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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Keep them warm and dry: the warmest, best-fitting, easy-on dog coats on the market.(PRODUCT REVIEW)(Product/service evaluation).

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Well, I'll start off by admitting that there is no single perfect dog coat. Or, I should say, if there is a perfect coat, I haven't seen it. Fortunately, there are plenty of very good coats that can suit most of any dog owner's selection criteria.

We actually started our quest by looking for two different coat types: a super-warm coat, and a garment that would keep a dog dry in the hardest rainfall. We tried (but didn't think it would be possible) to find a coat that provided extraordinary insulation and the ability to keep a dog dry (and we were right; we did not find such a coat).

When we started rounding up dog coats to test and review, we looked for products with the following features:

* Ability to keep the dog warm, dry, or both.

* Good, comfortable, secure fit. We looked for coats that stayed on the dog without constant adjusting and straightening, and that didn't rub hairless or raw spots on the wearer's shoulders or neck.

* Easy to put on, take off, and adjust for fit. We wouldn't promote a coat that requires instructions to put on the dog. Neither are we fans of coats that can't be adjusted, or that offer only a very small range of adjustment.

* Ability to survive laundering in good shape.

* Quality of workmanship and materials. A good dog coat, like a good coat for humans, should be able to survive more than one winter!

* Visual appeal. This is last on our list of requirements, but first (and seemingly the only criterion) on some manufacturers' lists. There are an extraordinary number of cute, trendy, and even striking outfits available for dogs. Unfortunately, most of them just don't meet the most important performance requirements (keeping the dog warm, dry, or both).

After finding coats that appeared to meet our selection criteria, we ordered the products for testing. We used four different thin-coated dogs for testing: two Greyhounds (with very different measurements), an elderly German Shorthaired Pointer, and a senior Catahoula/Greyhoundmix.

Not all of the coats we tested are available in sizes to fit dogs of any and all sizes. All of our test dogs required medium to large sizes, which were readily available. Giant and tiny sizes are harder to find from every coat maker.

Each manufacturer uses different criteria for determining the appropriately sized coat--weight, in some cases, and neck, girth, or back measurements in others--and we ordered coats with a specific test-dog recipient in mind. In some cases, though, the coats fit one of the other test dogs better than the intended recipient. Had we used just one dog to test the coats, we would have had to return some of the products and ask for a different size.

Don't count on being able to return coats that you try on your dog and then return due to poor fit. Although none of the companies we ordered coats from told us this in advance, we found that many will not accept returns of products that have dog hair on them! It's understandable, but regrettable. Before you place an order or hand over your plastic, ask about the seller's return and replacement policy.

Reality bites

As I mentioned, we didn't find a perfect product. We found coats that were warm and exquisitely made, but which fit our test dogs poorly. We found coats that fit beautifully, but were not very warm. We found raincoats that kept dogs dry, but were a nightmare to put on and take off.

Although we like all the coats that we feature in the following pages, we appreciate them for different reasons. Your dog and his special needs will have to inform your choice, based on the features of each coat. Each is ideally suited for a different climate, purpose, and type of dog.

Some fabrics will best protect a dog from a dry, windy cold; others are better suited for damp weather. Some coats were designed with active, exercising dogs in mind, with large "arm holes" that facilitate movement or a hole sewn in where the leash can attach to the collar without displacing the coat. Others are better suited to keeping a sedentary dog warm and may even discourage his full range of motion. Still others have large buckles that would be quite uncomfortable if a dog were to lie down while wearing the coat.



Finally, some designs are clearly intended for deep-chested, narrow-waisted dogs like our Greyhound testers. Others would better suit block-bodied dogs such as Golden Retrievers.

With these considerations in mind, take a look at the high-quality coats we did find. We'll start with the coats intended for cold and mildly wet (but not super-rainy) weather, and look at the raincoats last.


WINTER COAT

Voyagers K9 Apparel, Deerfield, WI

(877) 423-7345; k9apparel.com

****

$50-$100

Smallest size: Italian Greyhound

Largest size: Great Dane

The two coats on this page came closer than any others to meeting all of our selection criteria. This coat's biggest drawback? Its maker designed all their coats for long, narrow, deep-chested dogs like Greyhounds. Owners should lobby them to design for dogs of other shapes, because this coat offers some great features.



