Tips for Picking a Winter Coat for Your Dog January 06 2015

When looking for a good winter coat for your dog you need to consider a few things such as your dog’s age, activity level and length of fur, or if they need a coat at all! Small dogs, especially those with short hair have a harder time retaining body heat, so as Eva Evans, DVM notes these little ones will be needing a coat or sweater in winter. She also points out that “dogs with long hair, from the small Pomeranian to larger Husky typically do not need outdoor clothing, especially when temperatures are above 45 degrees.” But when winter temperatures dip below 45, it’s time to go shopping for a dog coat.

Coat Style
For active dogs the rule of thumb is that a coat should allow a dog a full range of motion, without anything constricting them.  So, ideally that is a coat with an open leg or minimal front “sleeve” design. If your dog simply walks along with you, and doesn’t do much scampering about, a coat that covers most of her body and one with legs, even a full length leg, will work. But also keep in mind that an older dog (and seniors need to be kept warm) might find it difficult getting fitted into any coat that requires moving or bending her legs to get into it. Always look for a coat that is easy to put on and off for a senior dog!

The main function of a coat is keeping your dog warm and dry. So it’s important that the outer shell be waterproof—materials like nylon or waxed cloth are good for the outer shell (or materials that the manufacturer clearly notes are waterproof, or have water repellent coating). A fleece lining will keep your dog warm (especially dogs with short fur) by helping to trap their body heat, plus dogs appreciate the soft feeling of the fleece. Note though that fleece does not work well in snowy climes as an outer shell of a jacket because it can easily attract and retain ice crystals. Wool sweaters normally do not work well in snowy or wet conditions either, they can easily get wet unless the sweater was made from thick oily wool that “sheds” water (but few sweaters on the market are like this). But if it isn’t wet or frigid, a lightweight sweater or fleece jacket can work well.  A parka-like, puffy coat, might work well in extremely cold situations, but many dogs can also become quickly overheated in them.

Make sure that the coat is washable, no need to tell you that dogs get dirty and, in fact, enjoy getting dirty by rolling around on the ground, snow or no snow. Make sure the coat can withstand multiple washings!

For optimal comfort and performance, getting the right size coat for your dog is very important. Sizing depends on not only the dog’s weight, but also the length of her back, girth of her chest, length of her legs etc. Most manufacturers offer a wide range of sizing options and provide detailed sizing information to help you choose the coat that is the best fit for your individual dog. Sizing varies from brand to brand, so it is very important to consult with the individual manufacturer’s sizing chart.

Note that many vets, including Dr. Evans, caution that coats or sweaters should not be worn indoors, and dogs “should not wear these clothing items in the house as they can overheat easily. Outerwear should always be removed from the pet after they are no longer needed to prevent chafing and irritation of the skin.” So for most dogs, bundle them up when going for long, cold winter walks, for smaller, short haired dogs, even the quick potty break might require outerwear, but be sure to remove their clothing while indoors. Keep yourself and your dog warm and dry and go out and enjoy these winter months.