Winter wardrobe

Working on the GILL x charity project to create a waterproof dog coat prompted some wider thinking about what really makes sense for the breeds that benefit from a winter coat.

While our dogs (mostly!) come with their own weatherproof fur coats, there’s no doubt that there are some who need a bit of help when it comes to staying dry and warm. Couple that with the unpredictability of the British climate, and our dogs’ desires to be out in all weathers – and of course their passion to be doing whatever we are doing and our desire to not have a dripping wet dog on the sofa! – and it’s easy to see there are benefits to having a good quality dog coat to hand.

Choosing the perfect dog coat, however, can be as much of a mystery as choosing the perfect harness or bed, so how do you decide what would be right for your dog?

First of all, it has to be comfortable – that must always be the number one consideration. You need to find a coat that fits properly, that has padding or soft material at key places and contact points to ensure it won’t rub their chest, neck, or under their stomach or legs, that it has a design that won’t slip, and that allows your dog total freedom of movement. They need to be able to move their shoulders fully without any restriction and be able to fully stretch their backs, even when running at full speed.

The lining should be soft and not itchy or hard (imagine you were choosing a jumper for yourself here), and the outside has to be flexible, so it moves with the dog.

Then be clear in what you need the coat to do – so ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do you have a thin-skinned dog who feels the cold?
  • A dog who hates getting wet and won’t go out if there is even a drip of rain?
  • Do you have a mud magnet and you want to try and keep them a little bit cleaner?
  • Or are you about to head off on an extreme sports adventure in the middle of winter?
  • Will your dog be running and being active – or do they just want to hang around with you and be warm and dry?
  • Is this for dark winter walks – and if so, do you need the coat to have enhanced visibility so your dog can be seen?

Once you’re clear on this, you can choose something that will fulfil you and your dog’s needs.

Don’t forget that active dogs will warm up quickly whatever the weather (and many of our more popular breeds were designed to work all day in all weathers in the harshest winters) – and so while you might want to wrap up in plenty of layers, it’s easy for your fur-coated dog, who might be running 10x further than you in the excitement of the great outdoors and with the joy of all the sights and sniffs, to overheat very quickly.

Remember that dogs can’t sweat, and so for an active dog, any coat you use has to be extremely breathable and let the air in and the heat out. Even then, watch your dog when you are out and look out for signs they are overheating (this is quite possible even if you are freezing cold and dripping wet!).

Also think about how the coat goes on. Most dogs don’t like things pulled over their ears and so a coat that you can put on and then fasten around your dog is usually preferable – and try to avoid particularly noisy clips that can be startling, especially if they are near your dog’s ears, or ones that your dog’s coat (or worse, skin) could get caught in. A coat should be easy to put on and simple to take off, as you might have to do this while you are out and about.

Be aware that you will need to be able to clip a lead onto your dog when they have the coat on – so make sure this is possible.

And of course, it helps if it looks good too!

Just like good outdoor clothing can transform our outdoor experiences, a well-chosen dog coat can help your best friend stay warm and dry – and make sure they don’t bring too much of the great outdoors back inside with them!

12 thoughts on “Winter wardrobe”

  1. Do Jack Russell’s need coats? Mine can be desperate to wee but one inch out of the door if it’s raining and he’ll be back in steam coming out of his ears for as the rain takes to stop!! He has a Barbour dog coat. Is that a good type coat?

  2. Thank you for the above, I have been looking for a suitable lightweight waterproof coat for my 15 year old springer. He is still pretty active but does get cold now if he becomes too wet and then has to dry off when he comes back indoors. It has been difficult to find just a basic coat and the hugely varied sizing is tricky to navigate.
    Where can I find the coat in the picture??

    I don’t like that so many have stand up collars which I feel is unnecessary and also gets in the way when playing in the bushes and undergrowth. I do find that after about twenty minutes he does warm up enough to remove his present coat but needs something back on back home. I used to put him in a warm dogbath but this is a bit awkward for both of us in our old age. He can no longer jump in it and at 24kg I cant lift him in.!

    • Hi Andrea, we’ve recently teamed up with Gill to create a 2-in-1 dog coat that is constructed with lightweight, waterproof, and breathable fabric. Added bonus – the material used is surplus off-cut fabric from Gills OS2 Offshore range, meaning this coat is not only great for dogs but also for the environment 🙌 You can shop our X Gill dog coat here: 🐾

  3. I think you also need to ask yourself if you need a harness hole. Our pooch is a very nervous, jumpy dog (rescue greyhound) who needs a sturdy harness which incorporates a handle (for me to grab if necessary). I have been caught out with coats a couple of times as she needs one which accommodates the leader being attached to her harness clip which is in the middle of her back not at the neck. I could put the harness over the coat but as it takes a while to dry prefer the coat over the harness.

  4. Thank you for all the comments and advice. I had hoped that this article would have given recommendations as Good Housekeeping or Mumsnet do, with a selection of coats for the different situations listed above.

    • Hi Doreen, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve recently teamed up with Gill to create a 2-in-1 dog coat! It is constructed with lightweight, waterproof, and breathable fabric so your dog will be happy and cosy in the elements this winter. Added bonus – the material used is surplus off-cut fabric from Gills OS2 Offshore range, meaning this coat is not only great for dogs but also for the environment 🙌 You can shop our X Gill dog coat here: 🐾

  5. Very informative and brings possible things into prospective when thinking of a coat for your dog like allowing them not to be overheated .but comfortable and protected from the elements


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