Selecting good dog jackets for winter can be as overwhelming as deciding what food to feed your dog or what type of collar or harness to use. There are so many styles, cuts, colors, fabrics, and functions!
This year, when Whole Dog Journal editor Nancy Kerns – a California native – needed a hand to sort through the best dog winter coats, I didn’t hesitate to say: “Leave it with me, I’ve got this!” As a Canadian living in the province of Quebec, I’m all too familiar with the criteria that winter dog jackets must meet to satisfy the needs of dogs living in a true northern climate.
The Best Dog Jackets for Winter: Our Selection Criteria
We asked dozens of dog-owner friends in northern climes for their winter dog coat recommendations and then chose the 10 most frequently cited “best” dog coats on the market to test.
Every season, northern-dwelling dog owners are faced with a mish-mash of winter weather: seriously sub-zero temperatures; wet, crusty, or powdery snow; ice; and even freezing rain. Regardless, we’re out there with our dogs, whether for a quick potty break or an afternoon of outdoor fun! A good dog winter coat will be designed to handle all the various elements. This versatility is specifically what I looked for when testing dog jackets for this review.
To accomplish this, I tested the coats for warmth, water resistance, and the ability to put them on and take them off a dog easily. I also looked for comfort – the fit and fabric that best allowed ease of movement for active dogs.
Most of the products I reviewed are pricey. Admittedly, I wasn’t looking for a bargain. If you’re out with your dog in a seriously cold winter climate, you need serious gear.
A final note before we describe the coats we tested. We selected and tested 10 coats, but one (RC Pet’s Skyline Puffy Vest) was discontinued between the time of our tests and publication of this issue, so only nine are included in this review.
The Best Winter Coats for Dogs (Our 4-Paw Favorites)
All of the dog winter coats we selected to review came well-recommended by friends, so it stands to reason that all of the products in this review will receive favorable ratings. (Believe us, there are countless crummy coats out there; we couldn’t begin to list them all.) But of course, we developed our own favorites among the products we tested.
Top Pick: Hurtta Extreme Warmer
Let’s start with our favorite. The interior of the Hurtta Extreme Warmer coat is lined with reflective material designed to conserve body heat, allowing for a design that’s lightweight and not at all bulky. We love this stuff. (In fact, our extreme winter coat is lined with the same material, and we can comfortably wear just a t-shirt beneath it even in sub-zero temperatures.)
There is a soft, lightweight neck warmer, also lined with reflective material and fully adjustable. The coat is easy to put on and take off, but must be fitted over the dog’s head. We noted that the neck warmer is like a long, loose turtleneck, making a good over-the-head fit imperative. This can be a problem for dogs who are sensitive to fitting their head through things. But for those who are fine with it, the neck warmer is a very good feature on the Hurtta dog coat.
The back is adjustable for length, and once the perfect length is acquired, the bottom “skirt” can be secured with a snap several inches below the dog’s tail. This prevents the back of the coat from slipping sideways off the loin (lower back).
There are also leg straps like you’d find on a horse blanket, and while they are made of a soft, stretchy fabric, we can see how they might cause some discomfort for an intact male dog. The good news is that they don’t appear to be mandatory. The coat easily stays in place without them.
There are two slits on the back for both a collar and a harness attachment – a feature that many coats lack. Each slit is covered with a little flap to prevent snow or rain from easily getting inside the coat.
The front skirt and chest protector are both very well-designed and allow for full range of shoulder and leg motion.
The outside of the coat is lined with reflective strips for nighttime safety, and since darkness falls around 4 p.m. during the winter months, this is a very handy feature.
Best Dog Coat for Active Dogs: Chilly Dogs’ Great White North Coat
Of all of the coats we tested, this coat offers the best range of motion for the dog, making it a great candidate for highly active dogs.
It slips over the head and has two adjustable points at the waist, one made with hook-and-loop (Velcro-like) fastener and the other with straps. The hook-and-loop patches are very wide, making the adjustment options more flexible. On the down side, a larger hook-and-loop patch also makes more noise. We’d suggest doing some prep work with your dog to help him make a positive association with the sound before placing the coat on his body.
The coat is lightweight, waterproof on the outside, and lined on the inside with a synthetic fleece. It includes reflective tubing for nighttime safety. The full front design keeps belly fur nice and dry. The only part of the coat that isn’t waterproof is the fleece neck warmer, which would get soaked in rain.
The range of sizing is one of the best on the market – it will fit little dogs just as well as large dogs. The company is reputed for their excellent customer service when it comes to selecting the correct size.
There are no slits for a collar or harness, and when contacted about this, the company explained that wearing a harness beneath the coat tends to negatively affect how well the coat stays in place on the dog.
Another Terrific Coat From Hurtta: The Summit Parka
The Summit Parka (shown in the first image above) is the next best thing to Hurtta’s headliner, The Extreme Warmer (our top pick). It’s very lightweight and the interior is lined with soft fleece.
The collar is worn high and acts as a neck warmer. It’s adjustable in two spots. Like the Extreme Warmer, this Hurtta coat is easy to put on and take off, but must be pulled on over the dog’s head.
