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A Case for Dog Sweaters: Keep Your K9 Warm, Safe, and Comfortable

February 02, 2016

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Most people have a list of things to do when the weather turns cold: winterize their home, winterize their cars, and pull out the shovels. But how many people consider what they need to do to winterize their dogs?

There’s generally no question that sweaters for dogs are cute but are they necessary? Many people believe that since they already have a coat of fur they don’t need a sweater. Some even believe they can be a health risk. Let’s dig deep to find the truth behind the various points of view.

Not All Dogs are Created Equal

Asking if dog sweaters are necessary isn’t quite the right question to ask for one simple reason: the answer varies based on your dog. Different breeds, sizes, and health issues have a big impact on whether or not a particular dog can keep itself warm or if it needs an extra layer.

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Short-haired or hairless breeds are not built to handle cold temperatures. Their short hair simply means they have less insulation and the fact that they live in a warm house means the change from a toasty house to the cold streets can be more than jarring – it can be dangerous.

Many people think of smaller dogs as colder dogs and larger dogs as warmer dogs but that’s also overly simplistic. For example, it’s true that a Saint Bernard likely doesn’t need a dog sweater but a greyhound very well may. Likewise, a Chihuahua likely needs one but a poodle that hasn’t been shorn might not.

Which brings us to the next point: a lot depends on how the dog’s hair is cut. A poodle with a fur coat can handle much cooler temperatures than a poodle that’s been partly shaved. If you alter your canine’s fur you’ve altered their body’s natural ability to protect itself from cold temperatures.

Some dogs also have thicker skin while others have thinner skin. At the end of the day though one thing is certain: you know your pooch best. If you’re worried that it may be too cold for them outside then look for the best sweaters for dogs for your pet.

Dogs That May Benefit from Dog Sweaters

Dogs with shorter hair and dogs that are regularly groomed to prevent mats are two examples of the type of dog that will often need a dog sweater. Examples include:

  • Chihuahuas
  • Greyhounds
  • Poodles
  • Dachshunds
  • Boston Terriers
  • Pinschers
  • Dalmatians
  • Whippets
  • English Foxhounds
  • Boxers
  • Rottweiler
  • Mastiff
  • Great Dane
  • Bloodhound

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Dogs That Don’t Generally Need Sweaters

Breeds with longer hair, or those that are from colder climates, generally don’t need dog sweaters. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, which we’ll cover below. Some examples of dogs that don’t need sweaters – assuming they don’t meet the exceptions – include:

  • Malamutes
  • American Eskimos
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Icelandic Sheepdogs
  • Leonberger Dogs
  • Newfoundland Dogs
  • Samoyed Dogs
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Saint Bernards
  • Tibetan Mastiffs

Remember that though the dogs on this list don’t always need dog sweaters, the purpose of dog sweaters is greater than just keeping them warm – they also keep them dry and comfortable.

The Age and Upbringing of Your Dog Can Have a Big Impact

It’s true that most Siberian Huskies can handle cold climates – after all, that’s what they’re born to do! However, a Husky that was born in Hawaii and lived there its entire life may not be able to adjust to a cooler climate. If you’ve moved from a tropical to a cool climate you may need to look for large sweaters for dogs.

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Heat Regulation Declines With Age

A younger dog is more likely to be able to handle cold weather than an older dog. This is because as dogs age they lose their ability to get warm and stay warm. Older dogs can also be susceptible to several health issues that require the extra warmth and soothing powers of dog coats and sweaters:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Arthritis

Cute Dog Sweaters Are Great – But Think It Through First

Many people aren’t necessarily thinking about whether or not their dog needs a fleece dog sweater in the dead of winter and are instead simply thinking about how cute they are. They see other dogs in sweaters and think, “My dog would look so adorable in that!”

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They’re likely not wrong but it’s important to make sure you’re not doing your dog a disservice. There are potential health risks for dogs that don’t need a warm sweater. Remember that taking them for a walk is exercise and they work up plenty of heat.

There are several things you can keep an eye on to be sure your dog isn’t overheating.

  • Heavier than usual panting is a bad sign.
  • Check their mouth. If their gums are pale and / or dry they may be in trouble.
  • When they’re drooling more than usual you may have a problem on your hands.
  • If their breathing becomes deep and rapid.

How to Choose the Right Sweaters for Dogs

Once you’re ready to pick out your dog sweaters you’ll need to decide what type of dog sweater they should wear. There are many types of cloth and dog sweater patterns, including everything from fleece dog sweaters to designer dog sweaters. Your decision will be based largely on what you like the best.

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Sizing is essential. You’ll likely know if you need small dog sweaters or large dog sweaters but you’ll have to take it a step further and measure your dog just like you’d measure a person for a suit.

You want their dog sweater to be snug but not too snug. A general rule of thumb is that if you can’t easily take it off and put it back on it’s probably too small.

