Dog clothes are not just about making your dog look good. In fact, dog sweaters and coats are essential in certain weather conditions. Read on to find out what purpose dog winter apparel serves, whether your dog needs a jacket or sweater, warning signs that your pet is too cold, common breeds that need coats and those that don't, and tips on choosing the best coat for your dog.
The Benefits of Dog Coats
While there is plenty of apparel out there for pets that is just for fun, winter coats are not one of them. While some are designed to be fashionable, they serve a functional purpose as well. Dog coats or sweaters act as insulators for your pet when the ambient temperature is low. Jackets can also act as windbreakers to shield your pet from the nasty sting of the windchill, which can make it feel a lot colder outside than it actually is. Lastly, coats can protect your pet from getting wet, no matter whether it's snow, sleet, or rain outside.
Warning Signs That Your Dog Is Too Cold
If your dog is showing one or more of these signs of being too cold and extremely uncomfortable, it's time to get him a coat (and maybe some dog boots, too):
- Your dog shivers after being outside for only a few minutes (or less).
- Your dog whines, seems restless, or is otherwise agitated when outside.
- If your dog is constantly picking up his feet or excessively licking his paws, your dog needs boots, too.
Does My Dog Need a Coat?
Many people believe the myth that a dog's (or cat's) fur coat is sufficient for winter weather. While it is true that some pets' coats are thick enough for winter weather, many pets' coats are not. Also note that not all pets have the ability to grow a winter coat. Most pets who are spending time in freezing temperatures will need a jacket at some point.
Your dog should wear a coat if one or more of these applies:
Toy or Small Breed
Small breeds get colder, faster due to their small size.
If your pet's breed is native to a hot country, such as Chihuahuas native to Latin America, it's likely that they will need a coat or a sweater in even mildly cold weather. Huskies, on the other hand, are a cold-loving breed that does just fine in freezing temperatures.
Dogs with short hair don't have the same insulating quality to their coats. While their fur coat may provide some insulation, think of it as a light spring jacket rather than a cold-weather one.
Certain breeds of dogs have very short legs. These pets are close to the ground and the snow and ice. If your dog's tummy is close enough to touch the snow where you are walking, you should probably get her a coat that covers her belly.
Low Body Fat
Some dogs, even though they are large, may have low body fat and may not fare well in cold temperatures. Examples include the whippet or greyhound.
Sick, Injured, Elderly, or Puppies
Just as with humans, sick, injured, young or elderly canines often need extra warmth. Their bodies are just not as efficient at heat regulation as healthy, adult dogs. This includes dogs with diseases such as heart disease, chronic health conditions such as arthritis, temporary illnesses, and those recovering from injuries or surgery.
While your dog may have a naturally long coat, if you have had him groomed recently to a shorter cut, you may need to put a sweater or jacket on your dog for cooler weather.
Even if you have a cold-loving dog breed, if your pet is used to a hot climate, they will likely not respond well to cold.
Just like people, individual dogs have different tolerances for the cold. Don't just judge your dog according to what breed they are: look at their behaviour to determine whether a coat is necessary.
NOTE: While this list is often a good indicator of whether your dog needs a coat, it is not completely foolproof. Some breeds are exceptions to the rule, such as the relatively small American Eskimo dog that is quite comfortable in cold weather.
Dog Breeds That Need Coats in Cold Weather
These dogs will need a coat when the temperatures drop below freezing, and likely even before then. Some breeds are more comfortable with sweaters on chilly summer days. Be very careful with these dogs in cold temperatures, and watch for warning signs that your dog is too cold.
- Rat Terrier
- Pharoah Hound
- Miniature Pinscher
- Doberman Pinscher
- Chinese Crested
- Manchester Terrier
Dog Breeds That Are Cold-Weather Resistant
These dogs likely need a coat once temperatures drop below -5 degrees Celsius.
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Standard Poodle (with long, natural coat)
Dog Breeds That Love Cold Weather
These dogs likely do not need jackets, or perhaps only in extreme cases. If you do choose a jacket for them, make it only a waterproof shell, which will provide minimal insulation, but offer protection against windchill and getting wet. Winter jackets often will make these breeds uncomfortably warm.
- Alaskan Malamute
- American Eskimo
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Chow Chow
- Great Pyrenees
- Saint Bernard
- Shiba Inu
- Tibetan Terrier
- Golden Doodle
Tips for Choosing the Right Dog Coat
- There are many different types of dog jackets designed for different temperatures and functions. Make sure that you choose a coat that is appropriate for the weather conditions and temperature.
- If you live in an area where winter temperatures can vary, you may want to have a few different coats on hand.
- Remember, if your pet's jacket is too warm for her, it's no longer serving its purpose. Don't let your pet overheat.
- For optimal warmth and versatility, choose a coat with a waterproof outer shell to shelter your dog from cold winds and freezing rain or sleet. A good quality waterproof shell will do more to keep your dog warm than extra stuffing.
- Reserve sweaters for cool days and walks and choose something with windbreaker material, such as nylon, for colder days. Sweaters are not helpful when it is snowing, raining, or sleeting, and may actually make your pet colder. Sweaters can get wet, even if the snow is dry as your pet's body warmth can melt the snow if you are out for an extended period of time. Wet pets get colder faster, so reserve sweaters for days without precipitation, and if your pet is not going to be in the snow.
- If you're going to be walking at night or early in the morning, look for coats with reflective piping for best visibility.
- Look at the individual brand's sizing. There is no standard for pet wear, so a medium may fit in one brand, while small is your dog's size in another.
- Make sure you experiment with a few different styles of coat to find one that is comfortable for your pet to wear. If possible, try before you buy!