can pose a problem for some dogs in the summer, a season that brings a lot more weather-related issues into vet clinics. “It’s probably easier for a dog to overheat than to become hypothermic,” she says.

But a dog’s experience in the cold can vary depending on its fat level and type of fur. Dogs with double-layered coats of fur such as huskies and other northern breeds are better at deflecting water away from their skin. Even in freezing rain, double-coated dogs may not get wet to the skin. “They don’t tend to mind the cold because they’ve got all that heat trapped,” she says. Without that dense protection in the same freezing rain, short-haired single-coated dogs like Chihuahuas would have a more difficult time keeping warm. “The skin does get wet and it evaporates off the skin, so they tend to get colder,” says McPherson.

Brantford, Ont., artist Dominique Looye used to think it was unnecessary for dogs to wear winter coats, but then she got her Spanish galgos Sadie and Morty.

“When you see your own beloved dog shaking like a leaf from the cold, you start to feel differently,” she told

Looye makes her dogs’ jackets herself, upcycling the materials from human's old winter coats and Salvation Army blankets. Sadie and Morty wear them for most of the winter, says Looye. “We pretty much base it on whether we would want out bare skin exposed or not. Galgos and greyhounds have barely any body fat, plus a lot of bare skin exposed,” she says.

A dog owner herself, veterinarian McPherson understands the desire to wrap your pet in warm clothing. She has five border collies, most with fairly dense coats, so she doesn’t often dress them in winter parkas. But her oldest dog Belle is 15, thinner than the others and struggling with her joints, so McPherson sometimes puts a coat on her.

“She probably doesn’t really need one to be honest, but I feel better,” she says. “A lot of us anthropomorphize our pets and think ‘If I was out in that weather I would want a coat.’ There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you’re using common sense and the dog isn’t overheating because you’ve got too many layers on it.”

That’s the philosophy that Coffee’s owner have adopted for him this winter. In addition to the booties and three coats, they bought a wax that helps protect the pads on his paws from harm by road salts, the culprit of more winter injuries than cold weather.

“For us, he is like our baby,” says Dixit. “Of course we would want him to be as comfortable as possible.”


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