There’s nothing cuter than a pup in a furry parka or puffer jacket. Besides winning the award for “best-dressed,” are there any real reasons your dog should wear a coat? The answer depends on a number of factors like your dog’s breed, size, age, and lifestyle.
According to Dr. Judy Morgan, a veterinarian based in New Jersey, most dogs could benefit from wearing some sort of winter jacket: “Our dogs are used to being in climate-controlled homes,” she says. “When they head outside into freezing temperatures, they’re just as traumatized by the cold weather as we would be if we stepped outside without a coat.”
Learn how to determine when your pup truly needs a winter jacket—and how to choose one that’s the perfect fit.
Does my dog need a coat?
Smaller, light-bodied breeds, toy breeds, and breeds that naturally have very short or thin hair like Chihuahuas and pinschers should wear a winter coat or warm sweater.
Dogs who naturally have a heavier coat of hair, like Siberian Huskies and St. Bernard’s, generally don’t need extra layers and in fact, bundling them up could cause them to overheat. The exception to this is if for some reason your pup is spending a significant amount of time in the cold for some reason. If that is the case, have a chat with your vet first to determine when or if you should be bundling up your pup.
Older dogs, who may suffer from joint problems and a weak immune system, should definitely wear an extra layer of insulation, as should puppies, whose bodies are still learning temperature regulation.
Use your best judgment: If the temperature drops below freezing and you have a small and/or short-haired dog, put them in a coat and limit the amount of time you spend outdoors. Dogs (like people) can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia. Be on the lookout for signs of hypothermia like trouble breathing, shivering, lethargy, fixed pupils, muscle stiffness, and irregular heartbeat.
How do I pick out the perfect winter coat for my pup?
Before buying a coat you will want to measure your pup’s neck, chest, and waist to ensure a good fit. Size guides that use your dog's weight as a guideline can be wildly inaccurate as they don't account for the shape of your dog.
You want the coat to be snug so your dog can’t easily pull it off or trip over it, but not too tight. Your pup should be able to move around easily without the coat restricting their movements.If the coat has a hood attached, make sure it does not obstruct your pup's vision when you're out walking.
If you have a male dog, you want something that doesn't go too low on his belly as that puts it in what we call the "splash zone" and you'll end up needing to wash his jacket after every walk... which we're sure you don't want to do.
When it comes to putting on the jacket, there are several different styles. Some jackets have to go over your pups head and others you can place on their backs and secure around their neck and belly with a strap. Some pups dislike having things go over their head and prefer the latter style. Knowing your pup's preferences will help make it easier to find them the jacket they love (or at least will tolerate wearing).
To make it easy on yourself, look for a jacket that’s zipper-less and make sure it’s waterproof so your pup stays warm and dry if it rains or snows. Another thing to think about is just how warm the jacket is. You don't want your pup to be inadequately protected but you also don't want them to overheat. We rounded up 15 winter jackets to fit every style, need and budget so that you have some great choices.
Remember that just because your pup might look cute in that pink plaid number, when it comes to winter apparel, function is just as important as fashion.
Now that you've got their coat covered, don't forget to protect your pup's paws too!
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.