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Styles of dog coats - which is right for your dog?

Updated on December 22, 2014
GollyGearHope profile image

Hope Saidel is co-owner of Golly Gear, a bricks-and-mortar and online shop featuring fun, affordable and practical small dog products

A coat will keep your pup comfy!

Dogs, especially those with short fur, need coats or sweaters when the temperature drops. No matter how you feel about clothes for dogs - these are a necessity for many of our dogs, not just a fashion statement. Unlike their wolfish ancestors, many modern breeds of dogs just don't have the furriness to protect them from the cold.

Some points to consider when choosing a dog coat:

  • Your dog's size (measure accurately)
  • How cold does it get?
  • How much time does your dog spend outside?
  • Does the coat need to be water-resistant?

Measure! Measure! Measure!

Almost all dog clothes are sized by length - from the nape of the dog's neck to the base of the dog's tail. Secondary measurements are girth (all the way around, just behind the front legs), neck (base of the neck), and weight.

If you don't have a tape measure - don't "guesstimate." The consequences aren't awful if you have a girl dog - but if your dog is a male, chances are a too-long garment will result in it spending more time in the laundry than on the dog.

In place of a tape measure, use a piece of string or yarn and measure that length against a yardstick or retractable measure. Be sure to write down the measurement - as you compare different items, you'll quickly lose track of your dog's correct numbers.

There is no standardization in sizes among pet apparel manufacturers. Each company decides its own sizes, so there can be wide variation among products. If you find one online that you like, but you're not sure of the fit, call the retailer and ask. Here in our shop, we're always glad to answer questions - we'll be happy to fetch the item out of inventory and measure it while speaking with you.

And - as careful as you try to be, dogs are notorious for ignoring all size charts and guidelines. Be sure to buy from a retailer with a good exchange/return policy. As long as the item is still in unused condition, the retailer should work with you until your dog has the perfect fit.

There's more than one type

Just like dog harnesses, there are many different styles of dog coats.

Some, similar to horse blankets, lay on the dog's back and are fastened with straps around the neck and girth.

Some are pullover styles, going over the dog's head and then putting the front legs through the sleeves.

Others are step-in styles, opening all the way down the dog's back.

We tend to favor those that cover the dog's chest. Because we specialize in small dog gear, we know that little dogs are closer to the ground and any significant snowfall can result in a little dog trying to plow his way through the white stuff. To keep the dog as warm, dry, and comfortable as possible, we like his or her chest to be covered.

Step-in styles

These two dog coats: the Chillybuddy Winter Jacket and the Fido Fleece, are both step-in styles, and among our favorites. Both open all the way down the back, allowing you to put the dog's front legs in the "arm holes" or "sleeves," then fastening the closure. It's designed for the coldest climates and temperatures and our own dogs use it on day below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or on damp, raw days below freezing. It is water- and wind-resistant and adjusts to fit even broad- and deep-chested dogs.

The other style is for more reasonable, yet still chilly weather. Also designed with hook-and-loop closure down the back, the Fido Fleece is soft and warm.

Pullover styles

This 1Z Harness Coat is an example of a pullover style. This one has the added feature of an internal harness, eliminating the need for an opening to attach a leash. A zipper at the neck allows for easy-on, easy-off use. This particular one is made of neoprene, making it wind-resistant and water-proof.

Horse-blanket style

This is an example of the horse-blanket style coat - simply open the straps, lay it on the dog's back, and refasten the straps. It is among the easiest to use - but does leave the dog's underside exposed to snow and cold.

Most dog coats are sleeveless

You may wonder why most dog jackets don't feature sleeves or leggings. The answer is simple - dogs are so widely variable in leg-length that a common size just isn't possible. A Dachschund and an Italian Greyhound may measure the same in the length of their backs, but their legs are very different lengths.

There are some companies that specialize in garments specifically for their favorite breeds - we know of one that makes nothing but "jammies" for dogs like Italian Greyhounds and Chinese Cresteds. If you do want to pursue these specialties, they are out there if you search well enough.

Dogs that have "furnishings," or longer fur on their tummies and legs can suffer from "snowballs" adhering to their fur - almost impossible to remove without hurting the dog. Most owners just wait for the snow to melt and brush out the fur as best they can.

For these dogs, we've developed a work-around that suits most dogs very well. Purchase two pairs of children's socks that will cover your dog's legs. Also get a set of toddler or children's suspenders. Cut the toe-end of the socks so you have a tube, slide them onto your dog's legs before you put on his or her coat, and fasten across the dog's back with the suspenders. It's an inexpensive solution to a common furry-dog problem.

© 2009 Hope

How does your dog stay warm?

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    • LoriBeninger profile image


      5 years ago

      @GollyGearHope: Thank you.

    • GollyGearHope profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Skokie, Illinois

      @LoriBeninger: We specialize in small dogs here at - but Fido Fleece coats are available in sizes for all dogs. If you search for "Fido Fleece" you should find some spiffy coats for your pups!

    • LoriBeninger profile image


      5 years ago

      Anything for large dogs (one 65 pounds and one 85 pounds)? Little dogs look so cute with their spiffy jackets.

    • JeffGilbert profile image


      6 years ago

      I've seen sweaters for dogs, I didn't know they had coats. Great lens.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      6 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Our little dog gets cold easily. I bet she would like the down one!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I don't own a dog but I always love to see dogs in coats out for a walk.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 

      7 years ago from New York

      The dog coats you selected are so cute and the dog models are adorable.


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