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When it gets icy outside, we think about winterizing cars and homes. But what about the need to winterize our dogs?
Our beloved canine companions look cute in sweaters, but technically, they’re already wearing one coat. Is another layer healthy, or is it a health risk? Do dogs need coats?
Some Dogs Like it Hot—But Not All
There’s more to this question than meets the eye.
Asking “do dogs need coats” doesn’t take into account that our companions vary in shape and size, breeds and background. Just like human wardrobes, the answer is rarely one-size-fits-all.
Short-haired breeds, including hairless dogs, have less insulation against that change in temperature from a warm house to winter walk. Picture a Bernese versus a greyhound, or Saint Bernard versus a pit bull terrier. You get the idea.
Also, if you clip or shave longer-haired canines (like poodles) you’ve altered their body’s natural protection. A sweater can help compensate.
The Role of Age, Breed, and Climate
You might assume a strong Siberian husky is ready for anything, but if they were born and raised in Miami and suddenly moved to Juneau, they’d need time to adjust.
If a dog shivers and is reluctant to go outside, a sweater can be a good way to acclimate them to a changed environment.
Additionally, age and health bring considerations. Heat regulation declines with age, so a sweater can help an older dog enjoy their walk. Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and arthritis affect skin and joints, and a warm sweater can help.
Can Dogs Overheat if They Wear Coats?
Make sure you’re not doing your dog a disservice. If doing brisk exercise, for instance, dogs with thick fur or double coats do not need a coat. In fact, most double-coated dogs, from golden retrievers to huskies, don’t need the extra layer when you’re headed outside (unless they’re old, ill, or newly arrived in a cold climate).
A lightweight waterproof layer like the Aira from Ruffwear for your furry dog, however, can be helpful if you’re out in heavy rain or snow. It also helps prevent icy buildup in your dog’s fur.
Indoors, even short-coated dogs don’t need jackets. Flat-faced breeds like Boston terriers or French bulldogs in particular are prone to overheating. Opt for a cozy blanket pile, instead.
Choosing the Right Clothes for Your Dog
Once you’ve assessed your dog’s need for additional warmth, it’s time to determine what kind of sweater they should wear.
The first step is measuring your dog, much like you’d tailor your own suit. It should be snug, but overheating is an issue if it’s too tight. If you can’t put it on and take it off easily, there’s a problem.
Some coats and sweaters have sleeves for front legs, but these may be restrictive: your dog should also be able to demonstrate their usual range of movement.
Neck and torso need to be measured, as well as the length of the sweater that should probably end at the waist. We’ve got a full guide to measuring your dog for clothes here with more detail.
Think wool sweaters are itchy? Your dog might agree. Instead of risking a skin irritant, look for soft materials, wool blends that you can wash, or cotton and fleece. If you’re headed out into wintry weather that’s also rainy and wet, try an insulated waterproof coat like the beloved Weatherbeeta.
More Tips for Dressing Your Dog
You probably want a few sweaters or coats on hand—not just for pooch couture, but also for weather changes. You’ll have a sweater for dry outing and save the waterproof coat for a rainy day, for example, as wet sweaters or coats will make a dog colder.
Some dogs initially reject clothing. If they weren’t acclimated to wearing clothes as a puppy, your pal might need to adjust slowly. Reward them in the presence of the clothes, then try them on for brief periods. Never force a pet to wear clothing and heed their warning signals.
For a lengthy list of dog tips during the winter, check out the American Veterinary Medical Association recommendations for cold weather pet safety.
Top image courtesy Flickr.