Should My Dog Wear a Sweater?

Some small breeds need extra insulation during the winter, and donning a sweater helps! Senior dogs that have lost muscle mass may also benefit.

Feb 19, 2024By Thalia Oosthuizen
should my dog wear a sweater

Is there anything cuter than a dog wearing a sweater? We don’t think so, and millions of dog owners agree. But do dogs really need sweaters? And, if so, what dogs should be wearing them to keep them warm rather than their owners just wanting them to look cute?

Goodness, so many things to think about as a dog owner, right? Join us as we answer the all-important question: “Should my dog wear a sweater?”

Some Dogs Benefit From Wearing Sweaters

Dog in Sweater on Forest Path in Autumn
Image credit: Pexels

This may come as a surprise to you, but your Golden Lab or other big dog really doesn’t need a sweater. But, if you’re a dog parent to a Greyhound, Whippet, or any other smallish dog with a thin coat, you might want to invest in a sweater today.

Italian Greyhounds, Whippets, small dogs, and even our much-loved senior dogs could all benefit from the added protection and comfort that a sweater could bring them in the colder months. These breeds, known for their lean physiques and shorter fur, lack the natural insulation that their larger or possibly bulkier counterparts have.

During the colder months, or as the years add up, these adorable furballs can experience the cold and discomfort, making it necessary for an extra layer of protection to keep them toasty––and, more importantly, safe from the elements.

Does My Dog Need Insulation?

Small Dog in Red Sweater Rolling in Snow
Image credit: Pexels

Are you wondering if your dog needs a sweater? Whether they are big or small, young or old, thin or thick coated, there are a few signs that you should look out for to make a decision. Some signs that your dog may need insulation include:

  • Shivering or shaking
  • Limping after a walk in the cold
  • Whining or constant barking while on a walk
  • Seeking shelter while outside
  • Refusing to go for walks
  • Tucking their tails in
  • Holding their paws off the ground

Dogs, whether you prefer large dogs over small dogs, are really good at telling us what they need. So, if you see any of these warning signs, it might just be time to think about getting them a cozy sweater or coat.

Getting Your Dog to Wear a Sweater

Black and White Dog in Green Sweater in Snow
Image credit: Pexels

Shopping for that cute coat or sweater that will keep your furbaby warm is one thing. Getting them to wear it is quite another, and you might just find that your dog doesn’t want to wear their sweater at all!

Lucky for you, we have a few tips on how to choose a great sweater––and how to get your dog to wear it!

1. Choose Easily-Fitting Clothing

If this is your dog’s first time wearing a coat or sweater, it is important to choose something that is easy to put on - and remove. Think sleeveless coats or jackets that fasten with straps or Velcro while avoiding those that need to be put on over the head or limbs.

You can get your dog used to wearing something by starting off simple with a large bandana or loose coat.

2. Select Sweaters That Insulate the Core

Small Dog Wearing Red Jersey Sitting on Leaves
Image credit: Pexels

Say no to sweaters or coats with hoods, sleeves, and tail covers, as these will do nothing more than make your dog feel uncomfortable and restrict their movement. Remember, start off simple, and keep your dog’s comfort in mind rather than choosing something purely on how cute it will look.

3. Get the Right Fit

Sheepdog Wearing Brown and White Jersey
Image credit: Pexels

It is so important to measure your dog and ensure that their coat or sweater fits them well. Here’s how you can measure your pooch:

  1. Circumference of the neck
  2. Around the chest (the widest part of the body)
  3. From the back of the neck to the base of the tail

Using these measurements, choose a sweater or coat that will be both comfortable and non-restrictive. Adjustable options are even better.

4. Start Wearing Clothing Young

The younger the dog, the easier it will be to get used to the idea of wearing a sweater. But, this is not to say that your older companion will battle to get used to it, too. Start off with a few minutes a day, increasing the time by five minutes each day. Praising your dog while putting the sweater on can also help them feel more relaxed. A treat can go a long way!

Tips to Keep Your Dog Warm

Yorkshire Terrier Sitting in Red Jersey
Image credit: Pexels

As the seasons change, it is essential to consider that your pup might feel the cold and that they need additional warmth, too. Clothes like sweaters or jackets might not be the only option, though, so here are a few more tips on how you can keep your dog warm during the cold months:

  • Choose fleece or lined bedding that will seal in the heat and keep the cold out.
  • Consider raising your pet’s bed - or kennel if they sleep outside - at least four inches above the ground.
  • Know the signs of hypothermia and look out for them when you take your dog on a walk.
  • Exercise your dog indoors where possible.
  • Protect their paws from the cold. Examine their paws for cracks, cuts, and abrasions after each walk and apply a dog-safe moisturizer. Also, trim the excess hair between their toes.
  • If you have a fireplace or space heater, ensure that you have a safety screen to prevent accidents and burns.

Monitor Your Dog’s Comfort During the Winter

Dachshund Dog Wearing Red Sweater
Image credit: Pexels

To answer the question, “Should my dog wear a sweater?” it is important to consider the breed, coat, and age of the dog. While a Great Pyrenees, with its thick double coat and enormous size, is unlikely to need a sweater or coat, a slight, thin-coated Italian Greyhound will.

You can refer to our handy guide on choosing the best coat or sweater, learn our tips on how to keep your dog warm, and keep your precious pooch comfortable all year long.

Remember, your fur baby cannot tell you what they want and need, so it is up to you to learn their behaviors and do what’s best for them.

Thalia Oosthuizen
By Thalia Oosthuizen

Thalia has been a freelance writer for over a decade and a dog (and animal) lover for over 30 years. She grew up on a farm where, at one stage, she had 15 dogs. She currently has one dog, Avery - an adorable pavement special with an extra toe on each foot, and two rescue cats - Boris and Mango. In her spare time, Thalia enjoys running, cycling, swimming, and reading