How to Buy the Right Dog Coat

west highland terrier standing outside wearing a dog coat

Having a coat on hand for your dog can help keep them warm while they are out and about with you in the cold. You bundle up to go outside when the temperatures drop, so why not do the same for your dog? Here’s how to buy the right dog coat:

Does Your Dog Need to Wear a Jacket?

Not all dogs need a jacket in the wintertime. So, before you buy a dog coat, consider whether your dog actually needs one. Most dog breeds, especially small breeds, will benefit from having a dog coat, but some dogs don’t need them.

Dogs That Need to Wear a Jacket

Puppies, small dog breeds, dogs with thin or short-haired coats, short-legged dogs, older dogs, and dogs with illnesses, especially heart or kidney issues, should have winter gear to help keep them warm when the temperatures start dropping. These dogs tend to get cold easier, so they need the extra help to ward off the chill during winter.

Regardless of the temperature, make sure to keep an eye on your dog when they are wearing a jacket or sweater for signs of overheating or discomfort. You want to help keep your pup warm and dry, but you also want to make sure they’re not getting too warm either.

Dogs That Don’t Need to Wear a Jacket

Dogs that generally don’t need to wear a jacket in the winter are larger breeds that have thick coats of fur to protect them. The Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Saint Bernard, German Shepherd, Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, and more all fall into this category.

These “winter dog breeds” originated in wintery, cold conditions and their coats keep them warm in blustery, wintery conditions. Several of them love to play in the snow and tend to enjoy the cold. Bundling these dogs up with an extra jacket or sweater often just makes them uncomfortable.

However, once they enter their senior years, they may start needing a sweater. Some might need one as they age and some might not; it all depends on your dog.

How do You Measure Your Dog for a Coat?

It’s important to get a dog coat that fits your dog properly. This ensures they can move comfortably in the coat and that it will not contribute to injuries. Coats that are not well-fitted can be too tight and can cause discomfort, difficulty moving, and chafing. Improperly-fitted coats can also be too big, which can also cause discomfort and can increase the risk of your dog getting tangled in the coat or caught on something.

Making sure you have the right measurements for your dog helps you get the right dog coat for them. You will need at least four measurements to get the right fit – length, chest, girth, and neck. Here’s how to measure your dog for a coat:


Your dog’s coat should cover them properly. Part of getting the right-sized coat is knowing how long it needs to be. To measure the length of your dog for a coat, use a tape measure, yardstick, or fabric tape measure to measure from the base of where your dog’s collar sits to the base of their tail.

You’ll get the most accurate measurement when your dog is in a relaxed standing position. If you don’t have a tape measure, you can also use a piece of string or a shoelace to measure and then compare it to a yardstick to get a measurement for length.

Chest & Girth

You also want to make sure your dog’s coat will fit around them and cover their sides. To get the proper fit this way, you want to measure the chest and girth of your dog. When they are on a relaxed standing position, use a tape measure or piece of string to measure around your dog’s chest.

You want to measure the widest part of their chest right behind their front legs. Then, you’ll get another measurement around the middle of their body where their stomach is as this will give you the girth of your dog.


Another useful measurement is your dog’s neck. This will help you make sure the dog coat you choose has a neck opening large enough for your dog to be comfortable. Use a fabric tape measure or piece of string and measure around your dog’s neck where their collar would normally sit. If you already have a well-fitted dog collar, you can also measure your dog’s collar in order to get a good measurement for your dog’s neck.

What Things Should You Look for in a Dog Coat?

Once you know your dog’s measurements, it’s time to start looking for the right dog coat. Having the measurements for sizing will help you narrow down the options, but you will still have a lot to choose from. Here are some other things to look for in a dog coat:

1. Material

The material of your dog’s coat can make a big difference in how comfortable it is to wear and how well it keeps your dog warm. The right material for your dog’s coat will depend a lot on your area’s climate. After all, a wet and milder climate requires a different jacket than one with subzero temperatures. Many of the features you look for in your dog’s coat will be similar to what you look for in one for yourself like waterproofing or water resistance, wind blocking, reflectors, and insulation.

Aside from that, you also want to make sure the dog coat you choose is washable and consider how easy it will be to put on and take off. A washable dog coat means you can keep your dog’s coat clean and help it last longer. There are also a ton of ways dog coats are put on a dog and kept on. Some dog coats slip on, others clip on, some have adjustable straps, others use velcro, and more. What’s right for you will depend on you and your dog, but you do want to go with something that’s easy for you to use and that’s also comfortable for your dog.

2. Type of Dog Coat

You also want to consider the type of dog coat. You want to make sure your dog is properly covered, but you also want to consider the style and fit of the coat as well. Different types of coats offer different fits and can be better-suited to dogs with different body types. Here are two common types of dog coats:

Jacket-Syle Dog Coat

A jacket-style dog coat tends to slip on or fasten around your dog in some manner. With this style of dog coat, your dog’s chest and shoulders, as well as their stomach and thighs, should be covered. This is a great option for short-legged dog breeds and small dogs whose stomachs are close to the ground and could brush against the snow.

Blanket-Style Dog Coat

A blanket-style dog coat tends to lay over your dog’s back and then droop over your dog’s sides to help keep them warm. With this style of dog coat, your dog’s back, shoulder, and sides should be covered, but it does not wrap around the stomach. This is a great option for taller, barrel-chested dogs who don’t need their stomachs completely covered.

3. Compatible with Other Accessories

You also want to consider how compatible the dog coat will be with other accessories. If your dog wears a collar and/or a dog harness, will they be able to wear the coat comfortable with those items? How does the coat interact with a leash? Think about everything your dog normally has to “wear” when they leave the house with you and then make sure the dog coat you choose will work well and still fit properly with those items.

Bundling up in the winter as needed is one of the winter safety tips for dogs. If your dog needs a coat, getting the right fit is important for their overall comfort. But, buying the right coat is more than just the right fit, it’s also about the right type, material, and more that works best for your dog. With these tips for how to buy the right dog coat, you’re one step closer to finding the perfect fit!