Seven Myths and Facts About Dogs and Winter Coats
Winter’s chill is making its presence known in many areas, and as we dig to the back of our closets and coat racks for parkas and seasonal outerwear, we should do the same for our dogs. There are many myths out there about dogs and winter coats.
Canine couture is popular, so whether your dog roams in a sweater, hoodie, or goes au naturel when mother nature bites at the thermometer, we’ve got the facts — and the fictions — on doggy outerwear.
Fiction: All dogs need outerwear to protect them from the cold.
Fact: Not all dogs need a coat or sweater to keep them warm when venturing outside, but shorter-haired breeds, senior dogs, puppies, and dogs with medical conditions do benefit from the additional warmth. Seek pet apparel that adequately covers the neck and belly, and also allows for neck-to-tail protection. One of my favorite winter finds is the Quinzee from Ruffwear, which I chose based on the above features and the cuteness factor, too.
Fiction: All dogs can become accustomed to wearing a coat.
Fact: Some dogs are uncomfortable wearing apparel and should never be forced to do so. While many dogs benefit from the additional layering in colder temperatures, try letting your dog wear the coat in the house for minutes at a time. If he or she is not responsive — or does the famous “freeze in place” pose — scratch the idea and move on.
Fiction: Larger dogs do not need winter outerwear protection.
Fact: Some dogs were bred with a thicker or a more dense coat, including the Idiatrod-savvy Siberian Husky. But other bigger breeds might benefit from a coat, so assess each individual dog. Greyhounds are more sensitive to the colder weather, for example, so this particular breed could use the extra layering.
Fiction: If it looks like a sweater and acts like a sweater, it will keep my dog warm.
Fact: This is so not true. I like to get waterproof dog clothes for my Dexter, a Cocker Spaniel, so his thicker hair can stay dry on our winter snow-covered-sidewalk jaunts. In addition, waterproof apparel keeps him dry from dew-coated bushes and grass at the park. Much like my own winter coat does for me, a polar-fleece lining gives dogs comfort while protecting against colder temperatures.
Fiction: A dog’s coat should be snug to keep him or her as warm as possible.
Fact: Remember the kid from A Christmas Story whose mom bundled him up and then he could not move? Consider your dog’s mobility. Just as you need to move in a coat, so does your dog. Snug but not tight is a good rule. Make sure there are no additional hanging zippers, snaps, or parts that can rub or irritate a dog. Dexter will wear apparel as long as it doesn’t interfere with his “man parts.” Pay attention to where any Velcro straps or fasteners lay against a dog’s coat. Being able to try clothing on at the store helps a great deal.
Fiction: A dog’s pads are resilient and will protect him or her from nature’s elements.
Fact: Chemicals can be absorbed through a dog’s sensitive pads. In turn, those chemicals (such as what’s found in antifreeze) can be licked by dogs and cause severe problems. I use Musher’s Secret on my dog’s feet and have given this product as a stocking stuffer to dog-loving friends and family in the past. Some people opt for dog booties, which is a smart idea in the winter months. Wash dog pads off thoroughly after a walk, perhaps using some warm water and a washcloth to melt any ice balls that may have formed on the bottom of their feet.
Fiction: Coats and hoodies must look heavy to adequately protect dogs.
Fact: Technology has evolved in the human outerwear market, and the same holds true with our canine counterparts. Thin is the new thick in outerwear. Check labels and do research before making an investment. Heavier does not mean better; in fact, if a coat is too warm, dogs can overheat, so use caution.
How to measure your dog for a coat
With the dog standing up, run a tape measure from the base of the dog’s neck (where the collar would sit) and to the base of the tail. The majority of dog clothes use this measurement. Knowing your dog’s chest measurement will ensure a good fit, too.
Does your dog wear clothes in the winter months? What kinds do you use? Let us know in the comments!
Note: I wrote this story and it originally appeared on Dogster.com.
