The Dog Jacket: Canine Warmth, Comfort, and Safety

A shivering dog could benefit from a snug, warm jacket.
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Whether your dog’s idea of an adventure is a walk around the block or summiting a 14er in Colorado, dog jackets can keep him comfortable and safe on the trail or in the water. There are nearly as many dog jacket styles as there are human outerwear styles, with insulated jackets to help keep dogs warm, rain jackets to keep dogs dry, life jackets to give dogs extra buoyancy in the water, and hunting jackets to make dogs more visible in the field. Choosing the right dog jacket requires knowledge of your dog, his needs, and what each style of jacket is designed to do.

Insulated & Waterproof Dog Jackets: Keeping Him Warm, Dry, and Comfy

Your shivering dog may be trying to tell you something: if you feel the sting when you step outside, there’s a good chance your dog does, too, unless she is a “Northern” breed—a Saint Bernard, Malamute, or German Shepherd, for example. And if you’ll navigate deep snow with a short-legged breed this winter, she’ll be in it up to her armpits. A winter dog coat or jacket is essential if your dog:

  • Is a small breed
  • Is light-bodied
  • Naturally sports a thin or short coat (a Greyhound or Whippet, for example)
  • Has a long coat you keep groomed short
  • Is chronically ill
  • Is a senior with a weaker immune system

And if your healthy adult dog is accustomed to cold-weather hiking, packing along a warm, waterproof dog jacket is good insurance for an unexpected turn in the weather far from the trailhead.

At What Temperature Does a Dog Need a Coat?

Small dogs and short-coated dogs will likely need a jacket when temperatures get into the mid-40s Fahrenheit (around 7°C). However, whether a dog needs a jacket at a specific temperature is specific to that dog and the activity. It’s best to pay attention to how your dog acts at different temperatures while doing different levels of activities to estimate at what temperature your dog will need a coat.

A good life jacket, with a handle, will make you feel more comfortable around the water.

The Dog Life Jacket: Keeping Him Safe Around the Water

Does My Dog Really Need a Life Jacket?

Life jackets enhance safety for all dogs around water, no matter how good they are at swimming. Because life jackets enhance safety across the board, are necessary for dogs to be the safest they can be. Accidents can happen anywhere there’s water: rivers, lakes, or right outside your back door in the family swimming pool. A dog can easily take an unsanctioned leap from a boat or a dock, or lose his footing in rough water. And even water-loving dogs—Retrievers and Labs, for example—can struggle in the water if they’re old, sick, overweight, or out of shape. Nor should you assume your dog can swim: he may not possess the skills, or he may have lost consciousness if he bumped his head, or suffered hypothermia when he went in—a condition that limits the mobility of even the most agile swimmer.

Modern dog life jackets are low-profile, comfortable, and buoyant, and come equipped with a handle to help you rescue a dog in distress quickly and effectively. If your lifestyle includes recreation on or near the water with your dog, keeping him in a dog flotation vest is the kindest, safest practice.

During hunting season, at night, or in the woods at any time, a blaze-orange vest is a must.
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The Orange Dog Vest: Keeping Him Visible at Night and on the Trail

A dog jacket in blaze orange is a necessity to keep your dog safe if you live or hike in or near hunting country, and it’s a smart practice for yourself, too. But the orange hunting vest for dogs has other applications. Its singular purpose is to make your dog more visible: if you routinely walk or run with your dog at night, or if you strike out on a grey day, a blaze orange vest with reflective tape will help cars and others see him—an “invisible” dog can be a navigational hazard to even a cyclist or another runner.

Your dog may not care how he looks, but the right dog jacket will keep him warm, safe, and protected on all his doggone adventures.

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