s the nation digs out from under the blizzard of 2010, many of the nation's dogs are trotting around sporting colorful sweaters and, in some cases, matching booties. Making dogs dress up — on Halloween, for example — is a controversial subject among pet lovers. But in brutal winter conditions, is putting cozy outerwear on your dog simply the humane thing to do?
Yes, sometimes dogs need sweaters: "Crisp days and fluffy snow can bring out the inner dog in a dog," says Sarah Montague at WNYC, "but harsh weather also brings real hazards to man's best friend and other companion animals." Booties help keep the pads on their paws from getting cut or cracked in snow and ice, and sweaters can be life-savers for small dogs or those with little or no fur.
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As a rule, it is wrong to make a dog wear clothes: If you must take your pet outside in a sub-zero blizzard, says Monica Collins in the Chicago Sun-Times, fine, cover Fido up. But, aside from booties to protect paws from road salt, "clothes on dogs are all about the human not the dog." These animals have "lived for hundreds, nay thousands, of years subsisting on raw meat and raw elements." Dogs may eat our leftovers now, but they still aren't meant to "wear our clothes."
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If your dog needs a warm outfit, you picked the wrong breed: "Some dogs are bred to handle cold weather," says Brian Palmer in Slate, such as Labrador retrievers and Newfoundlands. Leaner, less furry dogs, such as greyhounds, need help to be comfortable and safe in cold weather. But "there's only so much clothes can do for an animal" — nothing will make a Chihuahua comfortable in a blizzard. So if you live in an area prone to heavy snow, get an Alaskan husky, not a dachshund.
"Do dogs need sweaters?"
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