What do a Chihuahua and a Great Dane have in common? Like other dogs with short, fine coats, they get cold long before fuller coated dogs get a chill. And dogs who live through hot summers, like our desert dogs, also get cold easily and begin to shiver as soon as the weather starts to cool down.
So, how do you pick the right clothes to keep your dog warm, comfortable, and looking good?
Here are some questions and answers to help you make the right choice.
Do you need a garment to keep your dog warm on walks or around the house?
■ If you keep the thermostat fairly low on chilly days, they might enjoy a sweater, some pajamas or a pullover to keep them warm, cozy and comfy.
■ Sweaters come in different thicknesses, so choose the one that will be right for the weather and your dog’s needs.
■ I like to put a pullover on my dogs on chilly mornings around the house, then layer a brushed flannel harness over it when they go for a walk.
Do you walk your dog on a harness or a collar?
■ If you walk your dog on a collar, then a sweater or any style coat will be fine for them.
■ If you walk your dog on a harness and they only need a little warmth, then a harness made from a warm fabric like a brushed flannel will work well.
■ If they need a little more warmth than just a winter harness, a pullover layers perfectly under a harness and is not bulky.
■ For colder days, some of the best choices are coats that have a harness built in.
■ If you fall in love with a coat that does not have a harness built in, then make sure it has a leash hole and that the hole is in the right place for the D ring on your dog’s harness. If the leash hole is too low or too high, it will make the coat pull or bunch up and be uncomfortable for your dog.
■ If a coat does not have a harness built in and the leash hole is in the wrong place, trying to put your dog’s regular harness over the coat will make it bulky, tight and uncomfortable for your dog. That’s when it’s time to keep looking for a coat that better suits your dog’s needs.
How cold will the dog get?
■ If it’s very cold or snowy where you live or are visiting, choose a coat that covers your dog’s belly for extra warmth and protection.
■ In extremely cold, snowy climates, a dog snowsuit will give your dog fuller coverage over his entire body.
■ If your winters are mild, even if you love those puffy coats or faux shearlings, you might want to choose a lighter coat that does not keep your dog too warm. Often, when a dog wiggles out of a sweater or coat, it’s because they are too hot.
How wet will it be in winter?
■ If you live in or visit a damp or wet climate, then a coat made from waterresistant fabric is a good choice.
■ If your dog will tolerate it, a raincoat with a hood will protect their head from the rain.
■ If you live in the desert, then you have a lot of flexibility on fabrics, and water resistance is not a factor.
How well does my dog fit into regular sizes?
■ Some sweaters have a lot of give, so it’s important to check how stretchy the sweater is before you buy.
■ Pullovers usually offer lots of stretch around the body.
■ Check the design to see if it’s adjustable enough to fit your dog, not only when his coat is short but also when it’s fuller.
Does your dog pull on a leash?
■ If so, you need a coat or winter harness strong enough to hold him when he pulls.
■ Some coats have lots of Velcro or other closures for strength and some don’t, so carefully assess the strength of the design.
■ If there is Velcro closure, check the size of it. Is there just a little square of Velcro? That probably won’t be strong enough for a dog that pulls.
■ Once you’ve answered all these questions and considered the options, you’re ready to shop for the perfect winter clothes to keep your fur-baby warm, comfortable and safe!
Patt Savastano, MA, owner of Spoiled Dog Designs, designs and manufactures pet harnesses, clothing, and carriers. (760) 482-1877, spoileddogdesigns.com.