SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 11, 2013

Does my dog need a coat?

Ask Dog Lady
Monica Collins

---- — Q: I read online in another dog advice column that it was up to the owner to decide if the dog needed a coat or sweatshirt in the winter. I recall several columns ago that a reader asked you if clothes were necessary for dogs, to which you replied no. I have pugs, so I’m very careful when the weather turns (both hot and cold), but I typically don’t put any additional covering on them if they are just going out to go potty. Because I consider you an authority on this subject, and the other columnist I do not, I am wondering what your opinion is of this recommendation.

A: The official “Ask Dog Lady” opinion is that dogs are happy nudists. They’ve lived for hundreds, nay thousands, of years subsisting on raw meat and raw elements. We humans domesticated them to live in our homes, sleep in our beds, eat our leftovers and — drumroll please — not wear our clothes.

Clothes on dogs are all about the human, not the dog — except for booties on winter salt and snow. Sure, maybe we feel better when we clothe Italian greyhounds or Yorkshire terriers or pugs because they’re smaller and more vulnerable to the cold. Certainly, in a blizzard or minus-minus wind chill, these dogs should be protected and never left outside. Coat or no coat, a well-protected dog of any size will not expire of hypothermia when the human provides comfort and warmth.

Dogs rankle under the constriction of clothing, which is Dog Lady’s biggest gripe about clothes for dogs. A coat on top of a coat of natural hair or fur feels unnatural to them. Although there are lovely outfits for dogs, the rags are not required.

Q: I adopted a 6-year-old beagle from an animal shelter about five months ago. He has been a great addition to my city home. His personality has changed so much since I got him. He has learned to play and gets along well with other dogs. He had been urinating in the house, but with a little training, he has greatly improved, as long as I can catch him in the act. What can I do to stop the excessive chewing and put an end to his house potty habits so that I don’t have to worry about what he’s doing every time I turn my back? I hope you can help.

A: Give your shelter beagle the gifts of time and patience. You say how much he’s improved. Well, in six months, he’ll be even better. Give him suitable chewies — bully sticks or toys stuffed with peanut butter — so he has enough stuff that’s appropriate for chomping. Eventually, he will stop messing with your stuff, as long as you train him. Sounds as if he is peaceful in his cage (or crate), makes nice with his own kind and has greatly improved your life in the city. Does it get any better?

He’s a dog, after all, and he’ll stumble along the way, but as long as you’re there to praise him, he will succeed.

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Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Follow the “Ask Dog Lady” fan page on Facebook. Write your questions or send to askdoglady@gmail.com.