When winter approaches, many Doberman owners start to wonder if a dog coat is necessary when they go outside. The Doberman naturally has a very short, single-layer coat and an overall low tolerance to cold weather. This is why you’ll see so many Doberman owners with coats or jackets on their dogs. So when exactly should you put a coat on your Doberman?
Do Dobermans need winter coats? Dobermans should wear a coat or jacket if they are expected to be outside in temperatures of less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 45 minutes, or 35 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 10 minutes. Other weather conditions such as rain, snow, or wind chill should also be considered.
Of course, it isn’t only the temperature outside that should determine if you need to put a winter coat on your Doberman, but that’s a good place to start. Start with the temperature, then decide how long you’ll be outside, if there are any other weather factors present (wind, rain, snow, etc.), and your dog’s own tolerance to the cold. Here are the very basics that should give you a good idea if you should get a coat on that short-haired dog of yours.
When to Put a Coat on Your Doberman
The table below should give you a rough idea on where to start in terms of what temperatures warrant putting a coat on your Doberman.
|Temp||When to Wear a Coat|
|Less than 25°F||For any length of time outside.|
|25 – 35°F||If outside for more than 10 minutes.|
|35 – 45°F||If outside for more than 45 minutes.|
|45 – 55°F||Optional.|
|More than 55°F||Generally not needed.|
This is a great place to start but there is a lot more to this than just what the temperature is outside. Please remember that this should be treated as a rough guideline to get you started and not set-in-stone numbers.
A Doberman’s normal body temperature is between 101 and 102.5°F. If the body temperature drops below about 100°F for a sustained period of time, it could be dangerous. This is why it’s important to keep them comfortable when they’re in cold weather.
Below are some of the factors that may mean it’s time to put a coat on, even if the temperatures outside and the table above say you’re ok not to.
- Rain or Snow – Rain and snow can get your dog wet which will quickly reduce their body temperature. A raincoat will help keep them dry and it may be a good idea to consider boots to keep their feet dry and warm as well. Especially if they might be walking on de-icing materials spread on the streets.
- Windchill – Windchill can make outside temperatures feel 20 degrees colder than they actually are. If it’s cold and exceptionally windy out, it might be a good time for a coat on your dog.
- Very Old or Young Dogs – Young or old Dobermans aren’t as good at regulating their body temperatures as healthy adult dogs. Also, older Dobermans often have stiffness or pain in joints and exposure to cold weather can make this worse. Warm joints move a lot easier and with less pain.
- Dogs with Medical Issues – Dobermans with heart disease or weaker immune systems should wear a coat a bit more often than an otherwise healthy Dobie.
- Dogs with Skin or Hair Problems – If you have a dog with skin or hair problems, such as is common in many Dobermans, you will have to consider that the already thin layer of protection normal Dobermans have might be even thinner on your dog.
It’s really important to just use a little common sense and to know your individual dog, then adjust accordingly.
How to Tell When Your Dog is Too Cold
Probably the biggest factor is your dog’s individual tolerance to cold. Just like how Dobermans have different personalities, they’ll also have varying degrees of tolerance to the cold. So watch for signs that your dog is too cold and if you see them, it may be time to put that dog coat on.
Signs Your Doberman is Cold
- Shaking or Shivering – Dobermans appear to shiver a lot, sometimes when they are not even cold. But if you see an increase in the amount of shaking or shivering, especially when they just went outside, for example, it may be a bit too cold for them.
- Anxiousness – Pacing, restlessness, or other similar actions may be signs that your dog is a bit anxious. This can be caused by being uncomfortable in cold temperatures while outside.
- Whining or Whimpering – Dobermans are great communicators. If you just went outside with your dog and he or she starts crying or whining at you, they may be trying to tell you their uncomfortable. It’s time to warm them up.
- Slowing Down – This is where things can start to get scary. If your dog starts slowing down out in the cold it could be a sign that they are passed just being cold, and are entering hypothermia stages. Bring them inside and warm them up right away.
- Other Actions – If your Dobie is hesitant to go outside later in the day after being out earlier, it might be because they know it’s a bit too cold out for them. Or if they are outside and begging to come inside, it may be just because they are a normal Doberman and want to be stuck to your side like glue, or it might be because they’re cold.
Don’t underestimate how easily Dobermans can get cold. They get cold much quicker than you might think. Really, if you see any behavioral changes after being in the cooler weather (other than normal excitement from being outside), it may be time to put on that winter jacket.
Why Dobermans Don’t Tolerate the Cold
Dobermans are prime candidates to wear winter coats on cold days. It might help you to understand why Dobermans are not meant to be winter dogs by knowing how their coat and body differs from other dogs.