What we like: Its outer shell is waterproof, with a soft fleece inner layer; note, however, that the chest and neck section is fleece for maximum comfort (but this section is not waterproof). The turtleneck

can be rolled down when it's warm, or pulled over the dog's ears in extremely cold weather. A leash opening is sewed in, and a reflective patch is sewn across the rump. The coat is easily put on and taken off the dog, and has a wide span of adjustment. Three Velcro straps fasten the coat on one side, with another, single band of Velcro on the other side to help keep the coat from slipping. The coat fits long dogs well and securely. We love it.


BELTED COAT

Muttopia Coats, Muttluks, Toronto, Canada

(888) 688-8585; muttluks.com

****

$40-$90

Smallest size: 10"



Largest size: 30"

What we like: Waterproof shell, an insulating middle layer, and thick, fleecy material inner layer. The dog's chest is well covered. The front has large buttons, which are decorative but can be fastened and unfastened if your dog objects when you pull a coat over his head. The design suited our deep-chested Greyhounds as well as the blockier Catahoula-mix, and didn't impair the dogs' ability to move well and stride out. The collar can be folded up for slightly more warmth and protection, without getting in the way of the dog's collar and a leash. The coat fastens with a large plastic snap/buckle, which rides on a wide strap that allows for a wide range of adjustment. Elastic loops are sewn on the inside of the back leg area, to help prevent the rear end of the coat from tipping off the dog to one side.

A minor criticism: The elastic rear leg loops are narrow and easily stretched out.


NYLON TURNOUT

Foggy Mountain Dog Coats, Knoxville, MD

(301) 834-9696; dogcoat.com

*** 1/2

$22-$93

Smallest size: 8"

Largest size: 28"

The above coat and the one to its right are very similar, even down to the companies' website addresses. We like this coat a tad better. What we like: Water-repellent shell, an insulating layer, and fleece inner layer. Fits all body shapes well. Rear end of coat has darts sewn in to make the coat wrap around the dog's rump nicely. Front fastens with Velcro and a buckle. Wide range of adjustment. Free repairs for a lifetime. What we don't like: The dog's chest is not covered. Drip dry only.





POLARCOAT

Dogs & Their People, Waukesha, WI

(262) 548-3979; dogcoats.com

***

$80-$110

Smallest size: 12"

Largest size: 40"

As you can see, this coat just isn't designed or sewn to fit the dog as nicely as the previous coat. What we like: Water- and wind-resistant nylon shell, Polartec insulating layer, and fleece inner layer. Fits all body shapes. Wide range of adjustment. What we don't like: The dog's chest is not covered. Large plastic buckles would be uncomfortable for a sleeping dog. Front closes with Velcro only.


APACHE RIVER DOG COAT

Norman Equine Design, Subiaco, AR



(800) 348-5673; horse-blankets.com/dog.html

*** 1/2

$42-$83

Smallest size: 8"

Largest size: 34"

These two coats (above and above right) are comparable in terms of their features, too. We like this one a little more. Both are made with fleece, pull over the dog's head, and are intended to keep the dog toasty in cold but not windy or wet weather. What we like: This coat is lined with a smooth Lycra Spandex layer. Fastens with a wide swath of Velcro on both sides, resulting in a large range of adjustment. The dog's chest is well-covered. Back leg straps keep coat from slipping to one side.


PANACHE POLARFLEECE COAT



PC Panache, Douglassville, PA

(610) 689-3829; pcpanache.com

***

$42-$66

Smallest size: 8"

Largest size: 30"

What we like: Elegant cut, nice fit. You can't tell from this photos, but the dog's chest is covered by a section that goes between the dog's front legs. High turtleneck can fold down. Fastens with a single strap that has a wide range of adjustment; fits all body types well. What we don't like: For ultra-cold weather (our goal for this review), this coat is a little light. For mild winters, it would be perfect.


