As winter approaches, many pet owners wonder if their dogs need extra protection from the cold in the form of clothing or jackets. There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether your dog needs winter wear and what type is best.
Do all dogs need clothes in winter?
Not all dogs need extra insulation and coverage in the winter months. Dogs with thick, double coats like Husky and Samoyeds are well-equipped to handle cold weather. Their outer coat protects them from wind and moisture, while the dense undercoat acts as insulation. As long as they are kept active in winter, these breeds can usually be comfortable without clothing. However, older dogs or dogs with health conditions may benefit from an added layer of protection.
Dogs with thinner coats and less body fat like Greyhounds, Whippets, and Chihuahuas will likely appreciate some extra warmth. Very young and senior dogs also tend to have a harder time retaining body heat and should wear coats or sweaters during cold walks.
What temperatures are too cold for dogs without coats?
There is no definitive temperature that is too cold for all dogs. Factors like breed, coat thickness, age, health, and conditioning to the cold all impact a dog’s cold tolerance. However, most experts agree that you should provide some coverage or limit time outside when temperatures dip below 45°F.
Watch your individual dog for signs they are too cold like shivering, seeking warmth, holding up their paws, or reluctant to go outside. If your short-haired breed seems distressed in weather above 45°F, get them a coat so they can comfortably enjoy winter walks and play.
Do I need to buy a coat or can I make my own?
You can certainly save money and get creative by crafting your own doggie winter wear. Upcycling materials like old sweaters, socks, t-shirts, or blankets can make perfect repurposed coats and booties.
Make sure any clothing you make allows a full range of motion and does not restrict your dog’s movement. Avoid any hazards like choking risks from strings, buttons, or unsafe materials. Also be sure to properly measure your dog before sewing to achieve the right fit.
If you prefer store-bought options, dog coats, and accessories are widely available at pet stores and online. Just be prepared to invest a little more for quality materials and construction.
What features should I look for in a dog coat?
Here are some key features to look for if purchasing winter wear for your dog:
- Proper fit – The coat should be roomy enough for your dog to move comfortably but not so loose it will slip off or get caught on something.
- Adjustable straps – Look for a coat with adjustable velcro or snap straps so you can customize the fit.
- High-cut leg openings – Coats with coverage that extends down the chest and belly but leaves the legs free have the best design for maneuverability and potty breaks.
- Reflective trim – For visibility on winter walks in low light, reflective material is a handy safety feature.
- Water-resistance – A coat with a water-repellent outer layer will keep your dog dry in wet winter weather.
What types of dog coats are there?
For optimal protection, choose a coat style suited to your winter weather conditions:
- Basic dog sweater – A knitted sweater adds light insulation for chillier but dry days. Look for breathable natural fibers.
- Dog hoodie – A step up from a basic sweater, hoodies have a hood and front pocket for warming head and paws.
- Dog raincoat – Made from waterproof materials, raincoats shield dogs from getting soaked on wet, muddy walks.
- Dog winter parka – High coverage and padding makes parkas ideal for frigid temps and snow or high winds.
- Dog leggings/booties – Protect paws from ice, salt, and cold ground with fabric and rubber leggings or booties.
What clothing materials work best?
Choose dog coats made with comfortable fabrics that are durable and suited to winter. Top materials include:
- Wool – Warm, breathable, and naturally moisture-wicking. Look for at least 60% wool content.
- Fleece – Retains heat well and dries quickly to stay insulated when wet.
- Polyester – Budget-friendly and versatile fabric that resists water.
- Nylon – Adds wind and water protection as an outer shell over other layers.
- Rubber – Provides non-slip grip and waterproofing for booties.
Avoid any coats with dangling decorations which can be choking hazards. Skip materials like cotton that soak up moisture and hold cold.
How should clothes fit your dog?
An properly fitted winter coat should:
- Extend to the base of the tail
- Allow unrestricted movement in the shoulders and legs
- Have enough room for a sweater underneath if needed
- Have adjustable straps, belts, or closures for a customizable fit
To find the right size, consult individual product sizing charts which are often based on breed, neck, and chest/waist measurements. Size up if your dog falls between sizes or needs extra space for layered clothing.
Do I put clothes on my dog before or after a walk?
