Let’s begin with the obvious…
Our furry friends look so super cute when they are dressed up in dog jackets, sweaters and coats. Their beautiful puppy eyes stare back at you as they curl up in dog apparel that keeps them warm on a cold winter’s day. It is truly gorgeous to observe!
But did you know that there are several considerations when seeking out the perfect dog clothes? As a designer and manufacturer of dog apparel, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the things we think about every day as we conceptualise the next super cute winter jacket. Before I get started, please know that I use jacket, coat and sweater interchangeably because there is such a wide variety of apparel on the market. These tips apply to all types of dog clothing.
1.Getting the fit right
Dog coat length
First and foremost there is an ideal dog coat length for your precious pooch. Regardless of whether you have a small dog, or a large dog, any coat should comfortably rest on the back of the neck and extend all they way down your dog’s back, coming to a stop just before their tail starts.
A couple of pointers here:
When I say “the coat should comfortably rest on the back of the neck”, I mean that you should be able to get three of your fingers between the coat and your pet’s fur. The material should definitely not be pressing hard against your dog’s fur, and you should not feel strong pressure on your fingers from the weight of the jacket. Your fingers should just feel… comfortable.
At the other end, it’s important that the jacket doesn’t “hang over” the tail. Ideally you want the jacket to stop just before the tail starts. But I will compromise (just a little bit) on this point. If the fabric is nice and soft, let’s say it’s a woven knit and it hangs gently over the tail by just a small amount, that’s OK, so long as when you observe your dog they are giving you a signal that they are comfortable.
Fitting the chest
If there is one element to getting the perfect dog clothing fit that is challenging, it is fitting a dog across their chest.
Think of deep chested dog breeds like a Boxer, Dobermann, German Shepherd, Irish Setter or Weimaraner. When fitting these dogs, particularly male dogs, often their chest pulls all of the fabric forward, creating a build up of pressure at the back of their neck (hence why I advised above to put three fingers under the coat to check the pressure) and at the same time the fabric bunches up behind their forearms.
Think of yourself wearing a t-shirt too tight; all of the fabric gets stuck in your armpits – you’re trying to move around and swing your arms, and you feel so restricted. And worse still, you start to get horrible chafe because the fabric is rubbing against your skin and starting to make it feel sore.
Unfortunately this too can happen to a dog. If the fit of a jacket is too tight around the chest, often it also means the fabric is too tight behind their forearms. Definitely one to watch out for - and avoid.
Fitting the legs
While skinny jeans for hoomans may be all the rage, let’s not kid ourselves, even your designer dog would opt for casual comfort over dog fashion any day of the week! So it’s important that if you are purchasing dog apparel that extends down the legs, your dog has enough room to feel comfortable and that the fabric has enough stretch over the knee joints.
2. Hot Tips
Should I cover my dog’s paws?
One question I get asked a lot is what I think about covering a dog’s paws. I too love the idea of dog pyjamas where doggie is as snug as a bug in a rug – but not at the expense of their personal safety and comfort.
Personally, I am deeply troubled by a dog’s paws being covered by fabric. Dogs rely on their pads (the underneath of their paws) for stability and to avoid slipping and sliding. Dogs’ pads act like shock absorbers and bear most of the dog’s weight when they are walking, so covering them with fabric is a big no-no in my book.
My tip is always purchase dog apparel where your dog’s paws are completely unrestricted and uncovered by fabric. And if you find a clothing style you love, and the paws are covered – may I suggest you cut them open to create space for the paws to peek through? Your furry friend will thank you for it!
How can I tell if a jacket is safe for my dog?
One thing that I am fanatical about as a designer is safety. Our furbabies are just that – they are our babies and they need to be protected, because as we know, anything and everything ends up in their mouth, especially when they are a puppy.
Think zips, buckles, and other metal or jewellery details – anything that can harm your beautiful canine if it was to attempt to chew an element of the jacket. Choking is one thing, but so too is a cracked tooth, having to pass through an object they have ingested, or just more generally, painfully putting up with rough hardware like zips rubbing and chafing against delicate skin. Really examine the jacket you are buying to ensure it is safe, and when you dog has the jacket on, make sure you are close by to observe and monitor them wearing it.
And while on safety, while I do love a dog hoodie, keep a check on where the hoodie sits on your dog’s face. You want to make sure that the fabric isn’t falling too close to the eyes. Fabric particles can irritate your dog’s eyes causing them to rub and itch their eyes (sometimes with dirty paws) thus compounding the issue. Hoodies should sit back off the face, well clear of eye sockets.
How often should my dog wear their jacket?
While dog clothing is great for warmth and comfort in winter months, most brands design for fashion – think a casual stroll down the street, not ongoing wear over extended timeframes. Unless you live in sub zero temperatures, I would suggest that your dog does not run or sleep in the dog jacket.
I realise this will be met with conjecture from some, so let me be clear… if you are spending $20-$30 on a dog coat, you are not buying a quality jacket, made from premium fabrics, where the fabric fibres offer breathability. More likely you are buying a cheap polyester blend fabric that, while totally fine for short intervals, is not appropriate for running in or sleeping in night after night.
Are dog jackets clean?
It’s really important that you purchase a jacket that’s easy to wash. Like our own clothes, we do want to wash our dog’s sweater regularly – not just at the end of the winter season. Look at the care label to ensure that the dog sweater is machine washable – it just makes life so much easier when you can throw your dog apparel into a washing bag – and then into the washing machine.
Another thing to look out for is how much coverage is offered across the tummy. While you want as much coverage as possible, you don’t want to cover (or get too close to) your doggy’s private bits! Especially with boys… they will end up with a very wet jacket when they wee straight back into their jacket. Not very comfortable and not very clean!
With so much to consider it’s easy to become a bit perplexed as to whether your recent dog clothing purchase was the right one… or whether you should make one at all! So here’s one final thought…
While your dog may not talk to you, they still kinda talk to you. When you put a jacket on them, watch how they move around. Do they look comfortable and relaxed? Do they look proud, like they are standing a bit talker and walking with a bit more purpose?! Or conversely, are they chasing their tail and appearing to go batty right in front of you? (if so get the jacket off them fast).
Watch closely enough and your precious pooch will tell you exactly what they think. They may not talk, but they do communicate :)
This article as written by Melody Townsend, Co-founder and Director of Active Creatures. Luxury sportswear for Woman and Pooch. activecreatures.com