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Discussion Starter #1
I live in Michigan, Winter just started but in November before Thanksgiving our kids have already had 2 snow days. In bitter winter weather should GSD have warm coats and boots? W have been know to have Neg 20 degree weather. Also where I plan on walking, there will be salt. I've heard that Salt can burn the pads of their feet, plus I doubt pet safe salt is used in bulk at an apartment complex.
 

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Boots for the salt would be a very wise choice to prevent burns.
Unless they're spending extended periods out of doors where they can get wet, or you actually notice them shivering and reacting to the cold, I wouldn't worry about jackets for them. If you're just walking them, they should be okay. Jackets for larger, coated breeds can end up being a detriment, as the dogs can overheat during physical activity.

If the weather is such that they can get wet when it's that cold, then yes, I'd consider some sort of rain slicker or similar, to keep them from getting wet. If they are dry, they should be able to regulate their own body temperature provided they're being active.

Remember that this breed often herded high into the mountains, in temperatures very similar to what you're experiencing, exposed to the elements for most of their lives. Unless they've got a faulty coat [not double-coated], or you've artifically altered their coat in some way [extensive de-shedding procedures, or clipping or cutting their coat], they can keep themselves warm enough on a walk.

GSD and GSD-mixes run the Iditarod every year, without jackets, just fine. They even sleep outdoors in the weather, in beds of straw, during the race.
 

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If you have to walk them in areas where there will be salt, boots are a good choice to keep their paws safe and healthy and also to keep them from licking their paws after a walk and ingesting chemical ice melt or salt. Some dogs also have more sensitive pads than others and if there's ice crusted on top of the snow, they can cut their paws, but it's not a terribly common problem.

If you're going to get boots, I would recommend the ones RuffWear makes. I have a set of the RuffWear Grip Trex and they stay on very well and the rubber sole protects their paws. They also don't tend to turn over a lot like a lot of other boots do. (Their website has very good guidelines for fitting as well, since many dogs take a smaller size on their back paws than their front.)

Whether your dog will need a blanket to keep him/her warm really depends on the dog and on the weather. Wet/Cold is hardest for dogs to deal with as opposed to Dry/Cold and while Shepherds generally don't need a coat, individual dogs may get colder quicker depending on their amount of undercoat and how much time they spend outside. (If your dog is in a home that's 72 degrees all year long and only goes out to walk, s/he may be quite cold when it's -20.)

A lot of companies that make blankets for horses also make dog coats and those are generally quite nice. RuffWear also makes coats but I don't like their coats, a lot of them have "sleeves" in the front. I prefer the blanket style. I've made my own before, so if you're handy with a sewing machine, that would be a simple project for you to take on. :)
 

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Most of Ruffwear's coats don't have sleeves. Only the new Cloud Chaser and the newer sweater-type fleece coat do. I like their coats a lot as they are built with comfort in mind and built for active dogs.
That said I rarely use a coat for Bianca. She usually doesn't need one, unless it's just raining really hard and I don't want to deal with a wet dog or if we are going to be out standing still for long periods in the cold.

As far as boots I find a lot of dogs hate them and won't want to walk in them. I did get a pair for my terrier because he ice/cold/salt was bothering his feet, and I got the Ruffwear Grip Trex which worked well except he would walk slowly and not want to go for as long walks while wearing them. For Bianca I got a set of Pawz disposable boots just to protect her feet from the chemical ice melters and salt. These look like balloons, they don't do anything about the cold but they keep their feet dry and free of salt.
 

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Most of Ruffwear's coats don't have sleeves. Only the new Cloud Chaser and the newer sweater-type fleece coat do.
RuffWear currently only makes four cold-weather coats, the Cloud Chaser and Climate Changer have sleeves and the Sun Shower (which is technically a rain coat, not a cold weather coat) has a hood (why?). The K-9 Overcoat is the only cold weather coat they make that does not have sleeves.

Don't get me wrong, I like the gear RuffWear makes when it comes to boots, packs, and the like, but I don't get some of their designs for coats. I like the K-9 Overcoat but wish it had a different front/chest because that is so wide it's not comfortable for narrow-chested dogs. :( Their quality is excellent on everything, I'm just questioning some of the design features on the coats - like sleeves and hoods.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
RuffWear currently only makes four cold-weather coats, the Cloud Chaser and Climate Changer have sleeves and the Sun Shower (which is technically a rain coat, not a cold weather coat) has a hood (why?). The K-9 Overcoat is the only cold weather coat they make that does not have sleeves.

