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Published: Dec 21, 2012

You might have seen some pretty adorable coats and sweaters for dogs out there recently. There are cable knits, Fair Isle patterns, funky fleeces and even some with seasonal patterns like trees or hearts. As cute and fashionable as these sweaters are, you should understand whether your dog actually needs one before you make a purchase.

So, how can you tell? Here are some tips:

Know your breed's origins
One of the best ways to determine whether your canine companion will need to bundle up when going outside is to consider his breed. Dogs such as Bernese mountain dogs, huskies, Saint Bernards and Labrador retrievers have their origins in cold climates, and were bred to trek through drifts of snow or plunge into icy waters. The thick undercoat that kept these dogs warm through these conditions remains today, and insulates them when romping in the snow-covered woods or playing with the kids outside on a chilly day.

In fact, putting a sweater on a dog whose coat is already thick and warm may cause pet health concerns like heat exhaustion, especially if the canine is engaging in aerobic activity. With these breeds, it's best to let their natural coats do the protecting.

Observe your dog
The dogs who benefit from coats and sweaters are small breeds like toy poodles and Dachshunds and those with thin body types, such as greyhounds and whippets, especially since these dogs have short, thin fur. Thin and small breeds have a more difficult time generating their own body heat and keeping it in. Sweaters are a great idea when temperatures start to drop outside, and they might also help keep your canine companion warm inside if you prefer to set the thermostat low to save energy. If you observe your pet shaking, shivering, or huddling up under blankets or against warm objects, a sweater is probably a good investment.

When you're heading out in the rain or other elements, an insulated waterproof coat is usually a good idea for these dogs, too.

Consider pet health
Dogs who are elderly or have a chronic illness are also good candidates for sweaters, especially if a health condition causes weight reduction in dogs. Sweaters can also be used to manage symptoms of arthritis in dogs. According to, protective clothing like sweaters and coats can make winter more bearable for dogs whose joints may get stiff and sore, especially in cold weather.