Does Your Dog Need a Jacket?

By Anne-Marie Forde for Exceptional Canine

Does Your Dog Need a Jacket?

Does your dog need a jacket? You might be surprised. While you might think, "the longer the hair, the better," your dog's ability to withstand winter is about hair type, not length. Some long-haired breeds -- including Briards, Bearded Collies and Maltese -- have single coats that don't withstand cold as well as shorter-haired, double-coat Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards and German Shepherds. Even within breeds, dogs can have varying tolerance to cold, so it's important for you to observe your pet's individual reaction to the elements.

Making the Jacket Decision
I definitely recommend jackets for shorthaired, thin-coated dogs, and especially smaller breeds. (Bigger dogs generally handle the cold better than our little friends.) Very young and very old dogs, as well as dogs that have heart disease or arthritis, should also wear warm clothing in cold weather. As a rule, any condition that might affect your pet's ability to regulate its body temperature might require that you dress your dog in outerwear.

How to Choose a Dog Jacket
Consider these factors in selecting your dog's jacket:

  • The size. Coats and sweaters should be snug enough to stay on, but not so tight that they restrict movement. A jacket that is too loose is also bad because an oversize sleeve may allow a leg to slip out and get trapped in the body of the coat. Look for breed/weight charts on the label for guidance, and make your dog try on the piece and trot around the store before you buy.
  • The construction. Check for straps that can snag or interfere with movement and for long sleeves that might catch in your pet's nails.
  • The material. Permeable fabrics absorb moisture and become cold, wet blankets that chill your dog. Choose a waterproof garment to wear in damp, snowy conditions.
  • The weight. Ask yourself: "What would I like to wear out there today?" Dress your pet accordingly.

If your dog is still growing, you'll probably want to invest in a few sizes too. The good news is you'll find a wide variety of choices at retail stores and online; the selection is virtually limitless.

Consider the Weather
Common sense should direct your dog's time in the great outdoors. He may not need outerwear at all if it's only moderately cold, but if the temperatures are bone-chilling, he might need a heavy-duty jacket. Also take humidity into consideration: Damp weather is more likely to cause a chill than a dry climate is.

If it's questionably cold and/or damp outside, several short outdoor walks are better than one long one. Certainly, if your dog is shivering, you're past the point where you should bring it inside.

Protect Your Dog's Natural Coat

Long hair easily mats from the friction of the garment rubbing against your dog's fur. Before you dress your dog, carefully comb its fur to prevent painful tangles after removing the garment. You might find that you need a conditioning spray to counteract static electricity too!

Exceptional Canine expert Anne-Marie Forde owns and operates The Sudsy Dog Inc., a Best of Philly award–winning dog grooming facility in suburban Philadelphia. Prior to owning her grooming facility, Anne-Marie owned a successful in-home pet care service and has worked at small-animal veterinary facilities.

For additional grooming information and tips, along with a listing of Groomers from across Canada, visit the Grooming section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website.