Don't get me wrong, I like the gear RuffWear makes when it comes to boots, packs, and the like, but I don't get some of their designs for coats. I like the K-9 Overcoat but wish it had a different front/chest because that is so wide it's not comfortable for narrow-chested dogs. :( Their quality is excellent on everything, I'm just questioning some of the design features on the coats - like sleeves and hoods.
Speaking of packs, is it safe to put one on a dog if there is a lot of snow and ice while wearing boots? Or would that be too much sensory going on?
 

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Let me ask this...if it's neg 20 out, how long do YOU plan to be outside? I know when it's that cold here, I don't go out so my dog doesn't. If you are planning on going outside, then look Schneider Saddlery. They have coats on sale for less than $20. You can't make a waterproof one for that. Personally, I don't think the German Shepherd need it unless you plan on being outside in extreme temperatures for an extended period of time. If you end up with a short hair dog such as a boxer or doberman, then I might invest in one.

But since you are in the city, I might look at boots to protect their feet from the salt, as previously mentioned, if you are going to be on alot of treated surfaces. I believe MI salts everything, right? And find some good conditioning cream to keep their feet from getting cracked. But if you are going to be on grass and snow, I wouldn't worry about it. Their feet will toughen up. If you put boots on them then their pads will be sensitive. Kind of like our first journey outside in bare feet in the spring. :)
 

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Let me ask this...if it's neg 20 out, how long do YOU plan to be outside? I know when it's that cold here, I don't go out so my dog doesn't. If you are planning on going outside, then look Schneider Saddlery. They have coats on sale for less than $20. You can't make a waterproof one for that. Personally, I don't think the German Shepherd need it unless you plan on being outside in extreme temperatures for an extended period of time. If you end up with a short hair dog such as a boxer or doberman, then I might invest in one.

But since you are in the city, I might look at boots to protect their feet from the salt, as previously mentioned, if you are going to be on alot of treated surfaces. I believe MI salts everything, right? And find some good conditioning cream to keep their feet from getting cracked. But if you are going to be on grass and snow, I wouldn't worry about it. Their feet will toughen up. If you put boots on them then their pads will be sensitive. Kind of like our first journey outside in bare feet in the spring. :)
HAHA. It's not neg 20 out all winter, but it has been known to go that low. Where I am, a typical winter day will very from low 20's to about neg 10. It depends on how cruel mother nature feels like being on any particular day! lol.

Yeah. we even salt our cars! lol You should see the under carriage of cars that are over 5 years old! It's a sight! lol. I plan on walking him/her for at least an hour in the morning and again at night. Now I may not be so motivated in the bitter cold, but my worst nightmare is having a high strung dog, because I failed to exercise them properly.
 

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I grew up in Michigan on Lake Mi. :) I know how cold it gets...and how much snow that I really DON'T miss. On those cold days here in PA, and I do have a fairly high strung dog, we stay inside. Play mental games with them. It'll be ok for a couple of days. :)

On a side note, I really admire that you are doing all this research beforehand. :)

ETA: oh...the only problem I've had with Jax's feet is playing frisbee when the ground is frozen but there isn't any snow for padding. She rips the pads on her feet on the ground but I think I'll try some vet wrap and see is she'll leave that on her legs while she's playing
 

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I take my dogs out in all weather, even well below zero. Some of my dogs have needed boots and others haven't. I find it depends on how tough their pads are and all of the dogs I've had from pup or young adult have had very tough pads. My partner's dog currently has the Ruffwear griptrex boots and they are excellent.


I have used some sort of paw protect product on all of my dogs feet in the cold weather: Amazon.com: Mushers Secret Protect Dog Paw Hot PaveMent Ice Booties - 60gm: Kitchen & Dining

Chama wore a coat when it was below 10 degrees (I lived in WI for 9 years) but all of my shepherd dogs had huge coats of their own. I keep my house cool and spend 2 to 3 hours outside every day with my dogs, no matter the weather, so they are well conditioned for cold. I think getting them used to it is the main thing.