CLOUD CHASER SOFT SHELL JACKET

Ruffwear, Bend, OR

(888) 783-3932; ruffwear.com

***

$75

Smallest size: XXS

Largest size: XL



This is a really unique product, unlike any seen elsewhere. It's meant to work kind of like a lightweight, breathable wetsuit, fitting close to the dog's skin and trapping core heat, even if the dog and the coat get wet. Consider it as a light, comfortable, no-slip insulating layer for a very active dog. What we like: Dog's belly and tummy are well-covered. Reflective stripe sewn along each side. What we don't like: No adjustment; you have to get the right size. Fastens with a zipper along one side.


THE SLICKER

Teckelklub, Vancouver, Canada

(866) 688-7802; teckelklub.com

***

$34-$100

Smallest size: 0 (Toy Poodle)

Largest size: 8 (Weimaraner)

What we like: Waterproof shell with a seamless fleece inner layer. Very well-made in Canada. Reflective piping on every seam. Nice fit on our block-shaped test dog; did not shift or rub. What we don't like: The dog's chest is not covered. Range of adjustment is not wide. Only Velcro fasteners in front and belly.


RAIN COAT

Voyagers K9 Apparel, Deerfield, WI

(877) 423-7345; k9apparel.com

****

$48-$88

Smallest size: Italian Greyhound

Largest size: Great Dane



These two (above and above right) are the only two non-insulating raincoats we tested. Again, this maker designed all its coats for long, narrow, deep-chested dogs like Greyhounds. What we like: Coat is completely lined with a lightweight mesh material. A leash opening is sewed in, and a reflective patch is sewn across the rump. Attached hood, pleated front, and fitted sides and rump help water run off your dog! Hood can be folded back if preferred. The coat is easily put on and taken off, and has a wide span of adjustment. Two Velcro straps fasten the coat, one on either side; strap position allows for easy movement.


FIDO WIND AND RAIN GEAR

Premier Pet Products, Midlothian, VA

(888) 640-8840; fidofleece.com

***

$19-$46

Smallest size: 11"

Largest size: 32"



What we like: Detachable hood (with Velcro). Coat covers chest and tummy well, and can be tucked up close to the body with an elastic drawstring just behind the dog's ribcage. Covers dog's front legs, too. Comparatively inexpensive. What we don't like: Fastens with long Velcro strip down spine, which can be difficult to fasten on a wiggly dog and leaks water in a driving rain. Dog's front legs must be threaded through sleeves.

Do Dogs Really NEED Coats?

Not all dogs need coats, but some do benefit from wearing a coat in cold weather.

A dog's natural protection against cold varies from breed to breed. Labradors and certain Northern dogs (Huskies and Malamutes, for example) have developed with special physiological responses for coping with cold. However, many other breeds (and certain individual dogs) benefit from extra warming layers in cold weather, including:



* Older dogs, especially those in poor health

* Immune-compromised dogs (keeping themselves warm is a major stress on their bodies' limited resources)

* Extremely thin dogs, who may not have adequate fat stores to keep themselves warm

* Extremely short-haired dogs and/or breeds accustomed to extremely cold or wet climates

Warming up these dogs actually helps them stay healthy, by sparing the dog's body from the task of generating as much heat as it would have to otherwise. By simply slipping an extra layer on these dogs, you can help them preserve their physiological resources for the maintenance of general health and vitality.





Make sure you monitor your dog's response to his coat and pay attention

to the weather. A coat can make your dog uncomfortably warm if temperatures rise or if he exercises in the coat.

WHOLE DOG JOURNAL'S 0-4 PAWS PRODUCT RATING:

**** AS GOOD AS IT GETS! PRODUCT IS FULLY APPROVED BY WDJ.

*** A GOOD PRODUCT, BUT WITH ONE OR TWO SIGNIFICANT FLAWS.

** THE PRODUCT HAS SOME VALUE, BUT ALSO SOME FLAWS; BUYER BEWARE.

* WE INCLUDE THE PRODUCT ONLY BECAUSE OF ITS POTENTIAL FOR IMPROVEMENT.

THE PRODUCT HAS NO REDEEMING VALUE--AT LEAST, NONE THAT WDJ CAN APPRECIATE.

Source Citation
Kerns, Nancy. "Keep them warm and dry: the warmest, best-fitting, easy-on dog coats on the market.(PRODUCT REVIEW)(Product/service evaluation)." Whole Dog Journal 10.12 (2007): 16+. Academic OneFile. Web. 22 Dec. 2009. .



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