JoAnna Lou
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Canine Couture
Does your dog really need that coat?

Dog clothing ranges from frilly dresses to warm fleece coats. The popularity of canine couture has even given way to the annual Pet Fashion Week. But, given that most dogs have fur, are these outfits really necessary?

According to Dr. Bonnie Beaver of the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs don’t get sick when the mercury drops since there is no cold virus that affects them. She says that unless your pup is tiny with short hair, dogs are rarely bothered by freezing temperatures. But Beaver stresses that clothing can be potentially dangerous. 

Some dogs, like many northern breeds, regulate their body temperature with an insulating layer of fur that lifts off their bodies in warm weather and pulls in close to trap heat in cold weather. Putting clothes on these dogs can lead to heat stroke.

Clothes can also restrict movement, hurting joins and muscles, or get caught in long hair, causing discomfort. 

My pups only have two items of clothing, a cool coat for warm weather and a rain coat, though I can’t say that I haven’t been tempted by cute canine outfits. Fortunately for my dogs, most clothes look funny on hairy Shelties.

Certainly most dogs don’t really need any clothes, but I do agree that there are some dogs that may need some extra warmth in the winter. 

What do you think about canine clothing?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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Submitted by siennastaffie | February 11 2010 |

I have to say Sienna needs a coat. She has no fur on her belly, just skin. And the rest of her fur is very short. She shivers at times. So if it's cold out, she won't walk if she's not wearing a coat. I usually go by how I feel--if I need more than a light sweater or shirt, then she needs a jacket on. And the wind factors in too.

Submitted by SmartDogs | February 11 2010 |

Some breeds other than short-haired toy dogs benefit from a winter coat. I live in Minnesota and I've got a kelpie, a dog bred to live and work in the desert. When temperatures dip into single digits and below, she suffers without a coat. I also had a geriatric Leonberger who wore a coat when temps dipped. Zorro had various health problems that reduced his ability to cope effectively with the cold.

A well-fitting coat or sweater certainly doesn't hurt most dogs, so I think that if you're using it for the dog's sake instead of as a fashion statement - by all means, get a coat for your dog.

Submitted by FJM | February 12 2010 |

I have tinies - a papillon and a toy poodle. I find dressing dogs up in frilly baby clothes, silly costumes and expensive "designer" clothes freakish - decidedly a triumph of marketing and human daftness over canine good sense! (I recently saw for sale a special bone-shaped mini hanging rail to display your dogs wardrobe on!) Having said that, I did ask a friend to knit a couple of jumpers for mine after they came home from several walks wet and shivering with cold. The jumpers are extremely simple - from a helpful free internet pattern - made of wool so they stay warm even when wet, and soft and stretchy enough not to interfere with running and playing. I rarely need to use them, but the dogs don't mind putting them on, and the jumpers have been very helpful when the snow and slush was up to their tummies this winter.

Submitted by Maura | February 12 2010 |

I think some dogs definetly need warm clothing. I have a IG mix and a chihuahua and on days we have agility matches in the winter and we're out in the cold all day, they welcome a warm fleece to snuggle up in their crate with. I would never make my dogs do a full workout in clothing, since they make it obvious that they are more comfortable running aorund with no sweaters on and they do get warm when moving. I think it just depends on the pooch and how much hair he/she has.

Submitted by Braut's Mom | February 15 2010 |

Dog costumes can be fun and adorable, but I don't think they should be left on a pet when they are alone. They can get caught or snagged, causing your dog to panic or pull something down on them.

But a well-fitting winter coat for a winter dog? We have one for our Dachshund for winter walks, especially if there's a threat of rain.

He doesn't ever seem to notice the cold, though. So maybe it only makes us feel warmer. :-)

Submitted by Cecil V | October 4 2010 |

Our large 80 pound boxer, Nikita, used to paw at the blanket in winter. The first time she tried a hoodie, she loved it. Does a large dog like Nikita need clothes? No. Does she enjoy wearing clothes? Absolutely!

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