Learn what kind of dogs need coats, the benefits of getting your dog a coat, and how to choose the best coat for your furry friend. Do dogs really need a coat? Do dogs need jackets in cold weather?
As the weather gets colder, many dog parents ask themselves, do dogs really need a coat? It’s important to keep your dog safe and warm during the cold season. However, not all dogs need winter coats. Under the right circumstances, most dogs do, however, benefit from an extra layer of protection from the cold.
Cold weather 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.
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.
What are The Benefits of Dog Coats?
While there are 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.
Do Dogs Really Need Coats?
Many dogs do need coats. It may seem silly if you are new to shopping for dog clothes, but you might be surprised by how much a dog coat can make your dog's outdoor winter activities more enjoyable.
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.
- Your dog refuses to go outside, even for bathroom breaks.
- If your dog is constantly picking up his feet or excessively licking his paws.
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 winter dog boots, too).
Do Dogs Need Winter Coats?
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 winter dog jacket at some point.
Do Dogs Need Jackets?
When winter sets in, dog coats are a must, but what about more moderate winter temperatures or even fall? Will your dog benefit from a dog jacket?
Dog jackets are a little lighter than most dog coats. They are designed for milder temperatures and are often water-resistant, making them suitable for rainy and cool climates. Dog jackets often don't cover quite as much of your dog's body, so these are great for active dogs that need a wider range of motion.
Jackets are recommended for dogs with short fur that will start to feel the cold sooner than fluffier or thicker-coated breeds. They are great for fall and early winter, when the weather can change quickly and unpredictably. Some slim-fitting dog jackets are also suitable for layering under a puffier winter dog coat on extra frigid winter walks.
Which Dogs Need a Coat?
Some dogs are more likely to need a coat than others. Certain breed characteristics make a dog less able to handle colder climates. Their health and age can also be a factor. If your dog has any of the traits below, then he likely needs a coat in cold weather.
Toy or Small Breeds
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, they will likely 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. And don't forget hairless breeds like Xoloitzcuintli's.
Examples of short-haired breeds:
- Staffordshire Terriers
- Great Danes
Dogs with Short Legs
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
Skinny dogs or dogs with very low body fat have more trouble keeping their core warm when the weather is cold. Some dogs are just naturally thin, while others are underweight due to illness or injury. Low body fat combined with a short or thin coat leaves them even more susceptible to cold.
Examples of skinny dogs:
Sick, Injured, Elderly, or Puppies
Just like 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.
Dogs with a Short Cut
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.
Dog Breeds from Hot Climates
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, could 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.
At What Temperature Do Dogs Need a Coat?
Generally, when temperatures are at or above 7 degrees Celsius, most dogs will not require a coat. When temperatures fall below 7 degrees, some cold-averse breeds will probably need protection and get uncomfortable.
For owners of puppies, seniors, thin-haired breeds, or very small breeds, anytime the temperature outside feels at or below 0 degrees Celsius, you should probably put a coat on your dog.
No matter the temperature, owners should look for signs that their dogs are uncomfortable or too cold – even if they are a breed that is known to handle cold weather.
How to Measure Your Dog for a Coat
Something else you may wonder when thinking, “should I put a coat on my dog in winter?” is “How do I measure my dog for a coat?” If you order a coat for your dog, make sure you adequately measure them for a great fit that keeps them safe, comfortable, and warm.
- Get your dog in a comfortable position, standing up.
- Use a tape measure, starting at the base of your dog’s neck to the base of the tail
- Pay attention to the brand’s sizing chart before making a coat purchase.
- If possible, try on the coat, or familiarize yourself with the return policy.
- Be cautious of buying dog apparel for growing puppies, as they will outgrow clothes fast. Buy a size up if possible.
It’s pretty easy to measure your furry friend! To help you find the perfect fit for your dog, check out How to Measure a Dog.
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, dog 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.
10 Tips for Choosing the Right Dog Coat
- There are many different types of dog jackets designed for different temperatures and functions. Make sure 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 want 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 or invest in a body warmer, 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 dog sweaters for dry but 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 the 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 a 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!
- Think about how your dog's leash attaches, and make sure you choose a coat that works with your dog's other walking gear. If your dog wears a back clip dog harness, some coats offer a spot to fit your dog's leash clip through.
Does Your Dog Need a Coat?
So, should you put your dog in a coat?
The answer will largely depend on the kind of dog you have, what the temperature feels like, the age of your dog, and more. Rest assured, it’s better to have a coat on hand to ensure your dog feels comfortable. We all know playing outside is great for our favourite furry friends, but we want to make sure that they are protected as well!
When purchasing a coat, make sure to measure your dog to get an accurate fit. It’s important to note that brands may have different sizing guides, so pay close attention so you can make sure that you get a coat that will be comfortable for your dog!
Does your dog need a coat? How can you tell when your dog is feeling the cold? Share your tips, questions, and favourite products with us in the comments below!