For dogs that need a little extra warmth, the optimal time to put on their coat, sweater, or booties is right before a walk.
Dressing your dog in their gear beforehand gets them comfortably ready to head out into the cold. It also allows you to assess the fit and coverage before embarking on your winter walk.
If your dog runs warm or tends to get chilled after being outside for a period, you can put their coat on when you return. This light layer helps them hold in heat if their fur got damp or sweaty during play or a long walk.
How do I get my dog used to wearing clothes?
If your four-legged friend is not accustomed to sporting attire, don’t expect them to happily wear a new coat right away. Take time to positively reinforce and gradually get them used to wearing garments:
- Start with short wear sessions, rewarding with praise and treats for cooperation.
- Try clothing on first around the house so walks aren’t frustrating at first.
- Pick coats and materials your dog finds comfortable – avoid constricting fits or noisy crinkly fabrics.
- Pair with their leash so they associate coats with going on fun walks.
- Use encouraging phrases like “Let’s get dressed to go for a walk!” to get them excited.
With patience and consistency, you can make your dog comfortable slipping into their winter wardrobe.
How do I measure my dog for clothing?
To find well-fitted coats, sweaters, and other dog attire, you’ll need to take a few measurements:
- Neck – With a soft measuring tape, measure the circumference of their neck. Keep tape snug but not tight.
- Chest/ribcage – Measure around the widest part of their chest behind the front legs.
- Length – From collar to base of tail to get full coat length.
- Leg – If buying leggings or booties, measure front paw width and ankle circumference.
Compare your measurements to individual product sizing charts. This will give you their best size match in that brand. Remember to prioritize comfort – go up a size if between sizes.
Can dogs overheat in coats?
It’s possible for a dog to get overheated if they are made to wear excess clothing that isn’t necessary for the conditions. Watch for signs of overheating like excessive panting, drooling, or lethargy.
To avoid overheating:
- Only use clothing when truly needed – skip coats on milder days
- Learn your dog’s temperature limits and adjust accordingly
- Use thin, breathable fabrics to allow airflow
- Take coats off in sunny weather when dogs get warm more quickly
- Frequently reassess your dog’s comfort level
Well-ventilated coats made for cold weather are less prone to causing overheating. Avoid bundling dogs in multiple layers unless truly frigid.
Do dogs need to wear shoes or booties?
Booties can protect your dog’s paws from:
- Hot pavement
- Chemical deicers
- Frozen, rocky, or slippery ground
- Salt and ice buildup
- Toxic lawn chemicals
- Hot sand at the beach
Signs your dog would benefit from booties include visible irritation between the toes or limping after walks. Consider booties if you regularly walk your dog in any of the above hazardous conditions.
Introduce them slowly, monitoring fit and giving lots of praise. Most dogs get used to booties quickly when they associate them with going on a walk.
What clothing is unsafe for dogs?
Avoid dressing dogs in any clothing that could pose safety risks like:
- Being too tight and restricting movement
- strangulation hazards from ribbons, ties, etc.
- Choking risks from small buttons or decorations
- Unsafe materials like plastic bags that could cause suffocation
- Tripping hazards from trailing fabric
- Toxic paints or dyes from homemade clothing
Even if clothing is not normally hazardous, improper fit can make it dangerous. Always thoroughly inspect and test out any garments on your dog before use.
How do I wash dog clothes?
Regularly laundering your dog’s sweaters, coats, and booties will keep them smelling fresh and looking like new. Follow these tips for safe washing:
- Read clothing labels and follow recommended methods
- Wash in cold water, delicate cycle to prevent shrinkage
- Use a mild detergent designed for delicates or wool
- Air dry when possible to avoid damage from heat
- Use a pet comb to freshen up between washes
With proper laundering, your dog’s winter wardrobe will stay cozy and last for many seasons of wear. Don’t forget to launder your own winter gear too!
Dressing dogs for winter weather doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. While some dogs don’t require any coverage, providing the right coat or booties for dogs vulnerable to the cold can make them much more comfortable outdoors.
With mindful material choices and proper fit, dogs can stay insulated and protected without overheating or being restricted. Take the time to positively acclimate your dog to wearing garments and both of you will be ready to enjoy the winter weather in cozy style.