Cold Weather Gear for Dogs

When the weather turns colder, outdoor gear for dogs may include sweaters, coats, boots or other garments that may once have been considered fashion accessories. Caring owners are discovering that certain clothes may make a dog feel more comfortable when winter sets in.

Why Dogs Need Clothes in Cold Weather

Short-haired dogs, puppies and older dogs would especially benefit from a sweater or coat in colder weather because they are less able to adjust to the change in temperature than a long-haired or a younger adult dog. Breeds that especially benefit from cold weather gear for dogs include whippets, greyhounds, Chihuahuas and miniature pinschers. Any dog that lives exclusively indoors is less able to acclimate to seasonal temperature changes than a dog that spends part of his time outdoors year-round.

If the morning or afternoon walk occurs in a wintry mix, a raincoat can help keep a dog warm and dry. This means less need to towel your shivering dog off in the mudroom or entryway at the end of the walk. The top layer of most canine raincoats provides water protection, while the bottom layer offers protection against wind and cold.

Boots can help protect a dog's feet from more than just snow. They can help ward off frostbite, provide extra traction on ice or prevent a dog from stepping into ice-melting chemicals that he could then accidentally ingest by licking his paws.

When Cold Weather Clothes Are a Bad Idea

In some instances, clothing on a dog in cold weather may be a bad idea. For example, long-haired, heavy-coated dogs such as the Siberian husky, the St. Bernard or the Great Pyrenees may become overheated if they are dressed in a close-fitting sweater or coat.

In other cases, cold weather clothes are unnecessary. If you live in a part of the country that doesn't experience four seasons, such as Florida, California or Hawaii, cold weather clothes are probably not required for your dog.

How to Measure Your Dog for Clothes

Here are some basic guidelines to follow when measuring your dog for cold weather gear. Some online retailers also offer suggested sizes based on your dog's breed, or you may be able to have your dog try on certain items at your local pet supply store.

Ideally, a dog sweater should cover your pet's chest and back to the base of his tail. To measure your dog for a sweater or coat, have him stand still with his head up. Use a cloth tape measure that's designed for sewing to take the measurements. Keep the tape measure snug against your dog's body, but don't hold it too tight to ensure your measurements are correct.

Measure your dog's neck as you would for a collar, then measure the distance from the base of your dog's neck to the base of his tail. Determine which way your dog's tail normally points, and round up for breeds with downward-facing tails. Round the measurement down for breeds whose tails face upward.

Another important measurement you may need is your dog's girth, or the distance around him. Measure him at his widest point, which is usually around his chest immediately behind his front legs