Do Dogs Need Sweaters in the Winter?

Do Dogs Need Sweaters in the Winter?

Photo by funkblast / CC BY 2.0

Are dog sweaters and jackets fashion statements or necessities? Some people think dogs are perfectly equipped by nature to adapt to colder temperatures in the winter but others think their pups need some extra protection from the cold so they dress their dogs in stylish coats or sweaters before heading outdoors. So, who’s right? Well, they both are. Here’s why some dogs need sweaters for extra insulation and others don’t.

10 Dogs That Might Need Sweaters in the Winter

1. Dogs with thin coats
Breeds such as Chinese cresteds, greyhounds and whippets have short, fine coats that don’t offer a lot of insulation when it’s cold outside.
2. Small dogs
Dogs that weigh 10 pounds or less normally don’t have a lot of extra body fat to help keep them warm and because of their small size, they tend to get cold easily.
3. Dogs with short legs
Breeds like dachshunds and basset hounds have very short legs which means their bellies are closer to the ground and are often directly exposed to snow and slush when walking.
4. Senior dogs
Older dogs may have trouble keeping their body temperature regulated when it’s cold outside.
5. Puppies
Puppies also have trouble regulating their body temperature and adapting to very cold weather. If you don’t want to invest in a sweater for a growing puppy, limit the amount of time they spend outside when it’s cold.
6. Dogs with health issues
Conditions such as arthritis, Cushing’s disease, diabetes or heart and kidney disease can make it difficult for dogs to stay warm and comfortable during periods of cold weather.
7. Inactive dogs
Active dogs generate more heat which helps keep them warmer than an inactive dog. Very inactive dogs might benefit from some extra insulation.
8. Dogs with trimmed coats
Breeds like poodles that have a decently warm coat may have trouble in cold weather if their coats have been trimmed short.
9. Lean dogs
Dogs with very little body fat, such as Great Danes and whippets, need extra insulation from the cold when temperatures drop.
10. Dogs living in cooler houses
Short-coated, lean, small and senior dogs living indoors in a cooler environment may need a sweater to be more comfortable inside the house. If you’re wearing a sweater because the thermostat is turned down, consider a sweater for your dog too.

Dogs That Don’t Need Sweaters

1. Cold weather breeds
Breeds such as huskies, malamutes and Saint Bernards were bred for cold climates and have thick, layered coats. Since they naturally stay warm in cold weather, dressing them in a jacket could cause overheating.
2. Large dogs with dense coats
Larger dogs that tend to be active, like German shepherds and Labrador retrievers, don’t normally need extra protection from the cold unless they are outdoors for long periods of time.

If you’re still not sure whether your dog needs a sweater, consider their breed and coat type. You’ll want your pup to be comfortable, not too hot and not too cold. Consider the temperature and how long your dog will be outside and exposed to the cold. A quick trip outside to pee shouldn’t normally require a coat but if you’re taking your pup for a hike or long walk through the snow, he might need or appreciate a jacket to stay warmer.

Keep an eye on your dog for signs that he might be cold or uncomfortable. If your dog is shivering, whining, slowing down, lifting his paws a lot or seems anxious or uncomfortable, it’s time to head back indoors. If your sweater-wearing pup is panting excessively or biting and scratching at his sweater, he may be too warm. If you think your dog would benefit from wearing a coat or sweater this winter, here are some tips for choosing the right one!

Tips for Selecting a Sweater or Jacket for Your Dog

  • Measuring for a jacket is important but the best way to ensure a good fit is to try it on and have your pup walk around to make sure he’s comfortable.
  • The jacket should fit snug but not be tight or constrict your dog’s movement in any way.
  • No parts of the coat should be loose or dragging on the ground where they could get snagged on something.
  • Make sure the top of the sweater doesn’t extended beyond the base of your dog’s tail and the underside of the sweater should end around the waist area of your pup’s belly so he can easily relieve himself.
  • The jacket should be easy to put on and remove.
  • If the sweater has fitted arms, make sure the fabric isn’t too bulky or tight which can irritate your dog’s skin or restrict his movement.
  • If your dog tends to chew or swallow objects, make sure the jacket style doesn’t have fasteners like buttons, zippers or hooks that are easily accessible.
  • Water-resistant models such as this one from Ruffwear are better in regions that get a lot of snow. Sweaters or coats made from fabric that absorbs water or snow can make your dog colder than no sweater at all.
  • Jackets made from 100% wool are warm but they may be itchy for your dog and are hard to wash. Fabrics made from a blend of washable wool and cotton or acrylic are usually a better choice.
  • Always choose comfort and performance over fashion to make sure your pup stays warm and happy in his new jacket.

