Does a Dog Need a Coat in Cold Weather?
We like to keep our dogs comfortable and happy, but how do you know when a dog coat for winter, or a sweater for your dog, is really needed – or just something you just want because YOU are cold?
There are several things to look at to determine if your dog will benefit from a coat in cold weather, and I’m going to tell you what factors for you to take into consideration before you make your dog comfortable with a coat, or before you will make him or her very uncomfortable.
First, a brief biology lesson regarding a dog’s natural coat.
A Dog’s Natural Coat
There are two main types of hair in a dog’s coat – primary hairs and secondary hairs.
Primary hairs make up the outer coat, sometimes called guard hairs. Secondary hairs are shorter and make up the undercoat. The variations of a dog’s natural coat are a result of the ratio of primary hairs to secondary hairs, and the textures of them.
The undercoat is what protects your dog’s skin from moisture, as well as providing insulation to help keep your dog warm in the winter. Not all dogs have an undercoat, and since dogs with single-coats lose body heat in colder climates, then they need you to provide a means to keep warm when they are outside for long periods of time.
Some Examples of Single-Coat Dogs
Other Factors to Consider When Deciding if Your Dog Needs a Winter Coat
The size of your dog. In addition to small dogs and toy breeds needing an external means to keep warm in the winter, puppies do not have fully developed coats, so they cannot maintain their body heat.
Older dogs that have compromised immune systems, or dogs with metabolic or other health issues that cause hair loss will need an external means to keep warm during the winter.
If your dog came from a warm climate and hasn’t acclimated to colder temperatures, or the temperature outside is extreme, even a dog with a double-coat would need a coat or sweater to help keep him or her warm when venturing outside for any length of time in the winter.
Dogs with a double-coat, if they are indoor dogs, will continuously shed their undercoat throughout the year because they live in a climate-controlled environment, and will benefit from a sweater or coat.
Dogs with a double coat that remain outdoors year-round, however, will not shed their undercoat during the cold weather, so they will be protected from the cold with their natural coat insulation.
When Not to Put a Sweater or Winter Coat on Your Dog
Putting a coat or a sweater on your dog could possibly make him or her very uncomfortable. Not just in a way that he or she is irritated by wearing clothing, but in a way that could cause serious harm such as heat stroke or exhaustion. If your dog already has a very thick undercoat, and isn’t showing any signs of being cold – shivering, curling up in blankets, etc., I would not recommend putting a winter coat on your dog. Perhaps a light sweater or jacket to keep your dog dry in the snow (a wet heavy coat will cause your dog to be cold in colder temperatures!) will be all that your dog will need to stay comfortable in the cold winter months – unless, of course, you are living in extreme climate conditions!
Now that you’ve decided that your dog needs a winter coat, or a sweater, you need to measure him or her in order to get the correct sizing. Different manufacturers have sometimes VERY different sizing charts, but they’re all based on actual measurements, for the most part.
The Back – Measure from the base of the neck to the base of the tail.
The Neck – Measure around the neck.
The Girth – Measure around the thickest part of your dog’s rib cage – directly behind the front legs.
Those are generally the only 3 measurements you will need to find the perfect dog sweater or coat size to keep your dog warm and comfortable through the winter.