Do Dogs Really Need Coats and Boots? How to Protect Them When It’s Cold

A cute dog in a denim jacket and sunglasses runs merrily down the street. Golden retriever in clothes creative photo
© Kashaeva Irina/Shutterstock.com

Written by Drew Wood

Published: June 10, 2024

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Maybe you’re one of those people who dresses your dog in cute outfits. Or maybe you’re one of those people who make fun of those people who dress their dogs in cute outfits. Either way, this article is for you. And right up front, we’ll tell you yes, depending on the breed and weather, your dog might need to wear dog clothes and boots. Join us as we explain why.

But They’re Animals, They Have Fur!

Admittedly, this dog does not look happy in his raincoat. But do you look happy in your raincoat?

©Masarik/Shutterstock.com

We hear the protests already. Putting clothes on animals is unnecessary. That’s why animals have fur. If you put clothes on them they’ll overheat. Clothes restrict their movements and can rub uncomfortably. There is some truth to all of those objections, but it just speaks to the fact that an owner has to be judicious and attentive so that any clothing they put on the dog fits properly and is suitable for the temperature and weather conditions.

Dogs Are Modified Animals

Different dogs isolated on white

©Dora Zett/Shutterstock.com

There are over 400 breeds of dogs in the world and the number grows every year.

Yes, dogs are animals, but they are highly modified animals, bred for thousands of years to serve human needs. And because human needs are so diverse, dog helpers have been bred for diverse characteristics as well. Need a watchdog, a sheepherder, a guide dog, a babysitter for your kids, or something funny to keep your mood up? There’s a dog breed for you.

What this also means is that narrowly, selectively bred breeds can have a host of problems: hip dysplasia, eye issues, skin infections, breathing problems, or . . . too little fur to insulate them from the weather. That’s why some dogs need clothes, just like humans with too little fur do.

Dog Breeds that Suffer in the Cold

Harlequin Great Dane (4 years) and Chihuahua

©Eric Isselée/iStock via Getty Images

Chihuahuas and Great Danes both benefit from the extra warmth of a coat or sweater on chilly days.

Thinking of dogs that might need a sweater, the first that come to mind are small, shivering breeds like the Chihuahua or the Yorkshire terrier. Those definitely need warming up in cold weather, but some larger breeds do as well. Boxers, greyhounds, French bulldogs, poodles, and Great Danes are examples of more physically substantial breeds that might appreciate a coat on a frigid day.

What About Dog Boots?

corgi in rainboots

Few things are funnier than a dog in boots!

©iStock.com/Nataba

Surely, boots are taking it too far. Have you ever actually put boots on your dog and seen how bewildered and miserable it is trying to walk in them? Isn’t it just a selfish owner trying to make it more convenient for themselves not to have to wipe their feet before bringing them in?

Summertime

Actually, dogs may need boots both in hot or cold weather. Their paws are soft and can get cut on sharp rocks, nails, or glass. In the summer, they can burn their feet on hot asphalt or cement. Boots can also protect allergy-prone dogs because, believe it or not, some dogs are allergic to grass!

Winter

When it’s cold out, they can get frostbite, cracked pads, and irritation from road salt and de-icing chemicals. So the need for doggie footwear really depends on how long your dog will stay outside and in what kind of terrain. And they do get used to wearing them for a while and in some cases might even refuse to go outside without them!

How to Get Your Dog to Dress for the Weather

Happy dog wearing pink warm knitted sweater playing at fine fall (autumn) day

©alexei_tm/Shutterstock.com

Once they get used to wearing clothes, your dog will enjoy the warmth and the attention they bring.

So you’re convinced. Some dogs—maybe even your dog—should wear shoes and clothes to protect them from extreme weather and rough terrain. But it’s easier said than done. What do you do if your puppy protests as much as a 2-year-old child at wearing clothes? Here’s 4 tips:

1. Get your dog comfortable with handling its paws. Whether you’re putting on boots or pulling its legs through sleeves, or clipping nails, your dog has to tolerate you holding and moving its paws. Start by gently holding and rubbing one paw at a time when your dog is calm. Tempting as it is, don’t tickle your dog’s feet as that will make them shy away.

2. Introduce clothing to your dog. Let the dog smell the coat, sweater, or boots. Then, put them close to its bed, food, or toys so that they become familiar parts of the pet’s environment. All the associations with this gear should be pleasant and connected with rewards.

3. Put them on for short periods. The first time you put clothes or shoes on your dog, it’s likely to resist and then immediately try to take them off. With boots, they will often walk with high steps trying to get used to these things on their feet. Some dogs will flop over and refuse to walk with boots on (which is humorously called “booty paralysis.”)

4. Reward your little guy for a job well done. Give your pup high praise and treats for wearing his gear. When you take it off, follow it up with a good scratching of all the itchy places—which of course means every place—on the dog. Soon, your puppy will realize when the coats come out, the good times are starting!

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About the Author

Drew Wood is a writer at A-Z Animals focusing on mammals, geography, and world cultures. Drew has worked in research and writing for over 20 years and holds a Masters in Foreign Affairs (1992) and a Doctorate in Religion (2009). A resident of Nebraska, Drew enjoys Brazilian jiu-jitsu, movies, and being an emotional support human to four dogs.

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