Does your dog need a coat?

You may be contemplating whether to get a coat for your furry friend to cope with the cold weather condition during the winter months. In other words, you may be asking “do dogs need protective coats? Well, in most cases, the answer is NO. The reason is not far-fetched. Most dogs have enough fur that keeps them nice and warm during those winter months.


Photo by Sebastian Coman Travel from Pexels

Why do dog owners buy coats for their dogs?

Most times, the decision to get a coat for dogs is based on emotions and not like the dog really needs the coat. Some dog owners feel walking dogs in frigid temperatures can be emotionally distressing based on concerns for their dog.

We already know dogs require some time outside to use the bathroom and release excess energy. It is not far-fetched why dog owners want to take a safe approach to avoid unforeseen negative effects.

Other times, the decision to get a coat for a dog can be driven by fashion. In a 2019 report given by the American Pet Products Association, about $16 billion was spent on pet clothing as well as leashes, toys, collars, and pet tech products.

The study proved that the pet industry is moving towards a more humanistic approach as younger generations are switching from pet ownership to pet parentship. You might hear funny terms like “I’m a dog mum” or “I’m a dog dad” more frequently, but it’s no joke, they really represent people’s changing attitude towards pets.

Now, brands are prompted to offer designer products for pets, including a wide variety of coat options for dogs.

Are there certain kinds of dogs that may need coats?

Large dogs with long or thick hair do not need to wear coats. In fact, their weight can reduce the natural insulating properties of their furs. The ones with dark fur also absorb more heat from the sun than those with light fur.

However, some dog categories benefit from wearing coats, especially when it is highly cold outside. These categories include:

Short-haired Dogs

Dog breeds like the Chihuahuas, Whippets, Greyhounds, and French Bulldogs have short hairs and they can’t easily generate and retain body heat to stay warm

Short-legged Dogs

Short-legged breeds like Dachshunds, Corgis, and Basset Hounds have low stature that constantly puts them in contact with the snow. This makes them lose heat easily.

Heat-loving dogs

If your dog’s breed is native to a country with hot weather conditions, they may become uncomfortable staying in cold weather. It is likely that these types of dogs will need a coat. Some examples include Beagles, Havanese, Schnauzers, etc.

Senior dogs

Senior dogs tend to have weaker immune systems and often suffer from conditions such as arthritis, or other ailments related to age. Cold may exacerbate these problems as heat regulation declines in older dogs, even the ones with long hair.

Dogs with a medical condition

Dogs that have health conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes may have an impaired ability to maintain body temperature and these dogs may need a coat.

At what temperature is a coat needed for your dog?

As a general rule of thumb, larger dogs having thick, dense coats do not need coats as they are well protected from the cold. The northern breeds are good examples, including Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, and others. These breeds have fur coats that are designed genetically to keep them warm.

However, no matter the breed, if you notice that your dog is cold – shivering, whining, or slowing down, getting a coat for them won’t hurt.

Note that not all dogs can become accustomed to wearing a coat. Some dogs become highly uncomfortable when you force them to wear a coat. So when you try letting them wear the coat in the house and you notice that they are not responsive, don’t force it; in fact scratch the idea and move on.

The outside temperature, however, and the length of time outside are two great factors that influence whether or not your dog needs a coat.

If the outside temperature is higher than 70C, most dogs typically do not need protective clothing. The only time you may consider a coat for your dog is when the temperature is extremely cold outside (00C or below) and you notice these signs:
  • Your dog shivers after a few minutes spent outside.
  • Your dog becomes restless, whines, or is otherwise agitated when you take them outside.
  • Your dog picks up their feet constantly or lick their paws excessively.
  • Seasonal affective disorders such as reduced energy or loss in appetite.

So for owners of short-haired dogs, small-sized breeds, or seniors, you should take note. Even if your dog is a breed that is known to handle cold weather, you should look out for signs that your dog is uncomfortable in extremely cold weather.

A good way to observe these signs is to stay with your pooch while they are outside. This way, you can monitor shivering or whining.

However, even if you have to get a dog coat, it has to be a type that will cover your dog’s belly, neck, and back. Also, it is important to use waterproof fabrics because wet dogs are more likely to get cold faster than dry ones. More so, the coat should not have parts that can be easily chewed off and swallowed.  So go for options that don’t have buttons, zipper, or tags.

More on choosing the right coat for dogs

It is always advisable to seek your veterinarian’s advice when deciding on whether to get a coat for your pooch or not. If your vet decides that your dog needs a coat, it doesn’t mean you can just pick up any coat you see in any store.

You need to consider some factors before making a purchase. Apart from the material, which must be compatible with your dog’s fur coat type, you need to watch out for some signs of an allergic reaction to prevent sickness and even death. These signs include:
  • Sneezing
  • Repeated itching
  • Hives
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Swelling of the lips, ears, earflaps, eyelids, and face generally
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

You should also measure your dog when deciding to buy a winter coat. It has to be one that your dog is comfortable in rather than constricted. They need to be able to move freely in it without dragging it around when walking or running.

More so, to adequately protect your dog from cold, a sweater should completely cover their stomach (except male dogs), and it should extend to the base of their tail.

As a generic guide, wear extra small coats for toy breeds, small coats for beagle-sized breeds, large coats for the Retriever-size dogs, and extra-large coats for larger dogs. Note that the size of garments may vary according to manufacturers.

That said, when these clothing items are no longer needed or when your dog is inside the house, it is advisable to remove them as your dog may overheat.


To be honest, dogs actually do not need coats, and we made it clear at the beginning of this article. However, short-haired dogs, short-legged dogs, seniors, heat-loving dogs, as well as dogs with a medical condition may need one.

You could consult your veterinarian if you’re unsure whether your dog could benefit from a winter coat. You should also watch out for signs of discomfort or irritation and get products made with quality materials.



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