There are a lot of people who get a huge laugh out of the idea of putting clothes on a dog. I confess that sometimes, I’m one of them. When I see a little foo-foo dog all done up in a rhinestone collar, something resembling a scrunchie around its tail, a tutu around its middle, ribbons in its ears and little pink booties on its feet, I really have to work hard not to dissolve into fits of giggles.
Sometimes, yes. Much as I am amused when I see “dressed to kill” dogs, I am also saddened when I see a dog shivering in cold weather because his human wouldn’t put a sweater on him.
Some dogs are very well-equipped for cold weather. The Newfoundland, for instance, actually has two levels to its coat – a warming undercoat, and a protective top coat. And of course we have all seen Huskies that seem to be perfectly comfortable curled up in a snowbank. Think of it this way – if you have enough warm clothing on when you venture outside during the winter, you’re fine. If you go outside in a T-shirt, you’re not. Some dogs have coats that are a lot like T-shirts, and they’re just not suited to being out in the elements without some sort of protection.
This really isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Is your dog reluctant to go outdoors on certain days? Does he even maybe do his business indoors during bad weather? Chances are, he’s cold, and he doesn’t want to go outside any more than you do. So watch him, see if he’s reluctant to stick with his normal routine, and if he is, think about getting him a sweater.
Small dogs, toy breeds, and light-haired dogs often can’t do much for themselves by way of conserving body heat. Also, you may have an older dog with a weakened immune system that could make him especially sensitive to the cold.
Much depends on the breed. Most of the time a Saint Bernard or a Malamute will be just fine going outdoors on wintry days. Chihuahuas, Mexican Hairless and Greyhounds are far more vulnerable to the cold weather.
If you think your dog would be more comfortable outdoors on chilly days, by all means, get him a sweater. The first thing you should consider is the type of fabric. Wool is the very best for keeping your dog warm, since even if it gets wet, it will still hold in body heat. The down side to wool is that not all wool sweaters can just be thrown in the dryer – some wool sweaters have to be dried flat to prevent shrinkage, so you will have to buy more than one sweater. Some dogs also find wool to be itchy. A blend of cotton, acrylic and wool may be a better choice.
Now, think about fit. You don’t feel comfortable when your clothes don’t fit properly, and neither will your dog. You have to measure. If the sweater is too tight, your dog will feel restricted, and if it is too loose, he could pull it off. You want to make sure that the sweater will work properly with the normal movements of your dog – in other words, that it will be snug, but not tight.
To make sure the sweater will fit properly, measure. You will want to measure the diameter of your dog’s neck, the diameter of the chest, and the distance between the neck and the withers. Ideally, the sweater should end at the withers. Most pet supply stores will let you try the sweater on your dog before you buy it, but if you are purchasing online, measuring is critical.
Make sure that the area under your dog’s legs where they join the body (what we would think of as armpits in humans) allow freedom of movement without being loose. You should also make sure that it is easy for you to put the sweater on your dog, and to take it off. You don’t want to have to pull, or do anything that will cause your dog to become agitated. If the sweater isn’t easily put on and taken off, then you are never going to have a good experience getting your dog dressed to go outside.
Pretty little beads and rhinestones and so on are pleasing to the eye, but can be dangerous to your dog. Ideally, your dog’s sweater will not have anything on it that could be chewed off and ingested. If the sweater has zippers, or rings to which you can attach a leash, or any other non-fabric add-ons, do not let your dog out without supervising. You don’t want to have to make an emergency trip to the vet because you can’t find the whole sweater.
You could, if you like, make your own dog sweater. There are plenty of patterns available. You don’t have to get all that fancy, either – if you have leftover yarn, use it. Your dog really doesn’t care what color his sweater is, as long as he’s warm.
If you’re a bit of a fashionista yourself, though, there’s certainly nothing wrong with buying a sweater for your dog. I like the Zack & Zoey Polyester/Cotton Basic Dog Hoodie, and so do a lot of Amazon buyers, since it has a 4.2 star rating. It comes in a variety of colors, and in sizes from extra-small to extra-extra-large. The list price is $18.99, but the Amazon price is $12.27, so it’s a really good deal.
No dog should ever have to be cold. Some people think dogs look silly wearing sweaters, but I have to wonder – what looks sillier? A human wearing a sweater in cold weather, or a human with her arms wrapped around herself because she went outside in a T-shirt? The same goes for your dogs. Sweaters – good. Shivering dogs – not good. Proceed accordingly.