With the cold temperatures of winter, it is a question often asked. And it is easy to project our human thoughts and feelings on our furry friends.
But dogs are not human beings and, as many species of animals who live in the wild, much better adapted to the cold than we are.
That said, the answer is not as simple as yes or no, as not all dogs are equal, and it also depends on temperature and many other factors.
Size and age of the dog
Small dogs generally find it more difficult to keep their body heat, in particular those with short hair who often originate from countries with warm climate, and do benefit from wearing a coat outdoors in winter for long walks or if they stay outside for extended periods of time. Amongst these breeds are Chihuahuas, Italian Greyhounds, Whippets, Chinese Crested, Miniature Pinshers, etc.
In a similar way, older dogs or dogs that are sick find it more difficult to keep their body heat, and they may benefit from wearing a coat in cold weather.
Type of fur and undercoat
Short-haired dogs are more prone to feeling the cold, most especially those who do not have an undercoat, whatever their size, this indeed includes larger breeds of dog such as Dobermanns, Greyhounds, and medium sized dogs such as American Hairless Terriers, Salukis, Peruvian Inca Orchids, and the small breeds mentioned previously.
Dogs with a thick natural coat
Dogs who have an undercoat, or/and long or thick fur, whether small, medium or large breeds, really do not need to wear a coat in winter. Some of these breeds actually originate from countries or regions with cold weather or mountains and their fur is designed for low temperatures and snow. These breeds include the Siberian Husky, Greenland Dog, Samoyed, Alaskan Malamute, Chinook, Chow-Chow, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Akita, Australian Shepherd, Labrador Retriever and many others.
Temperature and length of time outdoors
If the outdoor temperature is above 7C, your dog will not need to wear a coat at all, nor for short stays of 10 minutes outdoors. Only put a coat on your dog for long walks in the cold, if you live in a very cold or snowy area and you have a short haired dog, when it's really needed, and not all day.
In most cases, dogs do not need to wear rain coats when it rains. Towel drying your dog after a walk in the rain is better for him than wearing a rain coat which bring discomfort and overheating in some cases.
If it is raining and very cold, and you are taking your dog for a walk, it is best to opt for a coat that is rain resistant but breathable, than for an actual raincoat.
Which coat to choose ?
The comfort of the dog needs to be paramount when choosing a jacket for your dog if he needs one. The coat should fit properly, be snug but not too tight. It mustn't bother or obstruct movement of your dog in any way. It should cover the neck and all the way to the base of the tail, and cover the belly, and it needs to be easy to put on and take off.
Material is also to take into consideration, avoid wool which can be itchy. If you live in a very cold area, and depending on your dog's natural coat, a water-resistant coat with fleece lining can be a good choice. In most other settings, a poly blend jacket is the most suitable.
My dog doesn't want to wear a coat
A dog needs to be confortable in a jacket. If your dog dislikes wearing one, respect this, and do not force things.
Disadvantages of wearing a coat
Putting a coat on a dog that does not need it (even if it feels cold for you their owner) can lead to the dog overheating, not being able to scratch, and even to irritation, allergies and skin damage for some dogs with more sensitive skin.
If you put a coat on your dog outdoors, ensure that you remove it when they come indoors as dogs are not meant to wear any type of coats indoors. They should only ever be worn outdoors in very cold weather, and for short periods of time.