Do dogs need clothes? While this may at first appear to be a light concern to those who would scoff at the idea of dressing a dog, there are still many dog owners who have seen their dogs shiver violently after exposure to winter temperatures but hesitate to put clothing on their dogs for fear of appearing odd. Well, have no fear. If you are concerned about your dog being cold, there is certainly no harm in putting clothing on him.
If you are still on the fence, consider this: Sure, dogs come equipped with their own external layering system, but some dogs have lighter layers of fur than others, and some are not genetically suited to the environments in which they find themselves transplanted. So your dog may in fact be extremely uncomfortable with the winter temperatures — as uncomfortable as you would be if you went outside without clothing.
Who really needs a coat?
Not surprising, little dogs are the most likely to need extra insulation. Chihuahuas, toy terriers, miniature pinchers and other small breeds are simply less equipped to deal with cold winter temperatures. Short-haired dogs and those that are very lean, such as Whippets and Greyhounds, tend to shiver quite easily, and will enjoy their daily walks much more when wearing a coat or sweater.
Dog coats are also recommended if you live in an area where the mercury drops below zero or if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors in the winter. This applies even to large breeds that are accustomed to the cold: remember their bellies have no fur and are exposed to the elements. Likewise, dogs recuperating from an illness or injury may also be more sensitive to frigid temperatures, as are older dogs and puppies.
Veterinarians recommend against dog sweaters for long-haired larger breeds because these dogs are naturally predisposed to survive cold temperatures.
Finding a Good Sweater
Once you have decided to get a sweater for your dog, you will need to begin by considering material. While wool is very warm and one of the best insulating materials, take into account how often it will need to be washed, and whether it will make your dog more uncomfortable due to itching. A good blend of washable wool and cotton or acrylic may be the best bet.
Second, just as you would measure your own neck, chest and waist before buying a piece of clothing, measuring your dog is the best way of assuring the best fit. Why do you want it to fit? So that your dog cannot easily pull the piece off, so it doesn’t drag on the ground, and so it doesn’t get caught on anything during normal movement. You want the piece to be snug without being tight.
If you shop in stores, you have a huge advantage over catalog shoppers. You can try several coats on your dog to check their fit and ease of application, and you can examine them closely for good-quality zippers, seams, and Velcro fasteners, and thick, warm fabric.
The only drawback to shopping for a coat in person is finding a store that carries a broad-enough selection of quality designs to choose from. Catalog shopping, in contrast, may seduce you with a fantastic selection of pretty coats, but it’s hard to tell from the photographs whether the coats are thick and well made. And 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 any dog hair on them. It’s understandable, but regrettable. Before you place an order or hand over your plastic, ask the sales representative about the business’s return policy.
What to look for in a dog coat
Dog coats and sweaters come in a variety of materials, although wool and fleece are most common. Water-resistant fabrics, such as those used for people parkas, may be better if you live in a snowy area. Whatever fabric you choose, make sure it is easy to care for.
To adequately protect your dog from the cold, a sweater should fit snugly and completely cover your dog’s stomach and end at the base of the tail, keeping his legs free so he can walk, run, and relieve himself. Coats with full-length “sleeves” for the legs may be harder for your dog to adapt to and may inhibit his ability to move normally. If possible, try the sweater on your dog to make sure it fits him comfortably and is easy to get on and off.
Remember, dog coats are not just a novelty—for many dogs they’re a necessity. So don’t feel embarrassed buying your dog one. With the right cold-weather gear, winter can really be a wonderland for your dog.