Does Your Dog Need a Coat?

The weather is getting chilly, and as humans we are grabbing our coats and layering up. But what about your dogs? Get a vet's perspective on if dogs need coats.


Doggy coats are definitely a “thing,” but does your dog really need one? The answer is… it depends. For the most part, dog coats are a luxury item rather than a necessity. However, there are a few practical and comfort-related reasons to consider outerwear for your dog, depending on their natural coat, size, and lifestyle. 

Practicality: How Coats Keep Dogs Clean

If you live in a rainy, wet, or muddy environment, coats can cut down on the amount of drying and cleaning you need to do before your dog can come back inside after a walk, play, or potty session. Also, coats that are water resistant or repellent can keep the majority of moisture and mud off of their hair and out of your house. You can even throw most coats in the washer when they’re dirty, which is a lot easier than giving your dog a full bath every time they go out in wet conditions. 

Comfort and Warmth for Thin-Coated Breeds

Some dog breeds, such as the Greyhound and Whippet, have very thin haircoats and can get cold quite easily. They also have very little body fat to keep them insulated in the lower temperatures. Just like us, these dogs tend to prefer a fleece or microfiber coat that is soft and helps to keep their body warm. 

Little dogs, like the Chihuahua, can easily become cold without coverage due to their small size. The truth is a dog of any breed may feel more comfortable or uncomfortable in a coat. The best thing to do is try one out and get a sense of how your dog feels in it. Some dogs are really bothered by clothing and will “freeze” emotionally when you put them in a coat. Others will love getting cozy in their comfy winter or wet weather digs. 

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Outdoor Dogs May Need Outerwear

Dogs that spend significant time outdoors with you in cold or wet climates are more likely to actually benefit from a coat. However, many of the dogs who spend extended periods of time outside in this type of weather are built for it. For example, arctic breeds, St. Bernards, and other dogs with thick hair and insulating undercoats will most likely be annoyed or hindered by outerwear. 

For dogs that spend very little time outside, it may be more work (and money) than it’s worth bundling them up just to go out to do their business. 

Your Pup’s Preference

Each dog is unique and has their own personal preferences. Yes, I said personal. 

Dogs experience comfort and discomfort just like people and they know what they like and don’t like. When deciding whether your dog needs or “wants” a coat, it is best to have them try a few on and see how they react. Most dogs will find a way to let you know if they’re comfortable or not. And just because your dog wears a coat doesn’t mean they won’t be subject to discomfort in cold or wet conditions.

If you are taking your dog out in inclement weather, make sure you monitor their tolerance by looking for signs such as trembling, shivering, or shaking that indicate they’re going beyond their limits. In addition, you should check their paw pads before, after, and during walks in the winter to look for signs of sensitivity. Cold sidewalks can sting!

The winter chill isn't the only thing you need to be ready for. Get pet insurance coverage through AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) and prepare for unexpected accidents and injuries all year long.

Photo of a woman holding her dog

Every Dog and Cat Deserves the Pet Insurance of Champions

Get prize-winning care for your pets.

Nell Ostermeier DVM, CVA, FAAVA

Nell Ostermeier is an Integrative Veterinarian, Motivator, Lecturer, and Consultant.


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