Do dogs need clothes? While this may at first appear to be a light concern to those who would scoff at the idea of dressing a dog, there are still many dog owners who have seen their dogs shiver violently after exposure to winter temperatures but hesitate to put clothing on their dogs for fear of appearing odd. Well, have no fear. If you are concerned about your dog being cold, there is certainly no harm in putting clothing on him.
If you are still on the fence, consider this: Sure, dogs come equipped with their own external layering system, but some dogs have lighter layers of fur than others, and some are not genetically suited to the environments in which they find themselves transplanted. So your dog may in fact be extremely uncomfortable with the winter temperatures — as uncomfortable as you would be if you went outside without clothing.
A sweater or jacket can be helpful during the cold seasons, especially if your dog is reluctant to go outside in the snow to relieve himself, but also if you tend to keep your home’s internal heating system set low, depending instead on blankets and sweaters for your human occupants.
How warm your dog is able to physically keep himself may depend on his breed, size and even age, but if he just doesn’t have a heavy hair coat, there is only so much curling up he can do to conserve heat. Smaller, light bodied breeds, toy breeds, and breeds that naturally have very short or thin hair coats benefit from a warm dog sweater for when they need to go outside, or for just hanging around the house. A sweater can make a significant difference in your dog’s feeling of well-being.
Of course, short, thin hair is not the only prerequisite for outer clothing. Dogs that tend to have short-cropped hair — like poodles, which may grow thick hair but which owners tend to keep short to avoid matting — should also be given a sweater to protect them from very low temperatures. Also, older dogs with weaker immune systems and dogs with diseases that impair hair growth (i.e., Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism) typically need an extra source for warmth, and this can be easily provided by a sweater or jacket, even indoors.
Conversely, larger dogs with dense hair coats do not have a need for additional insulation, and would be very uncomfortable if they were forced to wear outer clothing, possibly to the point of physically overheating. Their fur is already genetically designed to protect them from extreme winter temperatures. The Siberian Husky, Malamute, and Saint Bernard breeds are all excellent examples of dogs that are perfectly suited to cold temperatures, while the Chihuahua, Greyhound, and many terrier and pinscher breeds are good examples of dogs that would do well with a little extra outer insulation.
Once you have decided to get a sweater for your dog, you will need to begin by considering material. While wool is very warm and one of the best insulating materials, take into account how often it will need to be washed, and whether it will make your dog more uncomfortable due to itching. A good blend of washable wool and cotton or acrylic may be the best bet.
Second, just as you would measure your own neck, chest and waist before buying a piece of clothing, measuring your dog is the best way of assuring the best fit. Why do you want it to fit? So that your dog cannot easily pull the piece off, so it doesn’t drag on the ground, and so it doesn’t get caught on anything during normal movement. You want the piece to be snug without being tight.