Do Dogs Need Coats?

The information in this article was reviewed and approved by registered veterinary nurse, Beth Walker

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker

Over the winter months, some dogs can start to feel the cold and will benefit from a helping hand to keep warm. Dog coats can therefore be a good idea in some cases, but not all dogs will need one. Here is our guide to deciding whether your dog needs a coat in winter and how to choose a good one.

Which Dog Breeds Need Coats in Winter?

There are several physical characteristics that make certain dog breeds more likely to suffer when the temperature drops. If your dog falls into any of the categories below, then they may benefit from a coat over winter.

Thickness of Fur

Dogs with thin coats like Yorkshire Terriers will feel the cold more easily because their fur will not offer much in the way of protection. This also applies to breeds of dog that commonly have clipped coats to avoid matting, such as poodles.

All breeds of dog have different coat types. These include silky, smooth, wire, wool and double coats. How well-adapted a dog’s coat is to controlling their body temperature is dependent on where they were bred and what they are bred to do.


Small dog breeds are usually unable to cope with cold weather without some help to stay warm. This is because they have a larger surface area to volume ratio than larger dogs. Relatively speaking then, they have a bigger area to lose heat through, and a smaller area to store it. Small dogs like chihuahuas are even more at risk of cold if they are of the short-haired variety.

Body Fat

Dogs with a lean physique are similarly ill-equipped to deal with cold weather. This includes whippets and greyhounds, both of whom are prone to shivering in the cold. Body fat is a good insulator, which is why thin dogs will feel the cold more.

Medical Conditions

Dogs with compromised immune systems and conditions that affect hair growth (such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease) are also likely to benefit from wearing a doggy coat in the winter.

Coat Colour

Another factor to consider is coat colour. Darker coats are able to absorb more heat from sunlight, so brown, black and dark grey dogs may be plenty warm enough on a clear winter’s day, but not on an overcast one.


Puppies and older dogs of any breed may also benefit from dog coats. They often struggle to control their body temperature as effectively as mid-life stage dogs.


How cold a dog gets also depends on what they are doing. For example, dogs going on long walks in the rain may benefit from a raincoat to keep them dry. Some pet owners also like to use coats before and after dog sports to help keep their dog’s muscles warm. A drying towel coat is also a great option for dogs who have just been swimming, as their temperature may drop quickly from being in the water. However, many dogs will probably not need a coat for a run around the park on a brisk winter’s morning.

Cold Weather Dog Breeds

Dogs with thick fur coats are unlikely to need a coat, especially if they are a larger breed. They may actually overheat if they wear one. This is because their natural fur coat is designed to keep them warm – even in bitter conditions – and they therefore do not require any additional protection against the elements. Some examples of dog breeds that are unlikely to need dog coats are:

  • St Bernards
  • Akitas
  • Bernese mountain dogs
  • German shepherds
  • Newfoundlands
  • Siberian Huskies

How to Know if your Dog is Cold

It’s worth remembering that all dogs are unique, and so there’s no set rule about which breeds should wear a coat in the winter. Look out for the following signs that your dog is cold, and always head inside to warm up if you see any displayed. These are also signs that your dog would benefit from a coat for their next winter walk:

  • Shivering or shaking
  • Seeming anxious
  • Hunched posture with a tucked tail
  • Whining
  • Slowing down
  • Lifting one or more paws off the ground
  • Seeking out shelter
  • Reluctance to keep walking or attempting to turn back

Tips For Choosing Dog Coats

Wool is very warm and is commonly used in dog coats but this will not necessarily be a good choice for all dogs. Wool can be itchy on your dog’s skin, for example. A combination of wool and cotton may be a better option if your dog does not find it comfortable to wear a wool coat.

A padded or fleece-lined coat will provide extra insulation for dogs that get very cold.

Whatever material you choose, the coat should be a snug fit without being uncomfortably tight. Read our blog on How to Measure a Dog for a Coat for more on how to ensure the perfect fit.

Make sure the coat you choose is machine washable for an easy clean after a muddy walk.

You’ll also want to make sure it’s easy to get on and off your dog. If your dog is a bit of a fidgeter, a dog coat that does up with Velcro is ideal.

Some coats have ‘sleeves’ on the legs but this can hinder movement and be unnerving for your dog, especially if your dog has never previously worn a coat. See what your dog is comfortable with and go from there. We have a range of different dog coats available at Animed Direct to choose from.

Wrapping Up: Do Dogs Need Coats?

While many dog breeds will not need a dog coat in the UK at any time of year, there are many that will benefit from wearing one. Smaller breeds, those with thinner fur and older dogs will all feel the cold more. It’s important to consider the needs of your individual dog, as they are all different! Speak to your vet if you are still unsure whether your dog should be wearing a coat, or if you are concerned that your dog is feeling the cold more than usual.

Does your dog wear a coat during the winter? We’d love to know!