Schooner and Skipper do not have a lot of fur. Skipper loves wearing his winter coat and a sweater or fleece and will wear his shirts in the house. Schooner hates his coat but I make him wear it outside because our winter is very cold. Schooner does NOT like to wear a shirt!
That is a riot that one dog is okay with other and the other one says no way, Sharon. LOL
Spanky takes off when any dog-clothes come in sight….lol…if..IF…we manage to get any shirt on him…he gets outside and goes into the boxwood hedges, and walks backward, until he works it off, LOL!
So many great reminders. I definitely need to protect our dogs paws – Rodrigo more than Sydney, but both can use the attention. And now that we’re getting a puppy, I’m thankful for the dog clothing I received, because that’s going to get some use this winter. And water proof is so important. Surprised I didn’t think of this.
I so very much love Musher’s Secret – I love it for my cuticles, too. It is awesome to prevent snowballing in cocker feet – and Dex has bear paws for a little dog.
Great post – I just finished writing one about knowing when to give your dog another layer. This is the coldest winter Northern California has ever seen and the temperatures are lower than I think Kayo has ever experienced. Our favorite pet store was selling “last season’s” winter coats for $2 on the day we happened to go to buy more food so we picked one up. Kayo used to hate clothes but trying it on at the pet store was great because she associated it with being at a place she loves and is excited about. Now she’s also excited because putting it on means we’re going out. My last training session today involved five pit bulls, three of them with coats. The two who didn’t have them were shivering their butts off! I’m going to send the links you included to some of the owners. Thanks a mil!
We love Ruffwear clothing! It seems to be the best fit for my two bullies, they are hard to fit due to their muscular shoulders, big chests and tiny waist lines. LoL
I also started making my own doggy clothes for them our of modified human/kids clothing using my sewing machine. 🙂 Both dogs seem to enjoy their clothes, Dante however loves wearing sweaters!!
It took some time to find something that Bentley would be comfortable wearing. I had a nice warm waterproof coat for him, but he froze and fell over and just laid there with his feet in the air when I put it on him. Pretty much useless for walks! I recently found a sweater he actually likes, and it’s also the cutest one he’s ever tried on, so win win! Moral of my rambling comment, try more than one style if your dog doesn’t like the first one.
It sure does have to be the right fit or dogs could be so uncomfortable 😉
My poor, dorky dog is so unequipped to deal with the extreme minus temperatures in my city that she has to wear a snowsuit and boots just for a run around the dog park. Luckily, she is probably the only dog I have ever met who not only doesn’t mind clothes, but actually seems to genuinely like her boots. When we’re getting ready for a walk she heads straight for the hook where her suit is hung up and wiggles all over waiting for me to put it on her.
She may look a little silly, especially since she’s a big, athletic dog and most people seem to associate dog clothes with toys and terriers, but without her puffy camouflage coat she’d easily freeze to death, so a few odd stares are well worth it!
Would love to see a picture with all her doggie attire on. I think it’s great she likes her outerwear so much.
Should the dog coat or sweater be removed when the dog comes inside? Or is it okay to leave it on all the time?
Dennis, it is probably best to remove it if there is heat on inside so the dog does not get overheated.
My dog Victor has more coats than I do. I’m particularly fond of Kurgo Loft Coat because it fits well and has a zipper for access to his harness. Also he’s got a Chilly Dog sweater with bees on it that’s too cute for words.
Good myth busting facts Carol, thanks! My Husky doesn’t need anything other than her thick double undercoat to stay warm. My little one, Phoebe on the other hand, definitely benefits from a sweater or coat. She loves to get toasty warm in one of these and hates the cold! I have several kinds of outdoor apparel for her.
Love & biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
I read all of your comments and I laugh at all the different personalities in our pets! Mine is a rescue pit and spoiled rotten! When I take off her winter coat she keeps giving it to me to put back on. It’s too cute. She loves her sweaters and NY team jerseys too. She’s a big gal but I guess loves the comfort! We have great dogs and companions!