Winter jackets for dogs: Fashion or function?

As temperatures drop, we gradually add layers to our wardrobe: Hats, scarves, vests, jackets, thick stockings, and the list goes on. But what about our pups—do they need that same treatment? Do dogs need winter jackets or sweaters in the wintertime? Or are they nothing more than fashion accessories? (We admit, most of the time they look pretty darn cute.) Let’s take a look!

Do dogs ever need cold-weather protection?

The short answer: Sometimes. Dogs may need winter jackets, but it depends entirely on the dog and on environmental factors.

The long answer: Each dog breed’s hair has a different type, thickness, and length. This ultimately decides how warm or cool their body will be in different outdoor temperatures. The dog’s size also plays a factor, as does the time and energy spent outside.

How cold is too cold for dogs?

In general, temperatures below 1 degree Celsius have the potential to be unsafe for pups of all sizes. If wet weather is present, temperatures up to 10 degrees Celsius may be unsafe due to freezing.

To figure out whether or not your dog should be wearing a sweater or jacket, ask yourself these few questions.

1. Is my pup’s breed meant for cold temperatures?

There are several large, furry dog breeds whose bodies and hair are meant to thrive in colder temperatures. These include:

  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Siberian Husky
  • Samoyed
  • St. Bernard
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Keeshond
  • Chow Chow

Among many others!

If your pup’s breed is on this list, he’s much more prepared to handle the cold than, say, a Chihuahua or small terrier.

In a typical Australian winter, these breeds would never need a jacket or any sort of protection from the cold—in fact, they may overheat!

But, there are also some dogs that have a lot of trouble handling the cold weather. These breeds include:

  • Chinese Crested
  • Chihuahua
  • Greyhound
  • Rat Terrier
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Whippet

These breeds, among a few others, should always have light protection when outside in colder temperatures even for a short period of time, due to their thin hair and thin layer of body fat compared to other breeds. 

2. How much time do I typically spend outside with my pup?

If you live in a fairly urban or suburban area and like to take short walks or drive to the dog park for a bit before heading right back home, this likely won’t warrant a need for your dog to wear a jacket or sweater (but some booties might be helpful if there’s snow around!)

However, if you enjoy taking your dog on long walks or multiple-hour outdoor excursions away from home, we suggest having some light protection on hand, like a sweater or sweatshirt-material outfit.

3. How active is my pup when we’re outside?

If you have a lazier-than-average dog (nothing to be ashamed of!) that may not run and play as fast as other pups, he isn’t using as much energy and therefore isn’t keeping himself as warm as a dog on a hike. 

So, ask yourself how active your walks usually are and what his exercise routine is typically like. Lazy dogs will be cooler, so keep this in mind the next time you spend extended hours outdoors.

No dog is completely protected from extreme cold.
Learn to recognize the signs of hypothermia.

No matter how big and how fluffy your pup might be, he is still at risk of becoming too cold outside.

The signs of early hypothermia in dogs include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • More frequent urination
  • Shivering
  • Cold eats and feet
  • Hair standing on end (like what happens to us when we get goosebumps!)

Call your veterinarian right away to make an appointment if you notice all of these symptoms in your dog. The vet well help determine if your pup has frostbite. In the meantime, dry him off with a warm, dry towel and hold him. Feed him lukewarm (not cold) water.

So, do dogs need winter jackets?
In Australian winter, they are usually not needed.

Speak with your vet if you think your dog might get chilly in the wintertime. And if your pup isn’t too crowded with a big fur jacket of his own, maybe a few wintertime accessories would make him look even cuter for the winter!