Dobermans have smooth, single layers coats with naturally short hairs that lay close to the body. The only exception is around the neck of Dobermans where there is a small undercoat (meaning two layers of fur are present). The Doberman’s hairs are also stiff and somewhat sparse compared to other breeds. This is great in some ways—less shedding and grooming is required.
However, this is about as bad as it can get when it comes to providing the dog with insulation on cold days. Boxers, Pointers, and Greyhounds are other short-haired dogs that also have trouble in the cold as Dobermans do for this reason.
Lastly, the Doberman is an impressively athletic dog with low body fat and lots of lean muscle. Muscle is great for many reasons, but it’s a poor insulator when compared to fat. Since there’s not much fat on Dobermans that means they don’t have much internal protection from the cold either.
Picking a Winter Coat for Your Doberman
The difficult thing about buying a coat for your Doberman is he can’t exactly tell you “this is too tight”, or “it scratches”. To make things a little tougher, the first few times you put any jacket on (even one that is comfortable and a perfect fit), there will likely be resistance anyway.
That’s why slowing down and spending some time sorting through the options before you buy is a good idea. Here are the basic steps for picking a good winter coat for your Dobie.
- Determine the correct size. You’ll need a fabric tape measure for this and you’ll need to check the website of the company that you are buying your jacket from. They’ll want specific measurements from your dog. Usually, they want the length (measured from the base of the neck/shoulder blade area to the base of the tail), the girth (measured around the largest portion of the chest), and the neck.
- Choose the material. Dog coats generally have two layers, an inner and outer layer. The inner layer keeps your dog warm and the outer layer keeps him dry. For the outer layer, waterproof canvas, nylon, and Gore-Tex are all good choices. For the inner layer, anything warm will generally do well. Synthetic lambswool, a polyblend, or a fleece lining all work well. Wool is warm but can be itchy and hard to clean.
- Check for proper fit. Once you get your dog’s coat, try it on and give it a quick check for a proper fit. Your Dobie should be able to move freely. If you can run a flat hand underneath the coat, then it’s not too tight. A coat too loose can get caught or tangled on something and won’t be as warm, so make sure it isn’t too loose either. Check the chest, armpits, and neck areas to make sure they fit well. Dobermans have an odd body shape.
If you’re ordering the coat or jacket online, just make sure whoever you order from has a good return policy. For example, Amazon.com has a 30-day simple return policy and Chewy.com has a 1-year return policy if you aren’t completely satisfied. Both are good options.
Also, make sure that the coat doesn’t have anything attached that’s easy for your dog to chew off like large zippers, buttons, or tags.
Getting Him to Wear It
It may take a little practice to get your Dobie used to wearing his new coat, but it shouldn’t be too hard. Praise and reward your dog with a treat the first time you put it on him. Then continue to do that. Over a short time, he’ll associate it with positive feelings and look forward to you strapping it on him.
Some owners who have a difficult time getting their Doberman to accept a coat will put it on him every night before eating dinner. This can further help to reinforce the idea that wearing the coat is a positive experience.
If He’s Wearing a Coat, Can I Leave Him Outside?
The real question is not can you, but should you. Dobermans were bred to be personal protection dogs. They are loyal and protective and need to be close to people to be happy.
A Doberman that is left outside for extended periods can quickly develop behavioral problems. As the Doberman Pincher Club of America (DPCA) says:
“Dobermans cannot be outside dogs and they cannot be ignored.”DPCA.org (source)
That’s the first reason your Dobie shouldn’t be left outside. The other reason is that temperatures below about 45 or 50°F are not comfortable for your Doberman, and temperatures below 40°F are in the danger zone.
Did You Know?
Dobermans were once commonly used as police dogs. Several factors have caused many law enforcement agencies to stop using them. One is their fierce loyalty, which can be problematic if their handler is transferred or retires. Another factor is their cold tolerance, or lack thereof.
If you’re still determined to leave your Doberman outside for extended periods, take a look at my article all about Dobermans living outside here, so you know what you’d be getting yourself into.
Your Doberman just wasn’t bred to be an outside dog, unlike some breeds with thick, double-layered coats and more body fat. But it’s still important to get them outside and burning off some of that extra energy, even on cold days.
Although a little cold will be okay without a coat or jacket, if you plan to take him outside in the cold for an extended length of time, go for a walk, or spend some time in the yard, a dog coat is probably a good idea. Remember to keep things fun and positive and your dog will be happy to put that new coat on and frolic around outside in the cold with you.