Pet stores are filled with warm, fluffy, and down-right adorable jackets you can put on your dog on a cold fall or winter day. Some owners love these pieces of canine attire purely for the way they look, while others invest in them out of necessity. However, buying the jacket is easy; getting your dog to wear it is much harder.
The best way to get your dog to wear a jacket is to introduce it to them slowly by letting them sniff it, slipping it on without fastening it, and keeping it on briefly at first. Be sure to give them lots of praise and treats throughout this process, so they learn to like wearing their jacket, not dread it.
Read on for a complete guide on how to get your dog to wear a jacket and even enjoy their warm or decorative attire. We’ll also discuss which dogs need jackets under certain circumstances and which breeds can handle extreme temperatures without them.
Steps to Get Your Dog to Wear a Jacket
Putting a jacket on your dog easily and getting them to wear it comfortably can be a challenge. The best way to ensure this becomes an effortless process routinely is to take it slow at first so your dog can acclimate to the jacket and learn to associate it with positive behavior or rewards. Here is a step-by-step process of how to achieve this.
Buy an Appropriately Fitting Jacket
The first step in ensuring your dog will not only let you put their jacket on but also enjoys wearing it is to purchase one that fits them properly. If a jacket is too small, it will inhibit your dog’s ability to walk and function properly. However, if it is too big, it will be loose, and your dog could trip over the jacket, or the hanging material might distract them.
Many jackets will be labeled by the appropriate dog weight they are suited for. Other products will provide a range of neck, back-length, and girth measurements suitable for the wearer. You can easily measure these on your own dog, or refer to the chart here provided by Ultra Paws that matches all of these measurements and weights to specific dog breeds.
Some brands sell jackets without any indicators of suitable weight or measurements. Since this means you have no way of knowing if the product will fit your dog appropriately, we suggest you avoid purchasing these products.
Introduce Them to the Jacket
After you have purchased a jacket that will fit your dog and is comfortable (meaning there is no scratchy Velcro or strings that will rub against them during use), you can introduce them to their new attire.
A good way to start this on a positive note would be to either wash the jacket or rub it on something with your dog’s scent, like a blanket they sleep on or their dog bed. This will remove foreign smells from the jacket and replace it with your dog’s own scent, which will be much more comforting and help the pup realize the jacket is there’s.
Start introducing the jacket to your dog by simply laying it in front of them and letting them sniff and examine the jacket. If you’ve done “touch” training with your dog, this is a good time to use it and have them simply touch the jacket.
Any time they show positive interest in the attire, praise and treat them. You want to start associating the jacket with these rewards, so your dog sees it as something positive to have around.
Differentiate Tool from Toy
You want your dog to like their jacket, but they need to understand that this isn’t like their stuffed animals or rope toys. This is a tool for them, just like a leash. When you are introducing the jacket at first, you want your dog to be interested in it, but not confuse it with a new toy.
One of the best ways to differentiate them is to keep any dog jackets separate from things your dog can play with. Try to store any jackets with other dog tools like their brush, nail clippers, and leash in an area or container your dog can’t access.
If your dog ever gets a hold of their jacket and starts playing with it, train a firm “leave it” or “drop” command so they let go of the jacket and learn it is not something to be played with. This will make things easier for you later when you start trying to put the jacket on.
If your dog thinks the jacket is a toy, then any time you try to put it on, they’re going to think it’s playtime and will potentially pounce around and avoid you like a game of chase, or worse, they’ll grab the jacket for a game of keep-away or tug-of-war.
Don’t Force it
Before we get into the process of trying to put the jacket on your dog, it is crucial to establish this point. You do not want to force this jacket on your dog at any point in this process. The worst thing you can do is restrain your dog so you can put the jacket on or leaving it on your dog when they are clearly uncomfortable. The mindset that “they’ll just get used to it” can be extremely damaging here.
Not only can forcing the jacket onto your dog damage them mentally, but it will also reduce their trust in you as the owner and cause a permanent aversion to all jackets. The slower you take this training process and support your dog’s positive reactions with praise and treats, the smoother things will go and the easier it will be in the future.