When dogs are older they have more trouble regulating their temperatures and do sometimes have arthritis in their feet so at that point I would be looking into booties and jackets for everyone. :)
 

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Ruth! What is that cream you told me to buy for Jax's feet last year? Candula (sp?) or something like that?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I take my dogs out in all weather, even well below zero. Some of my dogs have needed boots and others haven't. I find it depends on how tough their pads are and all of the dogs I've had from pup or young adult have had very tough pads. My partner's dog currently has the Ruffwear griptrex boots and they are excellent.


I have used some sort of paw protect product on all of my dogs feet in the cold weather:
Amazon.com: Mushers Secret Protect Dog Paw Hot PaveMent Ice Booties - 60gm: Kitchen & Dining

Chama wore a coat when it was below 10 degrees (I lived in WI for 9 years) but all of my shepherd dogs had huge coats of their own. I keep my house cool and spend 2 to 3 hours outside every day with my dogs, no matter the weather, so they are well conditioned for cold. I think getting them used to it is the main thing.

When dogs are older they have more trouble regulating their temperatures and do sometimes have arthritis in their feet so at that point I would be looking into booties and jackets for everyone. :)
I thought about maybe using the Mushers Secret, but I don't like the idea of slathering it on the dogs feet and then the dog leaving greasy foot prints. If the halls are carpeted I don't want to have to replace it if the MS
ruins the carpet. And if it's tiled or linoleum I don't want anyone slipping. also I'll be on either the 2nd or 3rd floor so I wont have a hose to hose off greasy feet afterwords. I think boots will be easier. Pricier but easier.
 

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i agree with others...boots just for the salt. as far as the cold, most any GSD will be able to easily stay out longer than you will ever want to on a cold winter day.
 

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If you are only buying shoes for the salt, I would suggest buying a package of the Pawz boots first to see if those work for you before spending a lot of money on cold weather boots. They are made of a thin flexible material so they don't interfere with the dog's contact with the ground and don't feel weird to the dog so they accept them a lot more quickly.


I'm just questioning some of the design features on the coats - like sleeves and hoods.
The hood on the Sun Shower is removable, you can zip it off and not use it, or it can also be rolled up and stored inside the collar of the coat. I have one of these jackets for Bianca and so far I just leave the hood rolled up.

I do think the sleeves may make it harder to fit some dogs... For example my terrier mix who had a wide chest and very muscular in the upper forelegs. The Cloud Changer size that fit his length was tight in the chest and the ends of the sleeves were a little tight on his legs. If I went the next size up it would've been way too big on him and he probably would have been peeing on it.
With Bianca I ended up buying a size (or two, I think she was between a M and L) larger of the Sun Shower than what was recommended for her girth, because she is so long that the Large left a lot of her lower back uncovered. Luckily the girth straps can be cinched tight enough on the XL so it will fit her, and the length just covers to the end of her back. If she was a boy the length of the chest piece might have been a problem though (not sure.)

You can see that it is a bit too tight on my terrier:

 

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Speaking of packs, is it safe to put one on a dog if there is a lot of snow and ice while wearing boots? Or would that be too much sensory going on?
I think you'll be just fine having the boots and pack on your dog at the same time, if you plan on hiking in winter. :) I've never had any trouble with dogs "overloading" on stimulations because they were wearing boots and blanket or boots and pack.

The hood on the Sun Shower is removable, you can zip it off and not use it, or it can also be rolled up and stored inside the collar of the coat. I have one of these jackets for Bianca and so far I just leave the hood rolled up.
I think I am just questioning why in the heck a dog coat would *need* a hood or sleeves in the first place. RuffWear does a great job making things that are very functional rather than "fashion" things, but I think their coat features are appealing more to people who want to dress their dogs than people who want practical solutions. They could have simply made the Sun Shower without the hood. I don't get why a dog would need a hood for any reason, regardless of whether it comes off or rolls up. Would be cheaper for them to manufacture without the hood, too.
 

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A lot of dog raincoats come with hoods.
... and sleeves, collars, pockets, matching boots, matching leashes, etc. Doesn't mean it makes any more sense. The only way to keep a hood on a dog's head is if the dog is sitting for a picture, not for actual use. But then again, people also dress their dogs in sun dresses and argyle sweaters ... and they make those for dogs, too.
 
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