Some dogs need sweaters to stay toasty warm on cold winter days, but on those bitterly frigid days when it’s just too darn cold to go outside at all, check out 12 Easy Ways to Exercise Your Dog in the Winter for some alternatives to the outdoor walk.

With Haley being a lab/boxer mix, she’s got a pretty warm coat of fur and has never worn a sweater or jacket. But now that she’s getting a little older, I’ll probably look into getting one for those longer, winter walks and hikes. Does your pup wear a jacket or sweater? Do you have a favorite brand or style preference? Let us know what works for your dog!

66 Comments on “Do Dogs Need Sweaters in the Winter?”

    • Bella HATES wearing clothes! We put a wrap around her on the coldest days b/c she is a short haired dog. But she will play outside long after it is safe for her her to do so …so we make sure she is only out for short spurts on the cold days. Great info! Thanks for sharing!

      • Bella sounds just like Haley. She’ll stay outside as long as there’s something fun happening, no matter how cold it is. You’re right, we’ve got to watch out for our playful pups! ?

    • I love wearing sweaters and my sister Daisy does too. My pain in the hind brother Monkey peels his off like Houdini – but he’s always cold! In that case a coat that zippers in the back is a good option (but hard to find if you’re looking).

      Happy New Year wishes for lots of treats and happiness to you!

    • No coats or sweaters at my house. Because I’m so short, if I did wear anything it would have to be waterproof or it would be a real wet mess that would most likely freeze. Bailie wore a coat her first winter because her furs were still coming in and she was spayed so her belly was bare, but no coat since then.

      • Yes, sweaters dragging through the snow would collect a ton of snow and be quite a mess too. Haley’s all about being “au naturale” too, lol!

    • This is such a fun and informative post. Ruby does have quite a few jackets and sweaters. She probably has too many (I have a problem when it comes to buying doggie sweaters and coats). She is a Yorkie-Poo, but has poodle fur and body. She probably doesn’t need one all the time but I admit I like them and she doesn’t seem to mind either.

      • I’ve seen lots of pictures of Daisy wearing her gorgeous sweaters. I must say, you have great taste in picking out her wardrobe! ?

    • It’s so funny because we were like we will not be THOSE people who dress their dogs but then we got Cocoa and realized she really needs a sweater. And there are so many nice ones!! She is thin and shivers in the cold so it is necessary.

      • Lol, I know what you mean! I never really thought about jackets and sweaters for Haley but while Christmas shopping this year I came across some gorgeous dog coats. I haven’t bought one yet, but maybe next year!

    • Brilliant post! My dogs have waterproof coats with a removable thick, warm layer underneath. When it’s warm and raining, the outer layer is removed and used, and when it’s cold and raining, both layers are used. When it’s just cold, the waterproof layer is removed. I think it’s a wonderful design!

      • That sounds like a perfect design! I haven’t seen any jackets with liners yet but I’ll definitely look for that type of model when I buy one for Haley. Thanks so much for the suggestion.

      • I’m so surprised to hear your girl likes wearing a coat. It probably does get pretty cold in Canada where you live though and maybe dogs are like people in that girls are usually colder than guys.

      • I bet Cole does love that t-shirt after being groomed. It sounds really snuggly and at 14 years old he deserves to be warm and comfy.

    • The need for a coat/sweater is as individual as the animal themselves. I personally hate anything on me unless it is forced. The harness is forced if I want to play so I tolerate it, unless I can wiggle out MOL!

      • You’re so right, Shadow. It’s definitely an individual taste but I’m glad you tolerate the harness so you can go on all of your fun adventures!

    • Very good subject for a post! I have a little hairless Xolo that needs a coat on cooler days. The others, though we live in Florida, also have coats and sweaters for those rare occasions when it gets chilly. We wear orange vests during hunting season, too. 🙂

    • Great post, and really awesome tips. Some dogs may not need a sweater or coat. Mary does not need a coat here, however, if we lived in a cold climate even though she is a Lab/Shepherd mix she is a senior and I would look into a sweater or jacket for her.
      Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thanks for this! My 8pound Boston terrier needs sweaters in the winter, fleece in the fall and tee-shirts on summer nights. Without them, she shakes up a storm. But you wouldn’t believe how many people accuse me of dressing her up out of vanity or some misplaced parenting instinct. Some dogs really DO need clothing, and you make that point nicely. Next time I get that comment, I’ll send that person this link!

      Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie

      • Aw, thanks so much! I think a lot of people think it’s all about fashion, especially when they see smaller dogs dressed in cute little outfits. I’m glad Sinead has her comfy and warm clothes all year round.

    • 11) Very stylish dogs.

      I bought my dogs fleece hoodies a few years ago, but they’re German shepherds, so they don’t really need coats. Mostly I worry about leaving Mia outside during the day when it’s chilly. She has a heated bed and heat lamp in her “condo,” but I prefer for her to be in the house when it gets below 45 degrees or so.

    • Sweaters, not so much. 🙂 Maggie & Duke have winter raincoats for when it’s really cold and/or wet out. They also have bug vests that keep fleas & ticks away for the rest of the year.

    • Great info! Happy is a Chihuahua and Italian Greyhound mix and he has very short hair and skinny long legs. 🙂 I always put a sweater on him when it’s chilly outside. It doesn’t really get freezing cold here in LA but still nice to stay warm in cute sweaters. Thank you for this post.<3

      • I loved seeing Happy’s pictures today on the blog hop, what personality! Thanks for stopping by to check out the blog, Hazel. ?

    • Great post! We don’t wear sweaters cause we are big dogs and don’t really need them. Also, mom keeps us inside when it is cold outside so no worries for us! Hope you have a Happy New Year and thanks for visiting us!

    • Kilo the Pug hates wearing jackets but he will wear some sweaters (for treats). It gets really cold here in Canada so he should have some protection. We tend to just go on shorter walks and play a lot indoors.

      • Aw, sweaters for treats! I’ll remember that when I buy Haley her first coat since she’s probably not going to be a fan of them either, haha!

    • I had no experience with dogs who need winter coats until I started fostering. The beagles I fostered seemed to be particularly cold outdoors (which surprised me given they’re a pretty hardy breed).

      I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Every beagle I fostered loved to get under the covers or hang out in front of the space heater.

      I don’t know how cold it would have to get for Honey to need a coat. We’ve been out in double digits below zero and she showed no sign of wanting to come in.

      • I wouldn’t have thought beagles would get that cold either but I guess they do have pretty short coats. Many beagles owners in our area keep them outside all winter long but I’m sure they would prefer to be inside sleeping next to a warm fire or heater. Happy New Year to you, Mike and Honey! ?

      • It’s nice that nobody makes comments about Mr. N’s wardrobe. Maybe people are starting to learn that some dogs really do need the extra insulation. Happy New Year!

    • Chops will not tolerate a coat or jacket unless it’s really cold outside. How he knows how cold it is hasn’t been revealed to me yet. Now that it actually feels like winter he is more inclined to hold still while getting “dressed”. The biggest problem is sizing. A medium is perfect for length but we need longer straps to go around his middle. Good thing I can sew. Happy New Year to you and Haley. May we all stay healthy.

      • That’s so interesting that Chops knows when he needs a jacket. If you get bored over the winter, you could sew some really cute dog jackets in all kinds of fun fabrics and patterns and people would be lined up to buy them. Happy New Year to you and Chops! ?

    • Even though we live in SoCal, I used to put a sweater on our Becca when she was sick from her chemotherapy. I used to bundle her up with a heating pad too poor baby. Great post. Happy New Year.

    • Great post! Our Lab mix Luke definitely needs coats and sweaters. His fur underneath is very thin, and he is quite lean as well. We haven’t found the perfect coat yet. We have ones that are just sweatshirt material for the days that aren’t as cold, and we have fleece for super cold. If he’s going to be running in the yard, but it’s just chilly out, we don’t put one on him. We just kind of judge the temps. It’s funny because my hubby never wanted to put a coat or sweater on a dog, but I finally changed his mind with Luke. He’s even been letting me put a sweater on our golden Sheba when it’s really cold…since the fur on her side where she had her surgery is just starting to grow back in. Sometimes I put a sweater on our beagle because she just looks so darn cute…but I don’t keep it on her after I’ve taken some photos! 🙂

      • Aw, I bet they all look really cute in their jackets and sweaters and I bet Sheba really appreciates the extra warmth while her fur grows back. I’m so glad she’s feeling good and having fun playing with the other dogs right now.

