Pet clothing fit: how to size dog sweaters and coats

Dog owners want their pets warm and comfortable in stormy weather. A well-fitting sweater or coat is the perfect solution.


In inclement weather, the pampered pup enjoys wearing a warm sweater or coat on its daily walks,

particularly if it is of the shorthaired variety.  Young puppies, dogs with health problems, and elderly dogs should wear a sweater or coat.  Sizing these garments, however, can be tricky, since pet clothing sizes are not standardized, as are human sizes.

Because of the wide variety of breeds, simply knowing the weight of a dog is not sufficient for choosing a properly fitting coat or sweater.  Knowing the breed is helpful, but accurate measurements are the best way to ensure a good fit.
To measure your pet for a coat or sweater, you will need to take four basic measurements.  First, measure your dog from the base of its neck to the base of its tail.  A small dog such as a Yorkie or a Pomeranian will be about 6 to 8 inches long.  A beagle, Lhaso Apso, or Pekinese will measure about 12 to 14 inches.  A Scottish Terrier or a Cocker Spaniel will measure from 18 to 20 inches.  A large dog, such as a lab, collie, or golden retriever, will probably be 26 to 30 inches or longer.

Next in importance is the girth, or the circumference of the chest at the deepest point, right behind the front legs.  Third, measure around the dog’s neck at the widest point, just above the shoulders.  Finally, sometimes it helps to know the width of the dog’s chest between the front legs.  If the dog does not want to hold still for measuring, find someone to help by talking to it, and petting it to keep it distracted.

The main measurement needed for most size charts is the length of the dog from the base of the neck to the base of the tail.  The girth measurement is also important, however, because if the clothing item is too large in the girth, the dog will get tangled up in it.  If the coat or sweater is too small in the girth, it will be too tight and your dog will be uncomfortable.  If you are using a size chart and your dog’s measurements fall between two sizes, choose the one that will fit its girth properly.  

Some companies specialize in coats for small breeds.  Measure carefully, because their size charts may indicate an “large” for a medium-sized Chihuahua!   Obviously, small, medium and large will not always refer to small, medium, or large dogs.  For instance, the largest dog T-shirt sold at the local discount store, called an “x-large,” is only 14 inches long and 18 inches in girth – about the right size for a beagle or a toy poodle.   

A sweater, if it is long enough, is more likely to cover a dog’s bare abdomen than a coat is.  It may be harder to put on, however, since coats are often made with easy fasteners.  Coats and sweaters are available with hoods, and a few are made with sleeves.  Water repellent raincoats are available as well.  Look for quick fasteners and wide armholes for ease of movement.  Durable, washable fabric is also a must.  For real comfort when walking in rainy weather, you can purchase a leash/umbrella combination that keeps the dog protected beneath its own umbrella.

Small breeds that have a single layer of hair tend to lose heat and will benefit much by having a warm sweater or coat.  Some dogs become uncomfortably cool at temperatures as high as 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  

In very cold, snowy weather, all dogs benefit from a set of dog boots.  These protect their feet from ice and salt.  If they don’t like dog boots, you can apply a thick layer of baby oil or petroleum jelly to their paws.  Another way to protect a dog’s feet is to clear away the snow from an area in the yard where the dog may relieve itself.  Some pets are reluctant to step into snow and will resist eliminating if the snow is too deep.

While a sweater or coat is essential for the small shorthaired dog, it is also useful for longhaired dogs, because it will keep snow out of the dog’s hair and keep it clean.  Indoor dogs do not grow the thick winter coats that outdoor dogs grow, and they tend to shed their extra hair year-round instead of only in the spring.  The extra warmth of a well-fitting coat or sweater will feel good for these pets during their outdoor activities.