How to measure your dog for clothing

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dog with a sweater on
Dog With A Sweater On

More and more people are purchasing more than harnesses and collars for their dogs, but clothes too. It's important to know how to properly measure your dog for these items so that they can be comfortable and stylish. You will need a tape measure, preferably a 'dressmaker/fabric' tape measure as used for sewing projects, and your dog.

Do dogs need to wear coats in cold weather

How to Get Your Dog's Measurements

There are three main areas to measure on your dog: top line back, neck girth, and chest girth.

To get an accurate measurement for your dog's top line back, while they are standing, measure from where your dog's neck meets his shoulders (oftentimes where the collar rests) to the base of the tail. If your dog happens to be male, be cognizant of the design of coats and sweaters. If there isn't a cut out or cut away in the area that would be covering their belly, you may need to size down so that your dog doesn't accidentally urinate on his new clothes. If your dog happens to be between sizes, choose the larger size.

short-coated tan dog close-up photography
short-coated tan dog close-up photography

Neck girth and chest girth are exactly what they sound like: the measurement around your dog's neck and chest. The measurement for neck girth should be taken around where your dog's collar sits. As with collars, use the 'two finger' rule: you should be able to easily fit two fingers under the tape measure. If your dog is between sizes, choose the larger size. The chest girth measurement should be taken around the largest part of your dog's chest. This is usually located just behind the front legs. If your dog is between sizes, choose the larger size.


If you're measuring your dog for a harness, you will need to read the dimensions listed by the manufacturer's carefully. Some products may list what dog measurements they fit while others may list dimensions of the actual product. Harnesses can seem a bit overwhelming. There are just so many different varieties and styles out there. They can prove very useful for certain dog breeds and certain temperaments.

Brachycephalic breeds, that is, those with pushed in faces, tend to have very little neck for a collar. Harnesses are ideal for these breeds. They provide better control and are less apt to slip off. Other dogs that may not always have perfect leash manners, even if they are otherwise well behaved and well trained. Harnesses not only allow for you to control your dog without them choking themselves, but certain types of harnesses can even deter pulling.


You may be surprised to learn that there's more on the market than just the old fashioned buckle style collars. There are martingale collars, there are chain collars, and there are prong collars. Chain and prong collars are oftentimes used by certain trainers as a means of 'correction'. As the field of veterinary medicine progresses, though, more and more research into animal behavior shows us that training methods using aversive corrections is not only unnecessary for an animal to learn a new behavior, it can actually be harmful. Martingale collars are quickly becoming one of the more popular 'alternative' collars out there.

German shepherd
German shepherd
white and brown saint bernard dog on green grass field during daytime
white and brown saint bernard dog on green grass field during daytime

The basic design of a martingale collar is that is has two loops. One loop is much larger and that loop is what slips over your dog's head. The smaller loop is what you clip your dog's leash to. When your dog pulls on the leash, that pulls the smaller loop taut, which in turns tightens the larger loop, preventing it from slipping it off your dog's head. This is also why martingale collars are sometimes called 'humane choke collars'.

When fitting your dog for a martingale collar, the two finger rule still applies. When the collar is loose, you should be able to fit two fingers comfortably under the collar. These collars are quickly becoming popular among owners of larger, stronger dogs, but they were originally created with sighthounds in mind. Dogs such as greyhounds, whippets, and silken windhounds are so incredibly sleek and aerodynamic that even a properly fitted buckle collar can slip off too easily. Martingale collars may be growing more popular with the dog owners in general, but if you have a sighthound, a martingale collar is a must.