      • Zoe and Phoenix always look adorable in their stylish jackets and I bet they’re thrilled to have them, especially in the winter. ?

    • Like you said, I think it all depends on the dog and the climate. I used to live in Fargo, N.D., where I would take dogs running. Even when it was down to -10F or so as the actual temperature (not wind chill), most dogs were just fine to go running for about a half-hour. Most of the dogs I ran with were big dogs, but some had really short hair like pitbulls, vizslas, etc. They were fine and didn’t wear coats or booties. Once it got colder than that, it depended on the individual dog. Some were fine as long as we were running.

      So for the most part, I think dog coats are just cute accessories. If you want one for warmth, I would recommend a less fashionable vest or coat designed for hunting dogs vs. a cute sweater. Ace has a camouflage vest since he’s a wimp in the cold. No need for it in San Diego, of course.

      • I think you’re right about looking for a hunting vest vs. a sweater. Most of those vests are designed for keeping a dog warm and they’re usually waterproof or water-resistance, plus if they’re hunter orange colored, you don’t have to worry so much during hunting season. Thanks for sharing that great tip, Lindsay!

    • I just recently bought a sweater for my shih tzu and he absolutely loves it. Before the sweater, he hated going out in the snow because his stomach would constantly be in contact with the snow. Now that he has the sweater it is so much easier to take him outside for exercise.

    • I’m so glad Laika isn’t in the category of needing one, though she certainly has a hoodie that she’s quite fond of. I love it, I just say “you want your hoodie?” and she’ll go grab it and get excited for me to put it on her. It’s bright red so it looks quite festive as well.

      She wanted to wear it this summer as well but I had to put an end to that when I noticed her getting pretty hot & drooling profusely in her sleep…

    • You forgot those nekkid dogs like my boy! I know you mentioned Cresteds in the thin coats, but my boy has NO coat at all. Not even a mohawk or fuzzy feet.

      I have a Standard Xoloitzcuintli and, while he loathes wearing clothing of any kind, I do force him to wear one if we’re going to be out in the cold for longer than a potty break. He’s the dog who’d rather roll around in the snow in the nude than be warm and cozy in a sweater of any kind, but he’ll tolerate jackets/coats/sweaters as long as I keep him busy while he’s wearing it.

      • Chasing Dog Tales

        Hi, Jess! I think I have seen breed name before but I had to Google the Xoloitzcuintli to see just how beautiful they are. I’m glad your boy tolerates a jacket or sweater but it’s funny that he would rather roll in the snow naked, lol! Now, if I just knew how to pronounce the name of his breed. ? Thanks for teaching me something new today!

    • Living in Alaska I could not ever imagine putting a coat/sweater on a husky. ? Ours are happy at -0F weather. We do put booties on though.

      We have 2 15yo small dogs. Cody, a native Alaskan doxi/chihuahua mix and Sammy, a WY native pomeranian. Sammy is always looking for a sweater and Cody hates them and loves the outdoors in the winter. Go figure. Ha ha.

      • That’s so funny how your smaller dogs have different preferences to the cold weather. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska and hopefully we’ll get up there one day. You must be thrilled to be surrounded by so much beauty!

    • My Airedale will roll around in snow, she hates the Midwest humidity and when the temps drop, her energy levels skyrocket! That said, I do have a fleece coat for the rare occasion of being freshly groomed and below zero temps. I only bring it out once or twice a year.

      I was in Mexico last week – the temps were in the mid-60’s and I saw two little chihuahuas wearing jackets, lol!

      • I had to laugh about those Chihuahuas wearing sweaters in the 60’s but I guess if they’re used to warmer temperatures in Mexico, maybe they were a little chilly, lol! You’ll have to let your Airedale girl know that she’s not along. I hate the humidity here in the Midwest too.?

    • Yes my girls wear tee shirts, sweaters, jackets. I live in the foothills of the rocky mountains where during the day it may be hot, but as soon as the sun sets…it gets cold. Both of my girls are under 10 pounds, one is a Chihuahua, the other is a small terrier. My girls have a more extensive array of coats and sweaters than I do.

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