Whether you want to protect your pooch from the elements or just let him strut his stuff in style, there are many different options for canine outdoor gear. Over one-third of all households in the United States have a dog as a pet and about 20 percent of those dogs are shelter adoptions. Taking care of your dog outdoors is important, but what gear works for you depends on your lifestyle as well as on the size and breed of your dog.
Keeping control over your dog is important whether you are on the curb or on a trail. Once standard items such as collars and leashes now come in a wide variety of materials, colors and styles. Quick fasten clips make putting on and taking off collars faster, but check the sturdiness of the design as some plastic closures can crack or even break with heavy use. Harnesses are ideal for dogs that pull, and they can prevent severe injury to the trachea of small or toy dogs. Mesh or stretchable materials maximize comfort for your pet, and easy-step-in construction makes life easier for both of you. Outdoor specialty retailers, such as Cabelas or LLBean feature dog backpacks, or panniers, with pouches. Your dog can carry his own snacks, doggie bags or even toys for overnight excursions.
For those owners and pets that live in remote or rugged areas that make on-leash outings a chore, remote control collars provide a hands-free, long-range option. The unit has sends a "corrective," painless signal to the dog whenever it goes off course or wanders too far away. Some like these collars for hunting outings.
Some dogs have naturally weatherproof coasts, but others need some shelter from the cold. Easy-on and easy-off coats are the best, many of which offer Velcro fasteners and step-in design. Polyester fleece is lightweight, warm and machine washable. Paw protectors for extreme cold are also valuable for keeping snow and ice from collecting between toes. Certain dogs might like swimming or sloshing through a puddle but hate getting rained on. Luckily, there are many raincoats available. Some options feature hoods and are bright yellow in color for safety. Heavier material coats might weigh down lightweight or older dogs too much, but there are also lightweight options that roll up and attach to a collar or halter.
Working dogs need outdoor gear that is more function than fashion. Hunting dogs can return with raw and scratched bellies after a day out in the brush. Specialty stores sell chest-protector rip-stop vests. Water retrieval for hunting dogs can also prove dangerous and there are flotation harness vests that can protect your dog from drowning. Police and military dogs face danger and hazardous working conditions every day, including gunfire and extreme heat exposure. Specialty sites such as Elite K-9 offer bullet-resistant vests and even cooling vests that wick away heat from the dogs body. Rescue dogs must walk over broken rubble, glass and other dangerous objects. Protective booties can help, but some dogs cannot function well without the all-important balance and feel that their own paw pads provide.