How big is your dog? "Small dogs have a larger surface area to volume ratio," writes Dr. Jennifer Coates for PetMD. "In other words, the smaller dogs are, the more skin they have (in relation to their 'insides') through which to lose heat. There*fore, small dogs get colder more readily than do large dogs all other things being equal."1

How much does she weigh? Just as with thin people, thin dogs get the shivers much faster than dogs with more insulating body fat.

How old is your dog? Puppies and senior and geriatric dogs can't regulate their body temperature as efficiently as healthy adult dogs, so they get much colder, much faster.

How is her health? Dogs with mobility issues or a chronic disease will be at much greater risk for hypothermia in cold weather than healthy dogs.

What type of coat does your dog have? Double-coated dogs, especially northern breeds like Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds, tend to do much better in frigid temps than other breeds. For dogs with thin coats like the Greyhound, the opposite is true.

What color is her coat? Dogs with dark-colored coats absorb lots of heat from the sunlight, so on a bright clear winter day, they will be significantly warmer than their light-coated counterparts.

With all that said, it's important to remember that dogs are individuals, and while yours might meet most or all the criteria for a good "cold weather dog," it's important to stay alert for signs she needs to be taken indoors. These include:


Holding up a paw


Searching for warmth



Slowing down

Lack of mental alertness

Additional Factors That Will Effect How Well Your Dog Handles the Cold
Is it cloudy out or sunny? Overcast days feel colder than sunny days, and in addition, there's no opportunity for dark-coated dogs to absorb sunshine to help them stay warm.

Is it raining or snowing? Any sort of dampness that saturates your dog's coat can quickly drop his body temperature even when it's not terribly cold out.

Is there a wind chill? Windy days can make the temperature feel much colder than the reading on the thermostat. In addition, breezy conditions inhibit the ability of your dog's coat to insulate and protect him from the cold.

Will your dog be exercising while he's outdoors? Your dog's activity level makes a big difference in how quickly he gets cold. Obviously, if he's exercising or playing vigorously, he's generating a good deal of body heat that will protect him from getting cold quickly.

How to Know if Your Dog Needs a Sweater in Cold Weather
One sign that your dog is feeling chilly is a hesitance to go outside to potty. And if she insists on lying on you or in contact with you at bedtime, it's another sign she's looking for warmth. And of course shivering is always a red flag. If your dog is sending "I'm cold" signals, is a small or toy breed, has a short or thin coat, is older and perhaps doesn't get around well, or has a chronic health condition, a sweater or jacket may the best thing for her, including indoors.

Dogs that aren't likely to need sweaters are large breeds with dense coats. In fact, most dogs bred for cold climates can actually overheat in a sweater or jacket. Overweight dogs often don't need extra insulation, either. But breeds like the Chihuahua, many of the terrier and pinscher breeds and the Greyhound, are examples of dogs that often need a little help staying warm.

When picking a sweater for your dog, I recommend a fabric that can be easily washed and dried, and one that won't itch or irritate your pet's skin. You'll want to measure the circumference of your dog's neck and chest, and the length of his body from neck to waist, plus take his weight, so that you can select clothing that fits.

A dog sweater should be snug, but not tight. The length should end at about the waist, leaving the dog's back end free. The neck and leg holes should be big enough that your dog can move freely, but not so big that he can pull his head or a leg out.