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5 Good Reasons Why Your Dog May Need a Sweater

The winter weather can be brutal, depending on where you live. Our furry friends have furry coats, but is it enough? The answer to that isn’t so cut and dry.

Dog breeds with very thin coats, brachycephalic breeds, and dogs with no undercoat may benefit from an added layer of protection. You have to take into account a dog’s natural protection versus how long your dog will be exposed to the cold.

If you’re taking your dog out for a quick bathroom break, your dog will be fine. However, if you’re planning on taking your pooch on a long walk on a frigid day, a sweater might be a good idea.

Have you ever seen a St. Bernard in a fleece-lined hoodie?

Long before designer doodles became popular, dogs were bred for specific jobs with specific environmental conditions in mind.

The Newfoundland dog, for example, was bred to perform water rescues in the cold Atlantic. Siberian huskies were bred to pull sleds across the ice and snow. These breeds can regulate their temperatures without the need of a turtleneck sweater!

Northern breeds like Alaskan Malamutes are probably plenty warm in colder temperatures. Other dogs that were bred for cold climates include:

  • Siberian Huskies
  • Chow Chow
  • Newfoundland
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Saint Bernard

Double-Coated Dogs Can do Double Duty

Double-coated dogs have a soft undercoat and a long, thick outer coat. It’s like they have their own built-in fleece-lined jacket. It’s fair to say that they don’t require additional clothes unless it’s for a photo shoot or a cute social media pic.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

Dog Sweaters and Jackets Can Serve a Practical Purpose

Dog clothing is becoming more popular these days. If you’re a dog lover like I am, you want to make sure your dog is warm and comfortable during the winter season.

Many dogs, as you’ll read below, aren’t able to retain enough body heat to protect themselves against cold weather. This includes dogs with no undercoat, lean dogs, dogs that stand low to the ground, and even senior dogs.

A winter jacket is a good idea when the outside temperature is zero degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yellow Labrador retriever wearing a patterned, knitted sweater.

Getting the Perfect Fit

You have a lot of choices when it comes to dog coats, jackets, sweaters, and vests. The trick is finding one that suits your budget and keeps your dog warm and comfortable.

A dog coat should fit snugly around the tummy. If it’s too big, cold air and snow will find its way against your dog’s skin. You should be able to slip your finger between the coat and your dog’s skin to ensure it’s snug, but not too tight.

The coat itself (or sweater, vest, etc.) should end at the base of the dog’s tail. Your dog should still have the freedom to move about easily.

Features to look for in a good dog jacket for cold weather:

  • wide underbelly
  • waterproof outer shell
  • reflective accents for safety
  • chest and belly closures that fully wrap
  • adjustable
  • made with a collar and harness hole
  • machine washable

Read the size chart

Most clothing for dogs come in small, medium, large, and extra-large. However, there can be a wide discrepancy within those ranges.

The best thing to do before making the purchase is to read the size chart. Do some quick measurements to ensure you’re getting the right size for your breed of dog.

Our Choices for the Best Winter Jackets for Dogs

Reasons Why Some Breeds Benefit from a Sweater

The following are the top reasons why some dogs (maybe yours!) may benefit from added insulation during cold winter months.

1. Short-Haired Dogs

Not all short-haired dogs need help in the cold weather. Of course, that’s assuming they are not out in the cold for a long time. It really depends on the breed.

Miniature, small, and toy breeds have a hard time retaining enough heat through natural means. However, there are bigger breeds that still need the help of a sweater. Lean-bodied breeds like the greyhound should have protection against the cold.

Dogs with thin body types might also have a hard time managing their temperatures in colder weather.

2. Senior Dogs

Senior dogs may lose their ability to retain heat. Depending on the dog’s natural coat and body type, he/she may benefit from added protection.

Dogs with weakened immune systems may also need the added warmth of a jacket or sweater. Things like poor muscle mass, thinning fur, and poor circulation all play a role in how well your dog can withstand cold temperatures.

Certain medical conditions like heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes may interfere with a dog’s ability to maintain body temperature.

3. Short-Legged Dogs or Low-Riders

Short dogs like the corgi end up walking with their bellies close to the cold ground. They have thick coats, but no protection underneath.

4. Single-Coated Dogs

Single-coated dogs or dogs with thin coats may need more protection in cold climates. The same can be said for small dogs with short fur.

Examples of some popular single-coated dogs:

  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Boston Terriers
  • Greyhound
  • Poodle
  • Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Maltese
  • Italian Greyhounds
  • Yorkie
  • Chihuahuas
  • Boxer
  • French bulldogs

5. Puppies

Newborn puppies must be kept warm at all times. They often sleep on top of each other, close to their mom, to keep warm.

As puppies grow, they gradually develop the ability to maintain their own body temperature. It’s best to keep puppies inside as much as possible until they’ve received their vaccinations and have developed a natural resistance to the cold.

When you do have to bring puppies outside for a little exercise and a bathroom break, let them do their thing without the use of a jacket or coat. You want your puppy to develop his/her own hardiness. Again, don’t keep puppies out in the cold any longer than they need to be.

As your puppy grows and is outside for longer periods of time, he or she may benefit from some added protection.

Golden chihuahuas wearing pink matching sweaters

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Summing it up

There’s a big difference between novelty wear and practical dog clothing. If you’ve noticed your dog shivering when outside, it might be a good idea to invest in a warm jacket for the winter season. Look for good quality items that don’t restrict your dog’s movement.

Clothing should fit snugly and should be easy to get on and off your dog. Velcro snaps with flaps that wrap around your dog are a great idea.

Old dogs, smaller dogs, and dogs with medical conditions can all benefit from a little extra protection during the colder months.

Works Cited

“The 16 Best Dog Breeds for Cold Weather Climates.” Daily Paws, 3 Dec. 2020, www.dailypaws.com/living-with-pets/pet-compatibility/cold-weather-dog-breeds.

Lawyer, Samantha. “These Short-Haired Dogs Make for Low Maintenance Pets.” Woman’s Day, 17 July 2019, www.womansday.com/life/pet-care/g28397687/short-haired-dogs.

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