How to Get Your Dog to Wear a Coat or Sweater

Get your pup to wear his sweater and he'll be the center of attention during your walks.

Get your pup to wear his sweater and he'll be the center of attention during your walks.

When snow starts falling, some canines start shivering. Coats and sweaters keep your pup warm, but getting him to show off his fancy new clothes is a battle. Fortunately, you have treats and praise as your weapons. Making sure his warm clothes fit well always helps, too.

Measure the circumference of your pup's neck and chest and the length from the base of his neck to the base of his tail, and choose clothes that fit accordingly. Your little guy will be much more tolerant of sweaters and coats that fit properly and aren't baggy or excessively tight. You can find the circumference of his neck by wrapping flexible measuring tape around the base of your dog's neck, where his collar rests. For his chest circumference, wrap the tape around the thickest part of your pup's chest.

Show your dog the coat or sweater, and immediately give him treats and praise. As long as you haven't accidentally freaked him out with a coat or sweater before, he should have no idea what it means, so he should just look at it or sniff it as you hold it out. Treats and praise send him a message that the odd object that's about to keep him warm is a good thing. Reintroduce the coat or sweater to him several times a day for two days.

Touch your pup with the coat or sweater. After two days of showing him the garment is completely harmless, it's time to advance to that next stage, which consists of rubbing the coat or sweater along your dog's body. Doing so helps your dog get used to the feel of the material without actually being wrapped up in it. As soon as you touch the coat or sweater to your dog's fur, give him a treat and make a big fuss about it, then pull the coat or sweater away. Touch him again with the clothing, but this time hold it against his fur and act like you're brushing him, but only for a few seconds, then feed him a treat and give him more praise. Hold the coat or sweater against him a little longer each time, repeating the process for about two days.

Put the coat or sweater on your dog. Cheer him on and keep talking to him as you outfit him in his new winter gear. Once it's completely on, give him a treat and continue praising him. Take it off after it's on for about 5 seconds. Put it back on for 10 seconds, and then remove it again. Rinse and repeat, gradually increasing the amount of time your little guy wears his new coat or sweater. Stop at 30 seconds the first day, and see how he does with wearing it for a minute the second day. If he responds positively, he won't have a problem strutting his stuff in his new clothes.

Check the tightness of the coat or sweater, especially at your dog's neck, armpits and the thickest part of his chest. You should always be able to easily fit two fingers between his body and garment. If you can't, the coat or sweater is too tight.

Items you will need

  • Treats
  • Flexible measuring tape

Tips

  • If your dog falls over and acts like he's been shot when you put on his coat or sweater, make sure it isn't too tight. If it's not, ignore him until he gets up, and then take off the garment.
  • If your dog starts jumping or thrashing about as you put the shirt on him, hold him in place until he stops, then remove the shirt. Don't yell at him or get angry; just try again later.
  • PetMD suggests buying a sweater that's a mix of materials, such as wool and cotton, vs. 100 percent wool, as the wool may irritate your dog's skin.
  • Only choose a sweater or coat that either stops at your dog's waist or has a cutout to accommodate his groin area. Some garments are meant to fit from the base of your pup's neck to the base of his tail, but only stretch half that distance along his belly, while others stretch equal distances along your pup's back and belly.

Warning

  • Treats and praise can work in the opposite way you intended. You need to reward your pup as soon as he reacts in a positive or neutral way to the shirt. If you give him a reward at the same time or immediately after he tries to pull away, you're reinforcing his negative behavior.
 

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