Skip to main content

How to choose the right cold-weather dog coat

Depending upon the climate you live in and the hobbies you enjoy, the approach of cooler weather might have you looking forward to participating in winter activities with your favorite canine friend. While you probably have a closet full of cold-weather apparel, it’s important for your dog to be ready to brave the elements safely, too.

We know. Dogs wear their coats all year long. But some are more suited to weathering cold temperatures than others. Are you wondering if you should invest in a cold-weather coat for your dog? Here’s how to find the right one.

husky wearing plaid coat on beach
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Does your dog need a coat?

Some dogs have coats that are naturally suited for outdoor life. If your dog is a healthy husky, golden retriever, or Labrador retriever, his coat may be dense enough to keep him warm on your cold-weather adventures.

Other dogs need a little help retaining body heat, even if you’re just taking daily walks around the neighborhood.

  • Short-haired breeds such as Chihuahuas, greyhounds, and whippets
  • Dogs with shorter legs, whose bellies are closer to the ground, such as corgis
  • Senior dogs with arthritis or age-related circulatory problems
  • Dogs with medical conditions, such as heart disease or a weak immune system, or those recovering from an injury

When is it cold enough for a coat?

You put on an extra layer when you feel a chill, but what about your dog? A good rule of thumb is to look for signs that your dog is uncomfortable when the temperatures fall below 45 degrees and act accordingly. Most dogs will want some level of protection beginning at 32 degrees. It can be dangerously cold for even dogs with heavy coats if the temperature dips below 20 degrees.

Regardless of what the thermometer says, if your dog acts like he’s cold, it’s time to either put him inside or add an extra layer. Shivering or other behaviors such as whining or acting anxious are good indications your dog is uncomfortable.

woman and dog playing in snow
Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz / Shutterstock

How to choose the right coat

If you’ve determined your dog needs a winter coat, here are some suggestions for finding the best option.

  • Take measurements. Just like humans, dogs come in every shape and size. Measure the length of your dog from the base of his collar to the base of his tail. Loosely measure your dog’s girth in two places: 1) right behind the front legs and 2) around his neck where he wears his collar.
  • Material. The type of coat you purchase depends upon the climate you live in and the cold-weather activities in which you’ll both be engaging. Choose water-repellent material for wet or mild climates and insulated material, like fleece, for colder climates, especially if you’ll be out in subzero temperatures or biting winds. Also check the care instructions. Is it washable?
  • Fit. Before you buy, take your dog to the local pet store and try on a few options. Look for a coat that fits snugly but doesn’t restrict his movements. Make sure the coat you choose covers his neck and belly and is easy to get on and off. Check to see if there are any places that rub or might irritate his skin. If you order a coat online, check the manufacturer’s size chart using the measurements you took. Use the next larger size if your pup’s numbers are on the borderline.
  • Style. Looking good is always important, but in this case, it’s the last item to worry about when finding the right coat for your furry friend. Fortunately, pet manufacturers provide a wide variety of stylish options. First, find a coat with the right material that fits your dog well, then choose a style you like.

Naturally, you’ll want to check with your veterinarian to see if she has any concerns about your dog and winter-weather activities before starting something new. She can give you suggestions about appropriate activity levels as well as the best places to look for the right apparel for your dog’s age, weight, and size.

Playing outside with your dog year-round is a lot safer when both of you are wearing the right gear. Whether you’re just taking a walk around the neighborhood every day or gearing up for some super sledding on the local hills, winter activities are more fun when the whole family can safely play together.

Editors' Recommendations

Debbie Clason
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Debbie Clason's work has appeared in Family Life Magazine, Sports Illustrated, The Lutheran Witness, Massage Magazine…
The best ways to pet your dog to show them how much you care
There's a right way to pet your dog. Here's what you need to know
A man's hand pets the head of a shepherd dog

There are a hundred ways to make a dog happy, from delicious treats to epic playtime. Pets, scratches, and belly rubs almost always make the top of the list, too  -- but did you know there are particular ways to pet your dog to show them how much you love them?
In this article, you’ll learn how to pet your dog -- what tricks and techniques to use to relax them, what spots to avoid, and how to keep everyone comfy and happy. Of course, every dog has their own likes and dislikes, so it’s important to pay attention to your fur baby’s body language and behavior during your massage sessions.
This is what you need to know.

How to pet your dog to show them you love them
In general, most pups are just happy to get some attention from their favorite person, but there are a few specific things you can do to make your next pamper sesh a little more special.

Read more
Why do dogs eat cat poop? And how you can get them to stop
These tips will stop your pup from eating cat doo-doo
Dog wears a yellow sweater and looks at the camera

Sometimes you might think you hear your cat using their potty, but when you go into check, it's actually the dog eating cat poop. Gross! While it seems pretty revolting to us, dogs sometimes eat poop, the feline variety included. Coprophagia, which means eating poop, shows up reasonably frequently in pups, and certain diets, environments, and even breeds can make this act more likely (research says hounds and terriers are the groups most likely to chomp poop, in general).

So why do dogs eat cat poop, and what should you do about this behavior? Read on for a few things to check and a couple of tips to prevent this extra meal.
Why do dogs eat cat poop?
Theories abound, but it turns out lots of different mammals eat poop, their own and others'. One possibility is that not all nutrients fully digest when they go through our systems, which means there are plenty of vitamins to have by consuming feces. Sometimes, these cravings result from a nutrient-deficient diet that is easy to fix by changing up your dog's food.

Read more
Why does my dog have diarrhea? (and when it’s time to see the vet)
Your dog has the runs — should you run to the vet?
A close-up of a husky in sunlight

Being a dog parent can be a joyful experience — no matter what your boss thinks of you, you can count on your pup to show you affection when you walk in the door. In exchange for their unconditional love and affection, dogs require that we take care of them and — sigh — pick up their poop (your neighborhood's code enforcement requires the latter, to be more precise). Cleaning up after a dog also gives pet parents a role they may not have expected when they brought their furry friend home: Poop inspector.

Poop is a sign of a dog's overall health. Regular, firm stool that resembles a caterpillar is one sign your pup is feeling well. If the stool is loose, you may need an answer to the question, "Why does my dog have diarrhea?" That depends. While we can't answer the question definitively, we can provide some common causes of diarrhea and what to do.

Read more