Dog Coats - A guide

With the weather getting cooler, now is the time to think about whether your dog needs a coat to keep them warm.

Why does my dog need a coat?

It is a fact that dogs come with their own external layer of protection but one must remember that dogs don’t necessarily live in the climates that they were originally bred for. As a result,  while some may think it is odd to dress a dog, it is in fact important to supplement their fur when the weather gets cooler.

Dogs that might need an extra layer include:

  • Short haired or very small dogs
  • Dogs with a weakened immune system
  • Very old dogs/young puppies
  • Breeds that originated in warmer climates
  • Skinny dogs

It is not only smaller breeds that benefit from this extra layer, breeds such as Greyhounds, Dobermans and Dalmatians often feel the cold. This is because they have more difficulty generating and retaining enough body heat on their own.

 

How to measure your dog

Before considering what type of coat your dog might need it is best to measure them first.

Unfortunately different brands use different measurements and ways in which they describe sizes, however they generally use the three main measurements of length, neck and chest.

What you will need;

  • Your dog!
  • Flexible tape measure (if you don't have one you can use a ribbon or a piece of string and a ruler – just mark the ribbon with the measurement and use the ruler to measure it)
  • Pen and paper
  • A friend (Just in case you need an extra pair of hands!


downloadSTEP 1
- Make sure your dog is relaxed and away from distractions. He needs to be standing squarely on a flat surface rather than sitting down because dogs tend to become a few inches longer when standing!

STEP 2 - Measure around his neck where a collar usually sits. The tape measure should fit snuggly around the neck without being too tight.

The usual rule of thumb is that you should be able to get two flat fingers underneath the tape measure. This is the “neck” measurement.

STEP 3 – Measure in a straight line from the base of the neck (where the shoulders and neck meet) to the base of the tail. This is the “length” measurement

STEP 4 – Measure around your dog’s chest at the widest point – usually just behind the front legs this is the “chest” measurement.

STEP 5 – Measure him again, just in case!

STEP 6 – Give him a treat and extra praise!

(Are you measuring for a harness too, see our page on harnesses for details)

Unfortunately, there are no standard sizes in the pet industry; most manufacturers have their own size ranges for their products. In addition, like humans, dogs can come in all shapes and sizes so, for some dogs – Dachshunds, for example - you may have to purchase a coat from a specialist supplier or, find a company that can custom make a coat for your dog!

However, if you do find that your dog is in between sizes, you should use these general rules of thumb:

  • If your dog carries his tail up – round the size down
  • If your dog carries his tail down – round the size up
  • Large, muscular, heavy-set dogs – round the size up
  • Slender, light dogs – round the size down

Mops wird gemessenThings to consider

Check and recheck - Make sure you measure your dog carefully and accurately.

Some dog coats can be pricey, particularly if they are bespoke, so you want to make sure you don’t make an expensive mistake.

In addition, a coat that is ill fitting will make your dog uncomfortable – it could rub or restrict their movement, for example - and therefore make time outdoors miserable rather than fun!

Consider your dog’s body type - Some designs are meant for fuller bodes like Golden Retrievers while others are made for dogs that are narrow waisted with deep chests such as greyhounds. Indeed, some coats are made for specific breeds, so always check what it is you are buying, just in case!

Check the material – Decide what the coat is for, before making your final choice. A woollen sweater isn’t going to keep the warm in once it gets wet from walking in the rain, for example.

Since British weather is generally damp during the autumn and winter months you should make sure the outer material of the coat you chose is waterproof so your dog can be out in wet weather without becoming chilled to the bone.

If your dog is particularly prone to becoming cold, a coat that is padded or quilted will give him extra warmth. Some coats have a detachable fleece inner lining for warmer days.

Other considerations include whether your dog would prefer a lightweight material rather than a bulkier fabric, whether it needs to be reflective and, indeed, whether or not the coat is machine washable.

14-59-large_defaultCheck the fastenings - All clothes that you put on your pet should, when under stress, be easily stretched or broken in order to prevent strangulation or injury if the coat becomes caught on something.

A commonly used fastening for pet clothes is Velcro, the noise of which, at first, may upset your pet, if they are unfamiliar with it.

In addition, if they are also new to clothes, the sensation and well as the noise may cause your pet to become anxious.

Therefore, if you do have a dog that is likely to be wary of the noise, try introducing them to Velcro using positive reinforcement in order to help them acclimatise.

Also, pay attention to whether there may be any other fastenings such as zippers, buttons or laces, for example, that might trip or injure your dog if they become loose or rub their skin.

Your dog may also be tempted to chew or bite at the coat and any loose fixings, badges etc. may be bitten off and ingested. This, of course, may make your pet ill and the coat, at worst, useless and, at best, un-returnable!

adobestock_94387402Consider your dog's activity level– A very active dog will want to have a coat that does not restrict him and does not make him too warm. While an older/slower dog will want a coat will keep them warm because they are less active.

Other considerations - Calmer dogs are more likely to be content to wear coats that cover more of their body, e.g. coats with leg coverings, while more skittish dogs may find the extra covering disturbing.

Dogs who suffer from joint pain or arthritis will appreciate the warmth of a coat but may find the process of putting a coat on hurts them. As a result, coats that require stepping into openings, for example, will not be suitable!

Let your dog make the final decision. If you find the coat that appears to fit the bill and your dog is clearly uncomfortable when wearing it don’t force the issue.

Try seeing if you can increase their tolerance gradually. If that fails, you will have to consider an alternative! And remember, never force you dog to wear clothing, otherwise you’ll be living with a very unhappy dog.

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