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
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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…
Here’s how to treat a dog with itchy paws, starting with finding the cause of paw discomfort
Causes and solutions for dog paw infections
Husky dog mix licks paw

Whether you're a person or a pup, itching can be distracting, uncomfortable, and downright annoying. That's why it’s easy to relate to your dog's frustration when dealing with itchy paws. Narrowing down what’s causing dog paw infections and itches can be tricky from observation alone, so it may take some trial and error before you find some relief for your buddy. Once you do, though, you’ll be so glad!
Don’t be afraid to call your local veterinarian if you’re having trouble figuring out what’s behind your pup’s paw irritation. They’ll get to the root of the problem before you know it and have plenty of suggestions to get you started. Until then, here’s what you’ll want to know about dogs with itchy paws.

Causes of dogs with itchy paws, from allergies to infections and more
Though itching, licking, and biting are all symptoms of skin discomfort, it’s not always easy to tell what’s going on. Here, we’ll break down a few of the main causes of paw irritation so you can help figure out what’s up with your best bud.

Read more
What is the best food for older dogs? These 6 vet-approved kibbles and canned foods won’t steer you wrong
Try these veterinarian-approved dog food products for your senior dog
Senior golden retriever and Chihuahua sitting in front of food bowls

As your dog gets older, you'll need to make some changes to your home and routine to keep them feeling their best. That includes changing their dog food, too!
Although the best food for older dogs varies depending on your buddy's health, size, and specific needs, there are several guidelines you can follow to help you find a product that does the trick. Of course, your local veterinarian will be your most knowledgeable resource, especially if they have a long history with your pet. They can also recommend and approve a prescription diet for your dog, giving you even more brands, flavors, and nutrients at your disposal. And since nutrition greatly impacts overall health, investing in high-quality food is paramount.
We did some research since it can be tricky to know which kibbles and canned foods make a veterinarian's approved list. Here’s what we found, including a selection of six vet-recommended dog foods you can try with your senior dog.

What's the best food for older dogs? Here are six options and what makes them so good
Though your senior dog may be as energetic as ever, their body will need a different diet as they age. Banfield Pet Hospital’s Dr. KT Boyle, DVM, told NBC News that because older pets have particular nutritional needs, you’ll need to think about a few different factors when choosing their food.
Older dogs need fewer calories and more supplementation than younger pups, for example. This reduced caloric need is because of the way an animal's metabolism slows as they age, though the exact supplements they need depend on the individual. To find out exactly what will benefit them, have a conversation with your veterinarian. It's that easy!
Dr. Boyle notes that even though senior dog foods contain many helpful nutrients — like glucosamine and fatty acids for joint health — you might need to add supplement drops or chews to your pet’s diet. Luckily, there are many to choose from and many ways to get them.
When it comes to wet versus dry food, though, there can be benefits to both. Dogs with dental issues may find wet food easier to eat, but the texture in kibble can help fight plaque and tartar buildup on your pup’s teeth. The pet nutrition pros at Pedigree remind owners that there is no one right answer. When in doubt, ask your vet!
That being said, there are a few senior dog foods that Dr. Boyle recommends over others. These include:

Read more
Are Starbucks Puppuccinos bad for dogs? Here’s what veterinarians have to say
Can my dog have a Starbucks puppuccino? Here's what the experts say about whipped cream
A pug stands in front of a pink background and licks whipped cream off of his nose

Whether you’re inspired by the adorable viral videos or that sweet look of pleading in your dog’s eyes, letting Fido enjoy a Starbucks Puppuccino can be the highlight of your day. Despite being a little messy, this yummy treat is so worth it — who doesn’t love some happy tail wags and a cream-covered nose?
This popular Starbucks trend has left many dog owners with questions, though. What exactly is in a Puppuccino -- or "Pup Cup" -- and is it safe for dogs? Several veterinarians and canine experts have weighed in with their opinions and advice, so you’ll know exactly what to do next time you and your buddy hit up Starbucks -- or anywhere else that offers a similar treat.

What is a Puppuccino? Will I always get the same thing when I order one?
When you order your dog a Starbucks Puppuccino, or Pup Cup, all you get is a cup of whipped cream for your buddy to enjoy. Most of the time, you’ll get a three-ounce espresso cup filled with the sweet treat, but every now and then, you’ll run into a location that offers Pup Cups in kids’ or short-size cups, which are eight ounces in size. That's great news for larger dogs!
Starbucks makes its whipped cream out of two popular ingredients: heavy whipping cream and vanilla syrup. It’s rare to find a store that’s out of either of these products, so whipped cream is virtually always on the menu. Puppuccinos have become more and more popular, too — especially since viral videos of dogs enjoying this treat are nearly everywhere online — so your barista will know exactly what you’re talking about no matter what you call it. Puppuccino, Pup Cup, a cup of whipped cream -- it’s all the same!
And, as TikTok can confirm, the baristas love meeting your fur babies just as much as you love bringing them to coffee.

Read more