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Does Your Dog Need a Winter Sweater or Coat?

​Winter is coming. But is your dog ready for the season?

That completely depends on the breed, outside temperature, and in some cases, their haircut. Bundling up our pups not only keeps them comfortable, but allows them to continue their routine of exercise and mental stimulation even when it's cold. 

Which Breeds Need Winter Coats?

1. Small, Toy, and Miniature Dogs


Smaller breeds are especially sensitive to cold temperatures.  These breeds have a larger surface area compared to their overall body weight, and hypothermia is a very real danger. Therefore, w​arm dog clothes is more than just comfort, but an essential safety precaution.

Examples of small breeds that will need cold protection:

  • Boston Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Pomeranian 

2. Dogs Low To the Ground

Low-rider dogs may have thicker fur, but come with some other apparent winter problems. As much as they love to play, breeds such as Corgis and Dachshunds are so low to the ground that their belly drags in the snow.

Also keep in mind that fur on their underside is thinner, and skin more exposed. A weather resistant layer will not only improve comfort, but will protect their skin from being damaged.

Examples of Short Legged dogs:

  • Corgi
  • Dachshund
  • Basset Hound
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Bulldog

2. Short-Haired and Lean Dogs

Lean bodies and short hair leave little protection towards the elements. Body fat acts as a natural barrier to cold temperatures, therefore these lean breeds are especially sensitive to cold temperatures. Winter clothes then becomes essential at lower temperatures​.

Examples of Thin Coated and Lean dogs:

  • Basenji
  • Boxer
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Greyhound
  • Saluki
  • Pitbull
  • Whippet

4. Small-Bodied Terriers

Most terrier breeds have thinner coats and are smaller in their overall size, making them vulnerable to the elements. Depending on their groom, their hair will often attract "clumps" of snow that stick to them. And some are so low to the ground their bellies will drag in the snow. 

Examples of Terrier Breeds that would benefit from a coat:

  • Australian Silky Terrier
  • Border Terrier
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Jack Russel Terrier
  • Skye Terrier
  • West Highland Terrier (aka "Westie")
  • Yorkshire Terrier (aka "Yorkie")

5. Clipped and Shorn 

In some cases, cold weather protection simply depends on how recently your dog was groomed (and how short). Groomers will often leave some length in the cold winter months. However, sometimes a short cut is necessary, and may leave your dog exposed to the weather. Poodles and Doodle-mixes are common examples, and they will require a coat to fend off the cold if their skin is exposed.

Some breeds that may need a coat after a short groom:

  • Poodle
  • Labradoodle
  • Maltese
  • Havanese

How Cold is Too Cold For Dogs? - Temperature Guide

At what temperature does a dog need a coat? Here's a quick reference guide.

  • 45°F  (7°C)

Breeds sensitive to the cold may begin to feel uncomfortable. 

  • 32°F  (0°C)

Small, lean, thin coat, and senior dogs will require cold weather protection. Limit walks to 10 or 15 minutes

  • 20°F  (-6°C)

Be aware that frostbite and hypothermia are very real possibilities. Small breeds should remain indoors, while medium and larger breeds can have short walks with proper cold protection.

  • Below 20°F  

Consider skipping the walk completely and playing some indoor games for exercise. 

Wind and Shade

Don't just look at temperature, take a moment to check for windchill, and whether or not you're walking in direct sunlight or shade. These variables can have a big effect on you and your dog's comfort. 



Cold isn't the only danger here - you'll need to pay close attention to overheating. The number #1 rule is to remove their cold protection while indoors.

Small breeds often enjoy the feeling of a warm sweater (who doesn't?), but some dogs ​will not be able manage their body temperature (or ​be completely unaware). If your pup is wearing warm clothing while indoors or next to a heat source, their internal temperature can quickly rise. 

Even sitting in a heated car for a short time while still wearing their coat can lead to overheating. 

Signs of overheating:

  • Excessive panting or Hyperventilation 
  • Increased drooling
  • Confusion
  • Weakness

Keeping Your Dog Warm and Happy Indoors

Rather than keeping a sweater on your dog all day, provide some nice blankets or bedding so they can regulate their own temperature while indoors. 

A Good Fit = More Comfort

Finally, we need to watch carefully for rubbing or snagging on your dog's body. Look for exposed zippers, velcro, or sharp edges that can cause discomfort overtime. When it comes to coats - you get what you pay for (and your dog's comfort depends on it). 

Also, make sure the coat is snug (but not overly constraining), you want it to be comfortable and allow them to move freely, and not hinder their ability to run and explore. 

Photo of author

Liam J. Barnes

Liam is a dog trainer, owner, and lover with over 20 years experience. You can find him working with vet clinics, grooming facilities, training centres, and food/toy brands in order to grow their business. His passion for dogs and business make him uniquely suited to help move the world forward with canines and humans.

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