We live in the Chicago area where sub-zero temperatures are the norm in January. Most dogs wear coats in the windy city deep freeze.
But what about in places with normal winters, do dogs really need coats?
Some dogs with thick fur stay warm on their own as long as they stay dry. But others – shorthaired or short-legged dogs, seniors and puppies, toy breeds, thin dogs without much body fat, and dogs with chronic health or immune system issues – need the extra protection when the temperatures drop.
1. Does It Fit?
A coat should give your dog good coverage, protecting the back and a portion of the stomach, though not so much that it gets in the way when they do their business. A coat should be snug, but not so tight that they can’t move.
Take the time to measure your dog: measuring from the shoulder blades to the base of the tail, and then around the widest part of the chest and most narrow part of the waist. Brands have different systems so always check your dog’s measurements against the brand’s sizing chart. Be realistic about your dog’s anatomy. A Yorkshire terrier and Dachshund may both be small, but clearly they have very different body shapes.
2. What Is It Made Out Of?
Consider your climate and the coat’s purpose. Does your dog need a coat that is water or wind resistant or both? How much insulation do they need – consider your climate as well as your dog’s breed, shape, and size.
In general coats should be lightweight and not itchy. If you live in a damp climate, look for a coat that has a water resistant shell. Fleece is always a great option, but make sure it has top waterproof layer. Avoid wool in damp climates. For colder, windier weather, choose a more insulated (fluffy) coat for added warmth.
3. Is It Easy to Clean?
Winter is messy and dogs and their coats get dirty. Always make sure the coat is durable and machine washable. I also recommend dark colors, which hide the dirt and stay clean longer.
4. How Does It Go On?
Obviously, you want a coat that is easy to take on and off. This is especially true for senior dogs that may need extra time or puppies that won’t sit still for long. Pullovers are great for easy, patient dogs. But coats that wrap around the body and fasten with Velcro are by far the fastest and easiest for everyone else.
5. Bonus Tips: Leash Opening and Night Protection
I recommend a coat that has an opening for the leash to attach to the collar. This makes life and walks much easier. Some coats have a clip for the leash directly on the back, but these are a bit risky if your dog is an escape artist. Since it gets dark earlier in the winter months, look for a coat with some reflective qualities for added safety.
Finally, always take the time to find the right coat for your dog and climate. When possible, try on coats in the store or order from online sources that allow for easy returns.
Bundle up! Enjoy the last few months of winter with your dog!
Kristin Avery is a writer and photographer with an extensive background in philanthropy and a life-long passion for animal welfare. Her blog, The Daily Pip, is an award-winning, lifestyle pet blog providing resources, support, and humor for rescue families. She was recently honored with two BlogPaws Nose-to-Nose Social Media Awards this year: Best Cause Blog and Best Written Blog Post.
Kristin received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied creative writing as well as installation and visual arts. After graduation, she was a founding member of Red Door Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter for cats, dogs, and rabbits in Chicago. She enjoys working with local Chicago shelters and also recently spent several days at Best Friends Animal Society volunteering at Quincy House with cats with severe special needs including paralysis. Through her blog and volunteer work, she encourages and advocates for rescue and adoption, especially for those animals considered less adoptable. She currently shares her home with one dog, one rabbit, two cats, a husband and 10-year-old daughter.