Sweaters aren’t just for humans! Dog sweaters also known as pullovers,
jerseys, and jumpers are knitted or crocheted garments that cover
There are several reasons why you might want to consider getting
a sweater for your dog.
Some of these are:
– Warmth: Some dogs, such as Alaskan Malamutes or Siberian Huskies
are able to tolerate even very cold temperatures with ease. But
many other dogs, including hairless breeds like Chinese Cresteds,
or very short-haired dogs like Salukis or Greyhounds, even Chihuahuas
or Beagles have a harder time coping with cold, and it can even
prove dangerous to them if they are not provided additional protection
in the form of a coat or sweater. Sweaters can be not only warmly
comfortable, but even life-saving for your dog in cold climates
or seasons. In addition, for a dog that has just been clipped or
shaved for health reasons, a sweater can provide needed warmth until
his own coat grows back. And for dogs who have a skin condition,
a sweater can help provide protection from the inevitable scratching.
– Cleanliness: A sweater can help you keep shedding under control
and your home free of excessive amounts of unwanted hair, while
at the same time keeping your dog clean and his coat protected from
dirt and dust.
– Fashion: Dog sweaters are a fun way to dress up your dog, pampering
him with a variety of styles and choices.
– Creativity: Choosing and/or making dog sweaters can provide a
creative outlet for you at the same time as keeping your dog warm
There are several different ways to approach getting a sweater for
your dog, and you may want to think about any or all of them.
1. Hand-me-down. Depending on your and your dog’s size, you might
simply bequeath him one of your old sweaters. This can work well,
especially if it has a zipper or buttons. Simply cut the arms of
the sweater so they reach about halfway down his front legs, then
put it on and zip it up!
2. Buy ready-made. This is easy. There are many, many styles and
types of dog sweaters from which to choose – from outlets that include
your local pet shot, large pet chain stores, department stores,
luxury pet boutique, and the internet.
3. Buy Custom made. There are a number of people who will be happy
to custom make a sweater for your dog, whether hand knit/crocheted,
or machine knit. You provide your dog’s measurements and make other
selections as to style, color, etc. and get a finished sweater in
return. They are in your local community, and can also be found
on the internet.
4. Make it yourself. If you know how to knit and/or crochet, or
if you have your own knitting machine, there are innumerable patterns
available for dog sweaters from a variety of sources, including:
– Commercial pattern books and individual designs, available in
pet stores, bookstores and online from bookstores, pet sites, and
– Free patterns are easy to find online for both knit and crochet
– Commercial software is available that will let you design your
own dog sweater(s) and then give you customized patterns to use
in making them.
– There is even a free online web generator, into which you input
your dog’s measurements and get back a customized pattern that you
can either print out or follow on-screen to make his sweater.
Dog sweaters are made from a wide variety of yarns that are either
natural, man-made (synthetic), or a blend of two or more types of
Animal fiber yarns are especially suitable for sweaters as they
are warm, elastic, durable, washable, and can be made of:
– Wool. This usually means yarn spun from the fleece of sheep.
Some common names of sheep’s wool are Shetland, Merino (a very fine,
soft wool), Icelandic, Karakul and Corridale. Lambswool is taken
from the fleece of young lambs.
– Alpaca. Wool from the Alpaca, a smaller cousin of the Andean llama,
very soft and fine.
– Cashmere. This exceptionally soft, fine, and expensive wool comes
from the Cashmere or Kashmiri goat.
– Pashmina. Even finer than cashmere, this rare wool comes from
the undercoat of the Himalayan Cashmere goat.
– Angora comes from the Angora rabbit, although as it is a very
short hair, it must usually be blended with another fiber such as
lambswool to be useful.
– Qiviut is hair from the Alaskan Musk Ox, and is considered to
be one of the lightest weight of all wools, though exceptionally
warm. Because of its light weight, it’s considered especially suitable
for sweaters for very tiny, toy breeds of dogs.
– Mohair. This is from the Angora goat, and is a very sturdy fiber,
but also rather stiff and scratchy, usually blended with wool or
a synthetic fiber that has more softness.
– Chiengora. This is dog’s wool. Yes, dog. Why not? Used often in
centuries past, it fell out of favor, but dog’s hair is experiencing
a resurgence of popularity as a fiber for yarns. It is very soft,
comparable to cashmere, and also very lightweight. Your own dog
may be a suitable source for hair to be spun into yarn – many breeds
are. This yarn is not yet available commercially, but there are
a number of companies that will take dog’s hair and spin it into
yarn for you, at your choice of weight and type. Imagine knitting
Rover a sweater out of his own hair. You might want to make one
for yourself to match!
– Silk. This is not hair from an animal, of course, but a fiber
extruded by the silkworm, harvested from its completed cocoons.
Renowned for its beauty and strength, silk makes a fine, lustrous
yarn, whether alone or blended with other fibers.
