How To Choose A Winter Coat For Your Dog
With the temperature dropping and winter coming closer, it might be time to think about buying a winter coat or jacket for your dog.
Does Your Dog Need A Winter Coat?
Before choosing a winter coat for your dog, you'll need to decide if your dog needs one. Many dogs have an easy time staying warm during the winter, while others don't. Some examples of dogs who need a winter coat include:
- Short haired dogs or tiny dogs.
- Dogs with a weak immune system
- Older dogs and young pups
- Dog breeds accustomed to warm climates.
- Skinny dogs without enough fat to keep them warm.
If your dog has thick fur, or handles the cold well, he may not need a coat this winter. However, warming up dogs who need it can help them stay quite a bit healthier. Also, even if your dog may not need a coat for much warmth, it may be helpful for your dog to have something to keep him dry in wet cold climates.
Here's what to do to get a great winter coat for your puppy or dog:
1. Measure Your Dog
Before looking for winter coats, you'll need to take your pup's anatomy into consideration. It has to be the right length, and fit both snugly and comfortably. If you have a suitable store and can just take your dog to try on coats, that is ideal, but most stores don't have a great selection so you are most likely to buy a doggie coat online.
To measure your dog, start by measuring the dog from shoulder blades to the base of the tail. You should also measure around the dog at the fattest part of his chest and the narrowest part of his waist to be sure you can find a coat that fits around the body comfortably. Also measure around your dogs neck. Different sellers use different measurements so writing these down and keeping them handy will help as you search for a suitable coat.
Don't use the excuse that you don't have anything convenient to measure the dog with and just try to guess. If you don't have a measuring tape, just get some string and use that to measure your dog. Then you can use a tape measure or ruler to then measure the piece of string. If you don't even have a ruler handy, just take out a dollar bill. A dollar bill is very roughly 6 inches long and you can then use the dollar bill to get a rough approximation of your dogs measurements. So no excuses! Proper measuring really makes a difference.
Avoid coats that have sizes "small", "medium", and "large" if possible unless the seller then details out what the various sizes mean. These sizes tend to vary with brand, so it's best to shop based on exact measurements.
When looking at coats, be mindful if the coat seems to be designed for your type of dog. Some coats are designed for big chested dogs and narrow hipped dogs while others are for more blocky dogs.
2. Check The Material
Do you know what type of coat to get? If you are in a wet and mild climate, you probably want a different type of coat than a place that has subzero temperature for many months. Think if the most important feature is water-proofing or water resistance, or wind blocking or insulation. Once you have prioritized what you need, then you can go searching for coats with the material that would be most helpful for your dog.
Remember, you are not trying to make a fashion statement with your dog's new coat. If you are, you should reconsider. Shop first based on the thickness and warmth of the material, not by color and style. If a coat looks good, but does nothing to keep the dog warm, it starts to defeat the purpose. Sometimes it can be a good idea to choose a coat with more than one lining for extra warmth. When you find several coat options that will fit your dog and be warm, then you can select the coat on how good it looks.
If you need something that is waterproof or water resistant, look for a top layer designed to withstand water like a waterproof outer shell. Fleece is usually a good option for pets (but make sure it has a waterproof top layer if you think your dog is likely to get wet.) Avoid wool if your dog is likely to get wet.
And the colder it is where you live, the more insulating and fluffier the coat, the warmer your dog will likely be.
3. Check How It Is Designed.
There is a wide variety of coats available.If you have an older dog or one that has difficulty moving, look for something that will be really easy to put on. Make sure to avoid any coats where the dog would need to step in and out of the coat. If you have a very active dog, you will probably want to avoid anything that restricts the legs. If you have a less active dog, some additionally warmth in the legs may be important to keep your dog comfortable.
One key difference you wil notice is how the legs are covered. Are they covered at all, is there a lot of leg room or is there a small slit that you need to pull your dogs legs through? Look for something that is generous in terms of leg space and avoid anything which requires you to work on getting the legs through for older and arthritic dogs.
How does the coat stay secured to your dog's body? Does it use Velcro, or adjustable straps or just slide on? This is ultimately your decision. Sometimes fur can get matted up in Velcro, but adjustable straps aren't always the easiest to fasten on and off. Think of how easy it will be for you to take the coat on and off. If it is not easy to use, you will not use it so look for something as simple as you can get with the features you need. Don't get more than you need in terms of straps and velcro. Less is more in most cases here.
4. Check If It Is Washable
Preferably, a dog coat should be machine washable for practical purposes. Most dogs will find some way or another to get dirty, which could make a coat unwearable until it gets washed. While it's possible to hand wash dog coats that aren't washable, it might be easier just to make sure you can drop the coat into the washing machine.
5. Check The Return Policy
Make sure your dog coat is returnable. There is wide variability in sizing and fit and it is always hard to gauge quality and materials through a catalog or online. So make sure that the place you buy your coat from has a good enough return policy. A surprisingly large number of online shops have terrible return policies so just double check it before you buy your coat.
6. See How The Dog Coat Fits
It's obvious that you need to check the coat on the dog to see if it fits well and your dog will wear it. One of the key things to check for it how snugly the coat fits on your dog. Check to see that there are no large gaps and that nothing is rubbing on your dog or restricting him from moving normally.
Use these 6 points and you should be all set in finding the perfect dog coat.
A Few Examples Of Good Dog Coats
I love Amazon for pet supplies. They also have a nice selection of dog coats and more than most retail shops. Here are some good options for winter coats that you may want to consider:
One of my favorite winter covers for dogs is this Zack& Zoey Blanket Coat. It comes in a large variety of colors and gets almost perfect scores from folks who have tried the coat. It has a water resistant shell that is reversible and a warm fleece layer.
The Goody Vest is designed for small dogs. It is water resistant and has a nice fluffy warm loft to keep small dogs warm. It has a zipper, leash rings and is machine washable.
This flexible, warm fleece coat comes in a number of sizes and colors, and fits almost any dog. It's machine washable, and has a really high quality fleece and comes with adjustable easy on and off Velcro straps.
This snowsuit is designed to keep your dog's entire body warm for dogs that are out in extreme cold conditions. Leg, arm, and hood parts are detachable, and the suit is machine washable.
With just a little bit of preparation and research, you can easily find the perfect warm winter coat for your dog so he can stay nice and warm this winter. Now, all you need to do is make sure your dogs paws are protected from the cold, and you and your dog should be able to enjoy the full wonders of winter together.
Have you seen my tips on how to tell when your dog is too cold and how to make sure your dogs paws are safe in snow and ice?
Created October 2012 and updated December 2015.
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