Dog coats for winter: When, how, and why to bundle up your pup

For some it's a silly concept, but for others it's an absolute necessity: dog coats for winter are a divisive topic, and about more than just fashion. Should dogs wear winter coats and, if so when, why, and what?

A good winter coat will keep your dog protected from the cold winter weather.
A good winter coat will keep your dog protected from the cold winter weather.  © 123RF/chaoss

When the temperature outside drops dangerously low, you can't just stop taking your doggo for walks and go, "Oh well, let's just get it a treadmill!"

After all, our canine companions might be smarter than cats, but they're not equipt to work a complicated piece of machinery.

Instead, it's time to get your dog a winter coat or jacket that'll keep it warm and safe when it's out and about. If you abide by the advice in this dog guide, you'll keep your doggo happy and healthy.

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Here's some tips on how to bundle up your pup!

Does my dog need a winter coat?

One of the most important things you can do for your dog when winter comes is to get it a nice winter coat. Keeping your fluffy friend warm, safe, and comfortable is an absolute priority and something that can be difficult when you need to keep taking your perfect pooch on walks as it gets chilly.

Dogs can get sick if their fur and hair starts freezing, when they get wet, or when they get covered in snow. Once a dog's hair gets wet, its body temperature will begin to plummet, which can eventually lead to hypothermia. This is what a dog coat or jacket is meant to prevent.

It's also recommended that certain dogs also wear special boots in winter, to keep their paws from freezing, and sometimes a doggy hat or scarf is also a good idea. It all depends on the dog itself, so it is best to get advice from your vet and follow our winter walking advice whenever going outside with your darling doggo.

For most dogs, a winter coat is an excellent idea and something that will keep them safer and more comfortable when out and about. There are caveats, though, which we will get into below.

When does my dog need a coat?

Your dog needs to wear a coat whenever it is experiencing significantly low temperatures, and especially if it also runs the risk of getting wet. This is primarily because a winter coat will do two main things: a) Keep your perfect pooch warm, and b) Keep your dog dry.

When the temperature outside is especially cold, especially when it is snowing, or the weather is sub-freezing, your dog runs the risk of frostbite, hypothermia, worsening arthritis, and other health issues. By wearing a coat, it will be less likely to suffer on account of being warmer and drier.

Of course, this does not mean that your dog should stay outside for a long time, even if it is wearing a coat. Quite the contrary: dog coats and jackets are just one precaution to be taken once those cold months come rolling in.

Additionally, different dogs will need different things. Smaller dogs should almost always have a coat when outside in winter, while many bigger dogs won't need one at all. Again, this is something to discuss with a veterinarian.

A bigger dog is less likely to need a winter coat, but should still be monitored in cold weather.
A bigger dog is less likely to need a winter coat, but should still be monitored in cold weather.  © Unsplash/Rachel Penney

Best dog coats for winter

When choosing the coat you're going to get for your perfect pooch, it's important not to be persuaded by things that only look stylish or funny. Instead, you want clothing that will protect the animal from the cold and snow, and will serve its purpose well, keeping your dog safe, dry, and happy.

Here are a few tips and tricks for choosing a great dog winter coat:

Tip 1: Choose the right material

A dog coat must be breathable and water-repellent to serve its purpose properly. Of course, it should also be compatible with your doggo's skin and fur, and not trigger any potential allergies or skin problems.

Tip 2: Don't use natural fibers

Natural fibers are not well suited for dog winter coats as they will absorb too much moisture, defeating the purpose of the coat when wet weather hits. If you want to keep your hound happy, choose one that has cuddly and warm wool on the inside but a synthetic and water-repellent fabric on the outside.

Tip 3: Make sure it fits right

You need to make sure that your dog's coat fits it properly. For starters, it is supposed to keep it warm, so if the jacket is too loose, it won't serve its proper purpose. Plus, it will let water in. At the same time, though, it needs to still be free and flexible so that your doggo doesn't feel constricted or uncomfortable.

Of course, you should also make sure that your dog's harness fits well either under or over your doggo's clothing, so that you can walk it safely and keep your perfect pooch under control.

Small dog jackets

Little dogs are particularly susceptible to the cold, making dog coats especially important.
Little dogs are particularly susceptible to the cold, making dog coats especially important.  © 123RF/Lesiakapinosova

If you have a small dog, it almost always needs to have a dog winter coat.

These little dudes are far more likely to suffer in the cold, and will cool down much faster than their larger counterparts. As such, they are at a much higher risk of hypothermia or other cold-related health conditions.

Large dog jackets

Larger dog breeds, such as German shepherds, generally cope well with low temperatures and do not necessarily need a dog coat. Sick and old dogs are an exception, though, as they can suffer in the cold and need to be taken care of with more precision. Either way, you should make sure that you have a coat on hand even for a big dog, just in case.

The exception to the large dog rule is, of course, if your darling doggo has very little hair or no undercoat. In such a case, it won't have the protection it needs to stay warm without a coat. As such, you should make sure to have a coat or jacket ready whenever you take it for a walk in winter.

While large dogs don't face as much of a risk in cold weather, you should still be very careful. You need to watch your beloved doggo and if it shows any signs of being too cold, have a plan – or a winter coat – ripe and ready for action.

Keep your dog warm with a winter coat

Keeping your dog warm, safe, and comfortable is extremely important during those cold winter months. Your beloved doggo can get very sick from prolonged exposure to seriously low temperatures, so make sure to consult your vet before the first winter you spend with your perfect pooch.

Don't assume that because your dog is a certain size, it will or won't need a winter jacket. Talk to a pet professional, get their advice, and act on keeping your pup safe and warm. It's not worth taking a risk!

Cover photo: Collage: 123RF/Lesiakapinosova & Chaoss

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