Vegetable fiber yarns are not as warm, and lack the elasticity (the
“give” of animal fibers), but are a good choice for seasons and
areas that are not as cold for adding fashionable variety to your
dog’s wardrobe, and for blending with other fibers. These include:
– Cotton, which is of course, the world’s most commonly used fiber.
It is light, cool, comfortable, and easy-care.
– Linen is a fiber taken from the stalk of the flax plant.
– Hemp fiber comes from the stems of the Cannabis Sativa plant and
no, it does not contain the same ingredient found in the leaves
of that plant.
– Ramie is the name of an inexpensive fiber that comes from an East
Asian plant. This fiber has excellent abrasion resistance, and blends
well with other fibers.
– Jute is a glossy plant fiber, but is very stiff and scratchy,
used for twine and carpet backing. This would probably not be a
good choice for sweater yarn.
– Rayon is actually a man-made fiber, but it comes from a cellulose,
or plant-based source.
Synthetic fibers are those made strictly in a laboratory, and include:
– Nylon, which is very strong, durable, and blends well with other
– Acrylic, which can mimic the softness of some natural wools.
– Polyester. This fiber is very versatile, useful alone, and blends
well with other fibers.
In addition to the fibers they’re made of, yarns also come in different
types and weights. There is a huge variety, increasing all the time
as the designers think of new ones, but here’s a list that should
give you some idea of the variety:
– Worsted. This is a tightly twisted 3 or 4 ply yarn, especially
good for warm, sturdy garments.
– Sport weight is a multi-ply yarn, slightly thinner and less dense
– Feather, baby weight or fingering yarns make light, thin garments.
– Boucle is a knobby, knotted, bumpy yarn.
– Chenille has a core of yarn surrounded by a soft, cut pile with
a velvety feel.
– Metallic yarns have metallic fibers blended in to create a glittery
or shimmering effect.
– Ribbon yarns are just that: made of ribbon-like material, and
range from very thin and light to heavy, bulky yarns.
– Brushed yarns have a soft, blurred, furry look and feel.
– Sequined yarns have sequins attached to a carrier thread, just
Blends are just that: different fibers blended together to take
advantage of some of the best properties of both. Some of the more
common blends are angora/lambswool, cotton/ramie, wool/acrylic,
silk/wool, mohair/nylon and wool/polyester. Different yarns are
also used together in the same garment, either simultaneously or
sporadically for effect.
Once you’ve decided on the type of yarn or fibers, you’ll need to
give some attention to the style of sweater you prefer and that
will work best for your dog.
– Basic dog sweaters are simple affairs, consisting of either a
flat or slightly shaped piece that fits over your dog’s back, with
a wide band under his belly and another around his chest.
– Pullover crew neck sweaters are tubes that go over your dog’s
head, have rounded necklines, and usually sleeves for his front
legs, though some styles merely have openings through which the
front legs fit
– Turtleneck sweaters are also pullover tubes, but have a rolled
collar for extra warmth.
– Mock turtleneck styles have a higher collar, but eliminate the
roll for less bulk.
– Snoods are an exaggeratedly long turtleneck collar that can be
rolled up as a sort of hood to partially cover your dog’s head,
then scrunched or rolled back down when not needed.
– Cardigans are sweaters that have an opening fastened with a zipper
or buttons, and do not need to be put on over the head. As with
the others, they can have either sleeves for the front legs, or
merely an opening for them.
– Knitted body suits are not strictly sweaters, but should be mentioned
as they are also knit and/or crocheted garments that cover the torso
and the rest of the body.
Within these basic styles, there are many designs from which to
choose, limited only by the boundaries of creative imagination.
That’s the fun part of knitting and crochet, in that choosing design
and ornamentation is part and parcel of constructing the garment.
Also, sweaters can range from very plain and basic whose only purpose
is warmth, to exotic, bejeweled, haute couture designer styles costing
many hundreds of dollars. Types of designs can include:
– Tennis sweaters (traditional cable knit sweater with red or blue
– Argyle (diamond multi-colored patterns)
– Aran or Fisherman’s cable knits (tradition patterns, usually in
– Letterman-style (based on high school or collegiate-style “letter
– Team logos
– Tartan (Scottish traditional plaids)
– Norwegian “Fair Isle” designs
– Intarsia (pictures or designs that are knit into the fabric)
– Filet mesh (a type of crochet design with floral or geometric
– Fur, feather and jewel trimmed
As with many other items of apparel or merchandise, there are brands
of dog sweaters, some well-known, other lesser-known and private
labels. Some examples include:
Brands for All Dogs
– Burberry is a well known UK brand, and is usually carried by
high end stores. They’re well known for their “signature plaid”
and make a dog sweater in this plaid. It was recently featured on
the “Oprah” show.
– Maxx’s Closet is a small, but chic designer of dog sweaters.
