Do dogs need coats? Dog clothes are not just about making your dog look stylish and adorable. In fact, dog sweaters and coats are essential in certain weather conditions. Read on to find out what purpose dog winter apparel serves and whether your dog needs a jacket or sweater.
In this article, you'll learn to recognize warning signs that your pet is too cold, find out which common breeds need coats and dogs like Siberian Huskies with thick coats that are probably fine without, and get some helpful tips on choosing the best coat for your dog.
The Benefits of Dog Coats
While there is plenty of fun types and brands of pet apparel out there, winter coats serve a more important purpose. This doesn't mean that your dog can't have a winter coat that looks good too. Some winter coats are designed to be fashionable and functional.
Dog sweaters and coats act as insulators for your pet when the colder weather strikes. 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, whether it's caused by snow, sleet, or rain during those winter walks. Being wet can quickly affect your dog's body temperature if the weather is cool.
Warning Signs That Your Dog Is Too Cold
Recognizing when your pet is cold will help you keep them safe and comfortable. Be on the lookout for these common signs that your pet is feeling the cold:
- 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.
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):
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, that's not the case for all dogs or cats.
Keep in mind 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 quicker due to their small size. Regardless of whether or not they have thick fur or an undercoat, most small dogs will get colder fast due to their small stature. Most of them will even need a sweater indoors during the colder seasons.
Examples of small and toy breeds:
- Toy Poodles
- Miniature Pinschers
If your pet's breed is native to a hot country, it's likely that they will need a coat or a sweater in even mildly cold weather. These types of dogs will need a variety of outwear for different seasons.
Examples of heat-loving breeds:
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.
Examples of short-haired breeds:
- Staffordshire Terriers
- Great Danes
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 them winter gear that covers their belly and legs like the Hurtta Body Warmer.
Examples of short dogs:
- French Bulldogs
- Basset Hounds
Low Body Fat
Some dogs, even though they are large, may have low body fat and may not fare well in cold temperatures. This may be combined with a short or thin coat, leaving them even more susceptible to cold.
Examples of skinny dogs:
Sick, Injured, Elderly, or Puppies
Just as with humans, sick, injured, young and 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. Their coat is designed for insulation, so cutting breeds with an undercoat is never recommended.
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. Dogs that spend a lot of time indoors will not have a tolerance for cold weather. Making sure they are properly insulated with the right apparel will make acclimation to cold weather much easier.
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.
Your dog may be fine without a coat for a short walk, but a longer trip like a winter hike may be more than they can handle without the proper gear.
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 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
While jackets may not be needed, boots are still recommended in extremely cold climates. Boots also protect against salt, give them more grip on ice, and can prevent snowballs from building up in the pads of their feet.
9 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're looking for something more fashionable, check out Canada Pooch or Silver Paw. If you are looking for more functional and high quality, check out Hurtta and Ruffwear.
- 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. You can also layer different types of fabric, allowing you to remove layers if the temperature outside beings to rise.
- 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. Check out How to Measure a Dog, to help you find the perfect fit.
- 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!