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Dog Sweaters

Dog Sweaters

Sweaters aren’t just for humans! Dog sweaters also known as pullovers, jerseys, and jumpers are knitted or crocheted garments that cover your dog.

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 and stylish.

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 individuals.
– Free patterns are easy to find online for both knit and crochet sweaters.
– 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 fibers.

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 fibers.
– 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 than worsted.
– 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 for fun.

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 trim)
– Argyle (diamond multi-colored patterns)
– Aran or Fisherman’s cable knits (tradition patterns, usually in off-white)
– Letterman-style (based on high school or collegiate-style “letter sweaters)
– 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 patterns)
– 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 have them:

– 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.

Sweater care
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 closed.
– 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 the sleeve.
– 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 available.

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!

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