Do dogs need coats?
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Caitlin UltimoHolidays / Pet Parenting

Do Dogs Need Coats and Sweaters in Winter?

During dog walks during the frigid winter months, you may wonder, do dogs need coats or sweaters? The answer: Dog clothes—while absolutely adorable—are not just for fashion-forward pups. Dressing your dog in a cozy sweater or dog hoodie is a great way to help them stay warm.

“When the temperature drops, some dogs may benefit from dog sweaters or dog jackets to keep warm,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH of Animal Acupuncture in New York City.

If you notice your pup shivering when you head out for your daily walks, then yes, your dog needs a coat or sweater. But before you go shopping for new pet apparel for your pet, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

Size Matters

Dogs that have trouble generating and maintaining body heat on their own may need sweaters or coats during cold weather. “Dog clothes in wintertime are recommended in small toy breed dogs or dogs with short hair coats (either naturally or due to grooming),” says Dr. Barrack. Smaller dogs typically have less body fat and thinner coats, and are closer to the cold ground, often necessitating a jacket for comfort.  Similarly, even larger dogs with thin body types—like Greyhounds—may require clothing during cold weather.

“Other dogs that may need sweaters are older dogs with compromised immune systems or dogs with endocrine issues that result in thinned coats,” says Dr. Barrack. Conditions such as Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism impact hair growth; a jacket helps trap body heat and will prevent your elderly or sick dog from getting cold.

Some dogs do not need a jacket—their natural fur coats function like one! “Large breed dogs with thick coats—like Bernese Mountain, Saint Bernard, Newfoundland and Siberian Huskies, among others, do not require extra insulation from a coat or a sweater in the winter,” says Dr. Barrack. These breeds of dogs have evolved to have thick insular coats to keep them warm in colder climates, so putting a jacket on them could cause them to overheat and hinder their natural body temperature control mechanisms.

Check the Weather

Dogs naturally wear their own "jacket" every day, so you need to use caution when deciding whether to put on a real dog jacket. Even toy breeds or elderly dogs can overheat in very thick jackets on mild days. Unless your dog is shivering, it may be best to skip the jacket if it’s a dry day over 50 degrees. However, on rainy days, dogs may benefit from wearing a rain-resistant jacket, like the Frisco Boulder Dog & Cat Puffer Coat. A doggy raincoat like the Frisco Rainy Days Dog Raincoat will keep water off their fur and help maintain a consistent body temperature.

You should also take into account how long you plan on being outside with your pet. If you’ll be outside only for a short time—like a quick walk before you go to work—a jacket is probably unnecessary. If you’ll be outside for a particularly long time, a jacket is advisable for the types of dogs described above.

Safety Considerations

When outfitting your canine buddy with dog clothes, you should always be mindful of their safety and comfort. Pet apparel is fine to wear indoors if your dog tolerates it. Lightweight dog clothes, like dog sweatshirts or dog hoodies may also be appropriate for a small number of pets to wear indoors; however, you want to be mindful about overheating. Most dogs find it uncomfortable to wear a jacket in a well-heated home.

You should also keep in mind your dog’s comfort level when it comes to body-handling. If your dog is not comfortable with you touching their feet or covering their heads, then you should search for a dog jacket that has Velcro or snap closures, like the Frisco Dog & Cat Parka Coat. Pet apparel is meant to be comfortable and should never be a stressful experience for your dog.

You will also want to make sure that your chosen pet apparel is fitted appropriately. If a garment is too loose or too tight it can cause safety concerns, such as choking or chafing. If you and your dog plan on being outside for a long period of time for a walk or some outdoor playtime, you will want to check the sizing of the coat to make sure it isn’t too snug or loose in the leg hole and neck areas. You should also examine your pet once you are back indoors to see if the jacket caused any chafing or rubs, especially if it got wet from rain or snow. And remember to always supervise your dog while he wears clothes, as there’s a risk of it getting tangled on a crate, a tree or furniture.

Styles to Consider

Measure your dog around the neck and ribcage to find a jacket that fits well. You’ll want it to be snug without being tight, making sure it doesn’t drag on the ground and that it permits freedom of movement in the armpit area.

Dogs that are more accustomed to wearing clothing may enjoy the extra warmth that dog hoodies provide. The Pet Life Fashion Plush Cotton Hooded Dog Sweater is made from 100% ultra-plush, stonewashed cotton, and, just like any hoodie, you can adjust the hood by pulling on the strings near the neck. A small opening behind the neck lets you attach a leash without having to slip it out through the hood. The Frisco Dog & Cat Basic Hoodie is another hoodie option that has no sleeves for the more petite dogs and comes in a range of colors from red to blue to pink.

For a more fitted feel, the Blueberry Pet Snowflake Dog & Cat Sweater is a great option. Its short sleeves allow a wide range of movement, and the fun design with pom hood makes it stand out from other simple sweaters.

The Chilly Dog Buffalo Plaid Dog Sweater features an eco-friendly design that uses only plant-sourced, natural dyes and fair-trade wool sourced from small Andean farms. Because it’s made of 100% natural, renewable and non-allergenic organic wool, it helps insulate your pal from chilly weather while still being ultra-breathable, comfortable and allergy-free.

No matter which option you choose when outfitting your pet, it is important to remember that their comfort is paramount! If your pet is uncomfortable or stressed out by clothing, then it is probably best to bypass it altogether. However, for dogs who need coats and sweaters and don't mind or even enjoy wearing clothing, it's fun to let them express their unique sense of fashion. Happy shopping!

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By: Caitlin Boyle
Caitlin Boyle is a writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her hobbies including trail running and planning fantasy vacations. She has two dogs, Maggie and James, and a cat that believes he's a dog, Ferguson.

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