Brr! I’ve just started to notice Matilda and Cow shivering in the morning, so we’ve started to put those cozy sweaters on in the AM.
Matilda is a master at squirming out of her sweaters when she’s sick of wearing them… only to start shivering again.
But Cow doesn’t know how to get out of her sweaters. At times, I’ve forgotten to take off her sweater before bed, and she’s even spent the whole night wearing it.
I think a lot of us have the same questions…
Can I leave my dog in her sweater while she’s in a crate?
Can I leave the house with my dog in a sweater?
How long can I safely leave a sweater on my dog? Will it harm their skin or fur if she wears it all day?
Can Sweaters Be A Strangulation Hazard?
I’ve heard many stories of dogs dying when left unattended wearing a collar.
A collar can strangle your dog if it gets caught on their crate, furniture, or some underbrush outdoors.
If you have two dogs, you also have to worry about collars getting caught on one another’s teeth while they play.
While a sweater, too, can get caught on something, they typically have enough stretch to avoid compressing your dog’s airway. A sweater may also rip, allowing your dog to escape.
So, I feel better about leaving my dogs in sweaters than in collars.
I’ve yet to hear any stories of dogs dying from getting stuck in sweaters.
And yet, anything is possible, anything can happen for the first time. I may have once seen a story about a dog getting stuck in one of those popular mermaid tail blankets and dying of strangulation, but I can’t find the link to it.
I can’t guarantee that leaving your dog in a sweater is safe, but if your dog can normally spend hours in a sweater at home, and you know that when you’re away, she’s going to just chill out, rather than go into a separation-anxiety induced frenzy, she’ll probably be fine if she’s wearing a sweater.
You know your dog best. Leave sweaters on at your own risk.
Can My Dog Overheat In A Sweater?
I like to layer my dogs in sweaters, dresses, and coats when we go out in the worst of the winter cold.
Sometimes, we also go for a run to get our circulation going so we can be extra-warm.
When I bring my dogs inside, and remove their layers, I notice that they feel very warm underneath. But, they aren’t panting, nor do they seem like they’re in any distress.
In the Fall, it may be winter in the morning and summer by the afternoon.
If your leave your dog alone at home, the temperature may rise up to twenty degrees throughout the day. I’d highly suggest setting your thermostat to keep the temperature stable, or using a smart thermostat that you can control from your phone, if possible.
For dogs who are prone to overheating, you may want to use blankets to keep them warm, that way she has more of a choice of how covered she’d like to be.
Keep in mind that a dog’s body temperature, like ours, will drop by a few degrees while she’s sleeping.
Which Dog Sweaters Are Best For Use While You’re Not Home?
I wouldn’t leave my dogs unattended wearing just any sweater.
I feel better about simple sweaters that are stretchy, lightweight, and wide in the neck.
Anything complicated, like pajamas that you have to place your dog’s feet into, might impair their mobility while you’re gone.
I’d also stay away from anything with pom-poms, fur trim, zippers, buttons, or accessories that could pose a choking hazard if your dog removed her sweater and chewed on it.
Walmart usually has those cheap, simple sweaters that work well for this, even though most of them are kind of gaudy and ugly.
Amazon has more fashionable ones. I like them for visiting family during the holidays and for setting up matching outfits for Christmas/Holiday cards.
Can Wearing A Sweater For Hours Be Harmful To My Dog?
Your dog should be fine if she’s wearing her sweater for most of the day.
However, I’m thinking you shouldn’t keep the same sweater on for days in a row with no breaks. I don’t have any cases or concrete evidence, but it’s just common sense.
Your dog may not sweat, but do they do have sweat glands all over their body that release hormones, which provide scent-based information for other dogs to pick up on.
Your dog’s skin also produces oils.
So, I’m thinking that keeping a sweater on for extended periods of time will trap the skin’s oils and various sources of moisture from going outside, making your dog more prone to skin issues like acne, ingrown hairs, rashes, and yeast overgrowth.
For long-haired dogs, sweaters can lead to mats. For all dogs, sweaters can compress the coat in a way that may eventually become uncomfortable.
So, I’d suggest taking the sweater off after 4-8 hours or so, brushing your dog’s coat or at least ruffling it up with your hands to air it out, and give them a few hours to let their skin breathe.
Then, rotate sweaters and wash them often. It’s best to hand wash them in a little detergent, then dry flat to avoid stretching or mishaping them. Using the washing machine will make them fall apart more quickly, and can also lead to pilling.
Alternatives To Keeping Your Dog In A Sweater
Have you decided that sweaters might not be the best all-the-time option for keeping your dog warm?
Maybe you can turn the thermostat up. Or, you can use a space heater or a heating pad to keep your dog warm – though I wouldn’t trust either of these devices unattended, they may start a fire.
There are heated dog beds with good reviews, though I haven’t tried any of them.
You can also try a cave bed or taco bed. Matilda has a taco bed, but I don’t think it’s deep enough for her to really burrow into it, so it’s never used.
A blanket or covered bed will trap your dog’s body heat and keep her warm without a sweater or electric heating.
Eileen J. Kelly
Wednesday 18th of May 2022
I have a boxer/dalmation mix that hates them but her coat is soooo fine. my son bought her a sweater. https//www.gddfg.com
Friday 21st of January 2022
i have an outside pit bull. normally here in Georgia i would have laughed at putting a sweater on a dog, but we have just got hit an artic blast that is supposed to last a couple of weeks. highs in the 30's, teens to 20's at night. my son bought her a sweater. she sit so still and let him put it on, she wore it for 2 days and never tried to take it off. my question is, is it safe to leave it on for several days. she was upset when i took the other one, kept nudging it.
Tuesday 25th of January 2022
Aw, I'm glad your pup seems to accept wearing a sweater. I do personally like to rotate sweaters because, even though dogs don't really sweat, any moisture, dander, etc can build up close to their skin. My dog Cow has pretty sensitive skin and is prone to hair loss, so taking breaks seems to help let her skin breathe.
Saturday 3rd of July 2021
Hey, I am also a dog lover. I have read your article. That is good.
Tuesday 29th of October 2019
My boxer, Annabelle, absolutely loves her coats and sweaters, but she is the exception to the other dogs I've owned. Her coat is just so short, so she gets cold really easy. We put the sweater on her at night, and any time we take her on a walk during the mid-to-late fall, winter, and early spring months (I live in Idaho, so it's cold for 3/5ths of the year. Putting the sweater on means extra snuggles, which is all she really wants anyway.
Thursday 6th of February 2020
I have a boxer/dalmation mix that hates them but her coat is soooo fine. Our cattle dog who is about the same size and hair type all I have to do is hold up a sweater and she will come running from the other end of the house lol.
Tuesday 29th of October 2019
Ooh, I want to see how Annabelle looks in her sweaters! Feel free to send a photo via email or the Little Dog Tips Facebook page. Just today, I stepped out for a few hours and left Cow in a sweater, and she was just fine. Isn't it so cozy to snuggle a dog while they're in a sweater??
Monday 21st of October 2019
We adopted Sammie from a shelter when she was just one month old ( Dec-2017 ) and it was LOVE at first sight. It felt like she chose us as much as we chose her. She was such a tiny little puppy and we had no way of knowing she would grow to be this beautiful big wolf.