There are many types of sweaters too. For example, some dog coats have sleeves for their front legs. Depending on the size and type of dog, these can be restrictive. You need to make sure your dog still has their full range of movement.

You’ll also measure their neck and torso plus the length from where you want the sweater to start to the end of their waist. A coat that’s too long can make it difficult for them to go to the bathroom and can make a mess for you.

Finding the right cloth is essential. PetMD says the best dog sweaters are a blend of cotton or acrylic and washable blend while the VCA Animal Hospital suggests insulated waterproof coats for rainy areas or those that get a lot of snow.

How to Get Your Dog Comfortable in a Dog Sweater

Ideally, you’d start getting your dog used to wearing clothing when they’re a puppy but older dogs can become comfortable wearing a wide range of clothing and accessories. The following tips will help get the ball rolling.

  • Work them into clothing and accessories slowly. Don’t expect them to wear a sweater for hours the first time they try it on.
  • Reward them heartily. You can start by simply rewarding them when the clothing is around, put the sweater on briefly and reward them, and eventually reward them when they wear it for extended periods of time.
  • Add play and fun to their experience. You give treats to create positive reinforcement and play can do the same thing. If their favorite game is catch, then put their sweater on and start throwing.
  • Be sure to have several sweaters. Dogs are likely to be more uncomfortable if they’re wearing a sweater that’s wet, dirty, or otherwise unpleasant. You should always be sure that the sweater they have is clean and fresh.

Extra Tips for Dogs in Sweaters and their Owners

As you search for the right sweaters you’ll be looking at a lot of dogs in sweaters – and most of them will be incredibly cute! While you do want to pick out clothes you like and are excited about, there are a few more tips that can help ensure you’re buying wisely too.

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  • Avoid dog sweaters with dangling pieces. Your dog can easily mistake them for a dog toy which makes it both difficult to get the sweater on and to get them to stop fussing with it once it’s on.
  • Choose a material that’s both comfortable for your dog and easy to wash. Wool may be warm but it’s challenging to clean and doesn’t hold its shape particularly well.
  • Remember that other accessories can be very helpful in winter For example, dog boots help protect the pads of your dog’s feet and prevents ice, salt, and snow from getting caked between them and causing problems.

Winter Tips for Your Four-legged Friend

Dog sweaters are one of the essential components to keeping your dog safe this winter but they’re just one part of the puzzle. The American Veterinary Medical Association compiled some helpful tips on how to keep your pooch healthy in winter months.

Take Your Pooch for a Winter Wellness Checkup

Cold weather can make some medical conditions worse. For example, the cold air can make arthritis more painful. Your dog should be checked out by your vet at least once a year and winter is the perfect time to do it.

Offer Them Plenty of Choices

Not all pets are comfortable in the same ways – especially in winter months. For example, they may want different bedding. Give them several safe, warm options like a dog sleeping bag, a dog bed, and blankets and pillows.

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Bring Your Dogs Inside

Your dog needs to be kept inside in the winter. Some people believe that they’re resistant to cold weather because they have fur but this is not true. They can get frostbite and hypothermia just like you can. That’s why dog sweaters can be so important.

Keep an Eye on your Dog’s Paws

Your dog’s paws can become injured in the winter. They can crack or bleed. If you see your dog suddenly limping during a walk then they may have ice between their toes. Reduce the chance of this by clipping the hair between their toes and by buying them dog shoes.

Wipe Down Your Dog When You Get Home

There are all kind of chemicals out in the world during winter months including deicers and antifreeze. When you bring your dog home from a walk be sure to wipe down their feet, belly, and legs to remove the chemicals so your dog doesn’t lick the chemicals and get sick.

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Don’t Let Your Dog Get Away From You

You always want to keep your dog safe by your side but this is even more important in winter months. A lost dog can quickly become injured due to the cold. If your dog frequently gets out of their collar, consider a dog harness to keep them safe and secure by your side.

Make Sure Your Home is Pet Proof

You probably took steps when you got your pet to ensure your home was pet proof but when winter comes along make sure you’re considering if space heaters are away from pets, make sure your furnace works correctly and ensure you have carbon monoxide detectors in place and working.

Know the Signs of Hypothermia

If you properly outfit your dog and keep them inside most of the time their chance of getting hypothermia is low. However, you should know the symptoms to look for:

  • Weakness
  • Anxious
  • Shivering
  • Whining
  • Slowing down
  • Suddenly looking for a warm place to burrow

Resist the Urge to Overfeed Your Dog in the Winter

Some dog owners feed their dogs more during the winter in an effort to provide a little extra body fat to keep them warm. While this may provide extra protection from the cold, vets point out that the health risks of carrying extra weight cancel out any protection they might get.

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However, dogs may require a little more food than usual – it all depends on how often they’re outside. They do need more calories in the winter to generate the right amount of body heat to stay warm. If you’re unsure of the right amount of food, talk to your vet.






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