– Drs. Foster & Smith are a trusted company that carries its own
line of dog sweaters.
– Fox and Hounds carries a small line of designer sweaters, including
licensed merchandise such as their well-known Elvis sweater.
– Well-known runway fashion designers who have designed dog sweaters
include Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren.
Breed Specific Brands
– House of Marley has sweaters made to fit the distinctive wide-chested,
narrow-hipped physique of Pugs
– A and B Originals and Greyhound Knits are two companies that design
and make sweaters specifically for the slender, thin-skinned elegant
greyhounds, whippets and similar breeds.
– Spoiled Yorkies specializes in apparel and sweaters for Yorkshire
Terriers and other toy breeds.
– Chi-wa-wa-ga-ga is a designer who makes sweaters just for Chihuahuas
and other tiny dogs.
Of course, you’ll need to measure your dog accurately, whether you
buy, order or make a sweater yourself. Remember, to be effective
against cold a sweater should completely cover your dog’s stomach,
keep its legs free for easy movement, fit snugly and end at the
base of the tail. Though not all stores or designers will want all
these measurements, you might as well take them all since then you’ll
– Base of collar to base of tail
– Collar to back legs
– Collar to “front” of front legs
– Neck circumference (at collar level)
– Chest circumference (widest part)
– Waist (or hip) circumference (at narrowest part)
– Thigh circumference
– Length of legs (depending on where you want the sweater to come)
Remember to have the dog standing. You won’t get accurate measurements
if the dog is sitting or lying down.
Use a cloth tape measure. Lay the tape measure along the dog’s
body to get accurate measurements. Start the neck measurement where
the collar would sit naturally on the pet’s back.
After you’ve purchased or made your sweater, you need to be careful
to care for it properly. Most fibers are washable, but some need
special care. Wool, for instance, unless it has been properly treated,
will shrink if machine washed and/or dried. You must wash it gently
by hand in cold water, then lay it carefully and gently on a flat
surface to dry, after gently patting it into shape. Other fibers,
especially cottons, synthetics and synthetic blends, can be safely
machine washed and tumbled dried. Still others, such as silks or
fine cashmere, or fur trimmed sweaters would be best taken to a
dry cleaner. Be sure to read any labels that come with the sweater
and/or yarn so that you don’t unintentionally ruin your dog’s sweater
by careless handling.
In order for you and your dog to enjoy the benefits of his new sweater(s),
you’re going to have to get it on him, and get him to wear it. Approach
it slowly and gradually, and make putting on his sweater part of
your dog’s routine, like using a leash will ensure that you don’t
forget and he comes to accept it as natural and expected. Here are
a few tips for putting on and taking off a pullover sweater:
– Scrunch the neck up and put it over your dog’s head. Make sure
his head is all the way through to the ears. A dog with a partially
covered head is one that’s going to struggle.
– Unfurl the sweater down his back a bit so the legs aren’t scrunched
– Grasp your dog’s front leg at his “forearm” and put it through
the corresponding sleeve. For dogs with dew claws, slide your hand
down his front leg to cover the dewclaw and then put his leg through
– Repeat on the other side.
– Pull and smooth the rest of the sweater down the dog’s back.
Remember, dogs naturally don’t want to wear clothes since they’re
already wearing fur coats. They will struggle if during the process
their head gets covered again. But if you are consistent, your dog
will soon come to realize that the sweater means a walk or a ride,
or just being warmer and more comfortable.
Undressing your dog is a slightly different matter, but the unclothing
routine is actually easier to learn:
– Make sure any hood or snood is off the head.
– Grasp the back hem of the sweater and pull it forward towards
your dog’s head.
– When you get to the top of the dog’s head, pull the sweater forward
and down towards the floor. Your dog will (hopefully) do a play
bow and the sweater will come off their head.
The Bottom Line:
Dog sweaters are cute and can be a fashion accessory, but some
dogs such as shorthaired breeds, older dogs, ill dogs, and puppies
may need them as protection against cold weather.
Buy a sweater that fits well and covers your dog’s abdomen. In
order for a dog sweater to be effective against cold a sweater should
completely cover your dog’s stomach, keep its legs free for easy
movement, fit snugly and end at the base of the tail.
Dog sweaters come in extra small, small, medium, large and extra-large
sizes. If you are unsure which size your dog should wear, here’s
a guideline: Toy breeds wear extra small and small, beagle-size
dogs wear medium, retriever-size dogs wear large and dogs the size
of Saint Bernards wear extra-large.
Shop online, or go to a local pet store to see the types of sweaters
For everyday wear make sure to select a sweater that will be easy
to care for.
Try the sweater on your dog to make sure it fits your dog comfortably
and is easy to get on and off.
Have the dog wear the sweater anytime it goes out in cold weather.
Ask your vet if you are unsure whether your dog needs a sweater.
Use patience in teaching your dog how to wear his sweater, and
above all, have fun!