Slowly Put the Jacket On
Now that your dog is familiar with their jacket, you can try to put it on. The best way to do this is to constantly treat them as you put it on, both to distract them and support that positive association.
Make sure you use high reward treats like boiled chicken or fruits for this; something healthy and safe that your dog absolutely loves and doesn’t get often. These high-reward treats will help your dog assimilate their jacket with really good things, so they form a positive relationship with the jacket.
Continually treat your dog with one hand as you slip on the jacket with the other. If your dog at any point seems uncomfortable, stop immediately. If they try to remove themselves from the situation, let them.
This might be slow-going and frustrating at first, but you are essentially training your dog to like their jacket just like you train them to do tricks or walk on a leash. It is going to take time and practice.
After you can successfully put your dog’s jacket on without distressing them or making them uncomfortable, allow them to wear it briefly. You don’t want to wait for the day that you take your dog out into 30-degree weather for 3 hours to finally let them wear their jacket. You want your dog to be as comfortable as possible with wearing the jacket for brief periods of time before they are expected to wear it for hours on end.
Start by leaving the jacket on for maybe 10 minutes in a controlled environment, such as your bedroom. Let your dog familiarize themselves with how the jacket feels on their body and how it affects their movement.
Be sure to give them lots of praise and treats when they demonstrate signs of comfort while wearing the jacket. You could even try to distract them with playtime while it is on, so they are used to being active while wearing it.
After the 10-minutes, remove the jacket, even if they seem ok with it on. You don’t want to push things and wait for the moment your dog is overwhelmed or stressed before you remove the jacket because if you do, you will have to start all over with getting them to be comfortable even putting it on.
Trust is very important here, and if your dog doesn’t trust you because you are forcing the jacket onto them in any way, your training will be twice as hard.
When you are certain your dog is comfortable with putting on their jacket and wearing it for 10-minutes without any signs of distress, you can slowly increase the wearing time by 5-10 minutes.
Put it to the Test
Now you can let your dog wear their jacket outside or on walks for as long as they are comfortable. If you ever notice your dog is uncomfortable with the jacket and is trying to rip it off, it is best to remove it rather than continuing the outing with them clothed and distressed. This might mean you will have to cut the walk short if it is too cold for your dog to be outside without the jacket, but it is for the best.
Do Dogs Really Need Jackets?
For some dogs, a jacket isn’t just an accessory but a necessity. If your dog is outside in cold weather, meaning below 45°F, and they adhere to any of the criteria listed below, as stated by the American Kennel Club, then they need to wear a jacket for the safety of their health.
Dogs That Need to Wear a Jacket
- Small, toy, and miniature shorthaired breeds, like Chihuahuas and French Bulldogs. Particularly small dog breeds will struggle to generate and retain enough body heat to keep warm, especially in particularly cold temperatures.
- Dogs that sit low to the ground. Like the Pembroke Welsh Corgis, some short-legged breeds might have a thick coat. But even so, their bellies will hang low enough that they will either get wet or brush along snow and ice. Not only will this get them wet, and therefore cold faster, but it could also scrape or bruise their bellies.
- Breeds that typically have long hair but are clipped or shorn, like Poodles. The way a dog’s coat is groomed can significantly affect its ability to stay warm. Even if your dog has naturally thick and fluffy fur, they will still need a jacket if it is cut too short.
- Lean-bodied breeds with short hair, like Greyhounds and Whippets, absolutely need a jacket. They do not have the body mass nor the fur to keep them sufficiently warm.
- Senior dogs are much more susceptible to conditions affected by weather, like arthritis, in addition to often having a weakened immune system. Even if they have a thick coat, their age might affect their ability to maintain their body heat, and so, they are far more likely to get sick or injured in cold weather without assistance.
Jackets can be a fun little accessory for both owners and their dogs to enjoy if trained properly. However, jackets can also be a necessity for some dogs to protect their health.
As long as your dog sees their jacket as something positive to wear, it is completely fine to allow them to don as many as they are comfortable with, but make sure you always keep the jacket-wearing experience positive and reward your dog frequently.
If done right, you’ll be able to dress your dog easily and stress-free every time.
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