The back is adjustable for length and covers a dog’s behind nicely, although there’s nothing to secure it in place once it’s adjusted (except those stretchy leg straps we’re not big fans of). The overall design of this dog winter coat covers the chest and tummy well, and allows for full range of motion for the active dog.
There’s a single slit on the back for a harness attachment, covered with a flap to keep your dog’s back dry. The flap is semi-sealable with a couple of well-positioned snaps.
The Powershield is super lightweight and flexible. It goes on like a horse blanket – a convenient option for those dogs who aren’t keen on fitting their heads through things. It attaches with hook-and-loop fasteners on the front and underneath at the dog’s tummy level. The collar can be folded down or straightened to keep the back of the neck warm.
The coat model we tested has a wide opening at collar-level for leash attachment.
We sent Mountain Mutt our test dog’s measurements, and the company suggested that our dog would be best suited by a “Medium” size. But the coat we tested rested a little too low on the shoulders and restricted movement on our model. Fortunately, Mountain Mutt provides free alteration of the coats to ensure a perfect fit (shipping cost not included). The company also offers custom made coats for dogs whose body shapes are proportionately different from their in-stock sizes.
Our Last 4-Paw Pick: Pomppa’s Toppa Pomppa
The Toppa Pomppa is made for serious cold (we wouldn’t expect anything else from a company based in Finland, with its very long and very cold winters!). The coat is very warm and covers the entire body really well. It allows for great range of motion – there’s lots of space for shoulders to move – and stays put even on highly active dogs.
The coat features reflective piping and a split in the back of the skirt for the dog’s tail. It’s easy to adjust with a single strap, and the folded collar can be lifted to protect the neck against the wind.
There’s a handy slit at the collar level for leash attachment. It’s a bit noisy and bulky, but again – this one’s made for serious cold.
The Other Dog Jackets Tested:
The next set of coats are also very nice products, but each presented us with something that made them less than ideal, in our estimation.
The Trailblazer is similar to the Chilly Dogs coat to which we gave a four-paw rating (the Great White North) in that the majority of it is waterproof, it’s super lightweight, and has reflective tubing. The difference is that the Trailblazer has a single hook-and-loop attachment (no straps or clips), the dog’s belly is partially covered, and only the front of the neck is made of stretchy fleece (it’s not a full neck warmer).
It fits a little low on the shoulders and doesn’t provide as great a range of motion as the Great White North. Our model wasn’t particularly comfortable in the Trailblazer, and she normally wears anything! We are certain we used the correct size for her. This one also requires a harness to be fitted over it, as there are no collar or harness slits. Still, it’s a good quality coat.
The Quinzee offers a unique feature: It can be folded into a little built-in pouch, making it the only packable coat we tested. The polyester fabric and synthetic insulation make it very lightweight. There’s a bit of reflective piping, one strip on the front of the neck and one on the rear. There’s also a loop built into the back of the neck to attach a safety light sold by Ruffwear.
There’s a small zipper on the neck, facilitating getting the coat on and off. The adjustable waist strap is so neatly tucked into the design that we almost missed noticing it!
The coat feels a little stiff; it doesn’t move side to side with the dog’s rear end. The interior is also lined with a polyester fabric, which seemed to contribute to the overall “noisiness” of the coat. Sound-sensitive dogs might balk at wearing it (or even just having it put on). There are no openings for a harness or collar, and the length of the coat’s collar would necessitate attaching the dog’s collar very high on his neck.
It feels a little harsh to rate these coats with only two paws, because, after all, we did find them to be quite useful for some applications. But each had a few more faults or quirks than the higher-rated coats.
The Nylon Turnout Coat is like a mini horse blanket, complete with criss-cross elastic belly straps and surcingle buckles. It’s super easy to put on and take off and doesn’t require a dog to fit his head through anything. There’s an additional hook-and-loop attachment on the front across the chest.
A D-ring on the back looks like it might be intended for a leash attachment. We looked at this from every angle and feel that it’s not trustworthy in that capacity, as a dog can successfully back out of the coat if determined enough, leaving you with a leash attached to an empty coat. It also wouldn’t be recommended for dogs who pull on leash, as the coat is only held together in the front by the hook-and-loop patch.
The coat provides lots of warmth across the back and sides, but as a trade-off, it’s a bit bulky, heavy, and not very flexible. While it’s a very good-looking coat, and would help warm a sedentary dog, it’s not ideal for an active dog.
The Belted Coat is thick and warm, albeit a little bulky. It goes on like a blanket (again, a plus for dogs who are concerned about gear that goes over their heads). It’s secured by two buttons on the front and an adjustable belt around the tummy. There are two built-in leg straps made of plain elastic, which our model found irritating.
The length of the coat is good, but the coat wouldn’t stay in position on our model without the use of the pesky elastic leg straps. The chest and upper part of the tummy are well-covered to conserve warmth. There’s a slit on the back at collar-level for leash attachment.
Nancy Tucker, CPDT-KA, is a full-time trainer, behavior consultant, and seminar presenter in Quebec, Canada.