Seeing a dog frolic happily through the snow is one of the greatest things someone can witness. Big or little, many dogs just can’t get enough snow and cold weather. Add a colorful sweater to the mix, and the scene is just heart warming and adorable. But does your dog actually need a sweater in the winter? We at Doggy Brace are here to break down why you may or may not want to think about purchasing a dog sweater.
The general rule is to check and see if your dog looks cold. Are they shivering, cuddling up to you, wanting to go back inside, or soaked? If the answer is yes, then they may benefit from some added protection from the elements. Dogs can also get hyperthermia, so if there is any doubt, get them a dog sweater!
Signs of Early Hyperthermia in Dogs:
- Cold ears and feet
- Rapid breathing
- Increase in urination
- Hair standing on ends
If you notice any of these, bring them inside to warm them up right away! Dry them off with a towel and offer fresh warm/lukewarm water. Consider calling your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic to be sure your dog is safe from hypothermia or frostbite.
What Dogs Could Benefit From a Dog Sweater?
Not all dogs necessarily need a sweater, but there are certain groups and breeds that definitely need one when the weather gets colder.
Small dogs, such as Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Pomerainians and more, have a really hard time regulating their body heat, even in the summer. Even if they haven’t been groomed and their fur is thick, they could benefit from sweaters just to give them a little extra protection.
Breeds with short hair, such as greyhounds, bulldogs, or pitbulls, should also have sweaters for the winter. Their fur offers them very little insulation or protection from moisture. If they get wet, they will get cold very quickly, so consider a hefy waterproof sweater for them.
Age also plays a role in if they need a sweater or not. Both puppies and senior dogs can’t regulate their body temperatures as easily as adult dogs. Puppies are generally safer than senior dogs, as their energy helps compensate, but you should definitely get them a sweater if they tick off the previous two points on size and fur length.
If your dog has a big and fluffy coat, they may not need sweaters. Their coats are designed to keep them warm for longer periods of time and are generally more waterproof. However, if you plan on being outside in the cold for a long time or if your dog gets wet, they can still catch hyperthermia. Plan ahead and always have a towel on hand to help your dog as needed.
What Types of Dog Sweater Should I Get?
Not every dog sweater is created equally. Some are made strictly for fashion purposes and are not good for winter. There are a few key things you need to look out when picking a sweater for cold weather.
Find dog sweaters that cover their neck, belly, and all of their torso. You will want neck-to-tail protection from the elements. Most sweaters don’t have “sleeves” for their legs, and that’s fine. Just keep your dog’s paws and legs in mind when you’re letting them run around.
Material wise, look for something that’s waterproof. It will ideally have a polar fleece lining as well. Avoid lightweight sweaters that are made of the same thing, like cotton, all the way through, as they will get soaked very quickly from the snow.
You should also avoid flashy sweaters with extra zippers, straps, or dangling bits that can irritate or annoy your dog.
As always, get a sweater that fits. If you can, try it before you buy it — go to a pet store and have your pet try it on (if possible) before you invest in it. If not, you can get an accurate measurement of your dog by running a tape measure from the base of the dog’s neck (where the collar would sit) and to the base of the tail. The majority of dog clothes use this measurement. Knowing your dog’s chest measurement will ensure a good fit, too.
Be warned: your dog can be allergic to certain fabric. When you put the sweater on them for prolonged periods, pay attention to how your dog reacts! If they’re itching or pulling at the sweater, or if their skin is red, irritated, or has hives, you may want to replace the sweater with something else right away. In some cases, allergic reactions may also lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
Tips on Training Your Dog To Wear Their Sweater
We all know that some dogs just don’t like wearing clothing. They can freeze like a statue or rip it apart the moment you take your eyes off them. Thankfully, most dogs can be trained out of this habit with a lot of patience, praise, and persistence.
Before you even put the sweater on your pup, let them get acclimated to it. Put it by their favorite spot in the house and let them sniff it and cover it in their own scent. This will mark it as theirs and may help them be more comfortable around it.
And don’t forget the praise! Let them know that the sweater is a good thing by praising them for sniffing it, laying by/on it, and just being around it. Reward them heavily, and then slowly get them used to the idea of having it on. You may want to ease your pup into it at first, if possible, before tightening all the straps.
The most important tip is to go at their own pace, but be persistent with your efforts. Keep them in a routine so they can get used to the sweater. Put it on them for 10-20 minutes every day before bed or before they go outside so they can get in the routine of expecting it. Dogs are creatures of habit!
Once that’s all done, you can let your dog run around worry free to their heart’s content when the first snow falls. Have fun!