I have a small dog that needs a sweater in the winter and a large dog that can make do without. That is from personal experience and dealing with the question of, “Should dogs wear sweaters?”
Dogs should wear sweaters in cold weather when their body mass or fur can’t keep them adequately warm. This will vary based on the breed. Some dog breeds have less natural warmth protection due to a thinner layer of fur. Do not keep a sweater on your dog while indoors, as they will quickly overheat.
In this article, I am going to cover the following:
- Conditions under which a dog should wear a sweater
- Signs that your dog is too cold
- How age plays a factor in the need for a sweater
- Choosing the best dog sweater
When you finish this article, you will have a better understanding of dog sweaters and their
value for your dog.
Let’s jump right in…
Outdoor Weather Conditions When Dogs Need A Sweater
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Whether it’s summer or winter, your dog will need to go for walks. For some dog breeds, a sweater makes colder-weather walks much safer and happier. How cold does it need to get, though?
The truth is that it depends on your dog. If you’ve got a giant, furry husky, you’ll probably never need to bring out a sweater for her. However, if you’ve got a tiny chihuahua pup, you might need to dress him up at a slightly warmer temperature than most dogs would need.
However, here are some guidelines:
- 45ºF or higher: don’t worry about it. Most dogs, regardless of breed, won’t need a sweater or anything extra to keep them warm. That said, always look out for signs that your dog is too cold, and don’t be afraid to dress them if they seem cold.
- 45ºF to 32ºF: this range is where breeds not bred for the cold will start needing protection. So, if you’ve got a chihuahua, this stage is where you’ll want to suit him up.
- 32ºF to 20ºF: it’s at this point that more pups will need to start wearing sweaters. We’re talking about younger dogs, older dogs, smaller breeds, and thin-haired breeds here.
- 20ºF or lower: suit up your dog if their breed is not suited for the cold. Even if your dog is of a winter-hardy breed, make sure she’s doing well and get her a sweater if she shows signs of discomfort in the cold.
- The temperature on the thermometer is less critical than how cold it feels outside. If it’s 33ºF, but there’s a wind chill of 28ºF, put a sweater on your dog.
- If your dog is cold at temperatures above 45ºF, put a sweater on him. Your dog’s comfort is what matters the most. If you have concerns about your dog’s health concerning heat regulation, consult your vet.
Does Your Dog Need A Sweater? The Signs To Look For
In the section above, I talked about how the weather influences whether your dog needs a sweater. However, I pointed out that there are other factors to take into consideration as well.
So, what are some other signs that your dog needs something to wear? Here are a few of the signs to look for:
People have bred several dogs specifically to weather the cold. These breeds typically have thick double coats. They include, but are not limited to:
- Siberian huskies
- Alaskan malamutes
- German shepherds
- Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs
- Saint Bernards
- Tiberian Mastiffs
- Karakachan Bear Dogs
- Chow Chows
Not only can these dogs forgo sweaters, but they might also get too hot while wearing them—even when it’s cold out. It’s best to let them indulge their instincts and have fun in snowy weather!
Conversely, dogs like greyhounds, chihuahuas, and whippets will require protective gear for the cold. Generally, if you’ve got a dog that has a thin coat, it’ll need a sweater for the cold weather.
Be sure to keep an eye on your dog. If they shiver, whine, or display other distressed behaviors in the cold, get them a sweater. No matter the breed, never leave even the most hearty dog out in the cold for an extended period.
Another critical factor here is size. If you look at the list of cold-resistant dogs above, you’ll notice that the vast majority of them are larger breeds. Smaller dogs’ bodies aren’t able to regulate heat as effectively as their larger counterparts.
Your dog’s weight and build matter, too. Thinner dogs have a more challenging time retaining body heat than bigger dogs do, so you’ll want to pay special care to any lean canines in your life come winter.
Interestingly, height also plays a role in needing a sweater (or not). If your dog is short, its belly will be closer to the ground. As such, cold sidewalks or snowy fields will leach heat off a short dog fairly quickly.
Sickly dogs need more protection against the cold than healthier dogs do. Dogs with diabetes, heart problems, and other health concerns tend to have less cold resistance than dogs without these conditions. Moreover, being cold can exacerbate arthritic dogs’ joint issues.
Of course, there’s another significant aspect to consider: your dog’s age.
Your Dog’s Age And How That Factors Into The Need For A Dog Sweater
Whether they’re young or old, you love your dogs, and you want them to be safe and healthy. That’s why you need to take your dog’s age into account when deciding whether or not they need a sweater.
As your dog grows older, its capacity for heat regulation will decrease. That’s in part due to a weakening immune system. So, if you’ve got a dog that’s been suffering from a health condition, you’ll want to pay extra attention to his heat regulation as he grows older.
Pay close care to shorter-haired dogs as they age, too. A pug that could handle 40ºF weather without a sweater in his youth might come to need one at that temperature as an elderly dog. For that matter, longer-coated dogs that never previously needed sweaters might come to need them as they age.
You might even find that some dogs need to wear sweaters while inside the house. If your elderly dog has arthritis or other joint problems, you might find a sweater helps keep pain at bay by keeping your dog’s joints toasty warm.
Although it’s clear to see how older dogs are at risk of the cold (and will thus need sweaters), puppies and younger dogs can and do need them, too. Like elderly dogs, younger dogs often have a more difficult time regulating their body temperatures. It’s also likely that due to your puppy’s small size, their stomach will be relatively close to the ground, which puts them at greater risk of becoming cold.
Your dog may outgrow the need for a sweater, or it might grow into such a condition. Either way, be sure to monitor your dog for any changes in seasonal behavior as they age.
Tips For Choosing The Best Dog Sweater For Your Pup
Once you’ve decided your dog needs a sweater, you’ll want to know what to find. I go into more detail about that here, but the gist of it is that any sweater you get your dog should be comfortable.
The American Kennel Club also has tips on picking out the best sweater for your dog. Here’s an overview of what they consider essential:
- The material: some dogs can wear pure wool, while others can’t. In the latter case, try a wool blend or an acrylic fabric for your dog’s sweater;
- The size: take measurements of the largest part of your dog’s chest, her neck, and the length of her body. Make sure that your dog can move freely and naturally in the sweater; and
- Closures: choose something simple to put on and take off your dog. Don’t choose something that’ll be easy for your dog to take off, though.
Aesthetics are an aspect that might seem frivolous, but you might want to take them seriously. For instance, it gets dark quite early in some places during the winter. In that case, you might want to get your dog a brightly-colored sweater for visibility during late afternoon and evening walks.
Besides, if you’ve got the essentials down pat, why not have some fun with the look of your dog’s sweater? There is a range of colors and styles out there. Look around and see what’s available to you!
A couple of my favorite dog sweaters are the Mihachi Classic Cable Dog Sweater and the BINGPET Turtleneck Dog Sweater. Check out the Dog Apparel section of this website for some other fantastic options. I’m sure that with some careful research, you’ll be able to pick out the best possible sweater for your dog.
All in all, your dog may or may not need a sweater. Some dogs do quite well in the cold, while others need added warmth when it dips down to 45ºF.
Your dog’s personal needs will come down to various factors, including breed, size, health, and age. Don’t assume your dog’s needs will stay the same throughout its life: just as becoming elderly can make a dog need a sweater, growing out of puppyhood can make a dog no longer require one.
When choosing a sweater for your dog, go with something your dog will feel comfortable wearing.