Whether your pooch needs to sport a trendy sweater during your jaunt to the park depends on your dog. The jury is still out on whether most dogs must have cold-weather gear, but experts tend to agree that clothing can help shivering pups stay warm and cozy.
A Hairy Question
Dogs tend to have a built-in sweater: their fur. However, some dogs are better equipped to handle cold weather than others. If your furry friend is very furry, with long, thick hair or a double coat, chances are he's totally comfortable outside in cold weather. However, breeds with lightweight coats, such as Chihuahuas and greyhounds, can often benefit from some clothing. Watch your dog closely, and if you notice him becoming resistant to going outside in cold weather -- stalling at the door, for example -- or shivering after you've been outside for a few minutes, a coat might be as helpful for him as it is for you.
Other Chilly Dogs
If your dog naturally has a fluffy, warm coat, but you consistently have it groomed short, which is often the case with breeds such as poodles, using a sweater or jacket can make your pooch more comfortable in cold weather. Some elderly dogs have trouble regulating their body temperatures and could use a little external assistance, as can dogs with certain health problems, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease.
The main problem with dog couture is that dogs' bodies heat up as they exercise, just like yours does -- but dogs can't take off layers when they need to. For a gentle walk, a sweater might be just the thing to take the edge off the chill for short-haired breeds. However, a game of fetch at the park can lead to your pup overheating. As his body heats up during exercise, the heat dissipates naturally through his skin. However, wearing clothes compresses the fur and insulates the body, keeping heat in. Take off your dog's gear before letting him romp and play to let his excess body heat escape.
Picking a breathable fabric, such as cotton, helps your pup's skin breath while giving him an extra layer of cold weather protection. It's also soft and easy to wash. Make sure the clothes fit well -- not too loose, not to tight -- and that there aren't any strings hanging free that could get caught on something or trip your pooch. Also ensure that the clothing does not interfere with your pet's ability to do his "business." For a dog who likes to play in the snow, consider getting him some booties to match his sweater. These keep ice balls from forming in the hair around his paws and keep deicing salt off his paw pads. The salt can cause painful cracking and bleeding on the pads, which usually requires a trip to the vet.