Photo: miodrag ignjatovic/Getty Images

Do Dogs Need Coats in the Winter? 7 Dog Coats Myths and Facts

Dog winter coats are cute, but do dogs need coats or sweaters? Let's discuss which dog breeds should wear coats in the winter and how to choose one.

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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 wonder — do dogs need coats in the winter, too? 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 dog coats and sweaters.

Dogs in sweaters. Photography by Liliya Kulianionak/Shutterstock.
Do dogs need coats or sweaters to ward off winter chills? Photography by Liliya Kulianionak/Shutterstock.

1. Fiction: All dogs need to wear dog coats to protect them from the cold.

Fact: The first thing that people might wonder when thinking, “Do dogs need coats?” is — “Do ALL dogs need coats?” 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.

2. 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.

3. Fiction: Larger dogs do not need to wear winter coats or sweaters.

Fact: When thinking, “Do dogs need coats?” some might automatically rule out bigger breeds. 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.

4. 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.

5. Fiction: A dog’s coat should be snug to keep him or her as warm as possible.

Fact: Another question that goes along with, “Do dogs need coats” — “How should dogs wear coats?” 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.

6. 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 ($14.99, Chewy) 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.

7. 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.

Check out these 11 types of dog coats right here >>

How to measure your dog for a coat

Something else you might wonder when thinking, “Do dogs need coats?” is — “How do you measure your dog for a coat?” If you order a personalized jacket or sweater, keep in mind that many stores will not allow coats to be returned. So, measure your dog adequately before making any parka purchases.

Here’s how: 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.

Featured Image: miodrag ignjatovic/Getty Images. This post was originally published in 2012.

Read Next: Caring for Your Dog During Extreme Winter Weather

49 thoughts on “Do Dogs Need Coats in the Winter? 7 Dog Coats Myths and Facts”

  1. We never had coats or sweaters for our German Shepherds, but we had sweaters and coats for all of our Dobermans. We even had lightweight “pajamas” for our Dobes, for cool nights.

    My current dogs are a Chinook Dog, which is a type of sled dog. He has a double coat, but it isn’t voluminous like a Husky’s or a Malamute’s, so I have a waterproof, insulated coat for him for nasty weather.

    The other dog is a cross between a Papillon and a Chihuahua – she is only 8 pounds, and although she has longish hair, it is fine, and she is tiny, so I have several types of sweaters, as well as insulated jackets and waterproof raincoats for her.

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  5. Thank you for this post! It’s really helpful. My maltipoo wear snoods from Zoo Snoods when the temperature drops, but she doesn’t like booties, so I’m thinking of getting a paw balm for her instead. Are they easy to wash off?

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  17. Alison Hårdstedt

    I think its commonsense.
    My Jackchi would never survive in Sweden without sweaters and jackets during the winter months but its only when going outside in less than 7c. Being small, thin coated and low to the ground he can get cold quickly.
    Then my shabrador with a double fur coat can easily handle -15c. His problem is the summer when he uses a chill vest over 22c.

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  19. skinny poodle- he has a big collection of tee shirts, coats and sweaters. it is tough to find light unlined rain coats, BTW. he wears coats after a hair cut and also sometimes just to help keep him clean or to keep him from getting snow balls in his coat. he hated regular boots, but would suffer from road salt. he does wear those thin rubber PAWZ booties. they really have made winter walks better.

  20. My male Shih Tzu is always cold and always wearing a sweater. My adorable little terrier mix, however, wants no part of any clothing. If you slip something on her she bows her head like she’s being punished. She has little hair and I don’t know how she’s not freezing.

  21. We just moved from So Florida to Michigan with our French Bulldog, Brooklyn. We have purchased many t-shirts, sweaters, hoodies and jackets for her to keep her toasty! I change them every few days to keep them fresh and depending on the temperature. She is so use to putting them on now that she holds her head up to put it over and then each foot up for the sleeves. Smarty pants! Thanks for the idea for Mushers Secret, I’ll order it today!

  22. best of luck finding your new whippet:))
    they are the best..
    we got our whippet from a breeder in S.C , ,who has now retired to do other things..
    because we live in the Northeast,, a jacket and protection are something we have had to do since our whippet was a puppy
    our adopted greyhound was restless at night during the fall and winter months.. we realized she was just cold and we had to start leaving a t-shirt on her at night,, even though she had blankets.

  23. We have smooth-coated dachshunds, and, although it doesn’t get all that cold here in Los Angeles, winter nights can be icy. They wear Hug-a-Dog harnesses for their regular walks, so it was easy to get then accustomed to coats. Plus, when the grass is wet, they tend to get wet tummies!

  24. We have three mini poodles. Especially when they are freshly groomed, their hair is short. We keep our home at about 68*. They wear T-Shirts in the house. When they go outdoors & it is 45* (or lower) they wear fleece coats. They do not mind and actually come willingly when I get the coats out of the closet!

  25. Our Whippet passed away last Jan. and we are planning to get another one. I live in San Antonio, TX and while it’s not bitter cold, we do get down in the 40’s and have rain. What age did you start putting a coat on your dogs, and at what temperature. We are looking for an AKC female Whippett puppy. I’d like to get her about the end of January. You don’t happen to know anyone who would have a puppy at that time?
    Nancy Lloyed

  26. Two of my dogs wear winter sweaters, or coats. While our current winter is dry, it’s downright cold here in northern Nevada. My full Chihuahua isn’t all that thrilled with “clothing,” but the Chi/Terrier mix seems to love it. Like it or not, it makes ME more comfortable knowing they have a little extra protection in 9 degree temps!

  27. Elizabeth Petersen

    Our Boston Terrier wears sweaters in the house during the winter and outside in the fall and early spring. Oscar wears a coat and boots in the winter. He needs to be warm and will bring a sweater to me if he wants one on. He also does not like heat in the summer. We found this sensitivity to temperature extremes in our other Boston.

    We live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, on the Southern Shore of Lake Superior. All the shorter hair dogs have coats. The only dogs I see without coats are the Huskies and Newfoundlands.

    1. I have two yorkie’s, they love their sweaters, we live in Maine, and will be moving to Michigan in the late spring next year. I”m concerned about my two fur babies. We will be going to the upper peninsula. They also have very nice coats. I worry about the move.

  28. I have a mini poodle, he wears a jacket because he loves to walk in yhe cold pennsylvania winter weather, but more importantly i put a handmade crocheted “snood” around his head and neck to protect his ears from frostbite. He had an earflap injury some years ago, and i want to make sure the scar tissue is protected since it doesnt have the robust blood flow and hair anymore. He doesnt mind the winterwear.

  29. yes both my whippet and greyhound need protection. for outside on rainy days, ,or in the winter… even in the house, when the temp is cool.

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  31. Susan L. Bourdelais

    My late 14 yr old Greyhound always wore a Winter Coat when the temp. dropped below 45. I made all of her coats with hoods from Fleece material. Her really heavy coat was made of faux fir lined with fleece. On some of her coats I sewed on designs made of felt. She always wore boots in the snow. She loved the boots and would run around in the snow when wearing them. She also wears her boots and a sunblock jacket when we go to the Beach. She’s a Redhead and gets sunburn easily.

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