How to Measure a Dog for a Coat (+ DIY Dog Coat Patterns)

How to measure a dog for a coat or DIY jacket pattern

Shivers, furfriends! It’s time for a wardrobe upgrade!  Winter in our new town is a wet and chilly season of short grey days. Spring can be rather soggy and squishy, too. We’ll be sharing the details of our new DIY dog coats, but first there are a few important points of preparation. Measuring is whether you are shopping or planning to make a DIY dog coat. Here’s how to measure a dog for a coat or jacket (ready-made or DIY), plus ideas to help customise the fit of a pattern or create your own DIY dog coat pattern fitted perfectly to your pet. 

Making Our Own DIY Custom Fitted Dog Coats

With our cold wet weather and Oli’s advancing age, new outdoor dog gear was on our needs list. Dog jackets should be comfortable, durable, and washable. But I also wanted versatile coats that could be worn by either dog. Our boys are similar, but Oli has a larger frame and is both longer and wider than Humphrey. Their coats also needed to be compatible with our leashes and collars for practical use.

The main body of the dog coats would be fairly simple, but the added features I wanted made things trickier. I decided to make a warm weather-resistant dog coat with fleece, then replicate the design using the more expensive and less sewing-friendly softshell to make a waterproof dog raincoat. Humphrey is modelling the finished softshell raincoat version below, dapper dry doggo! First though, I needed to measure our dogs and create a pattern that was adjustable enough to suit both boys.

DIY dog raincoat with popped collar and shielded leash opening

How to Measure a Dog for a Coat

Supplies and Equipment

Gather a soft sewing measuring tape, pen, and paper for noting measurements. If you don’t have a soft measuring tape, you can use string or ribbon, then measure that against a standard tape measure.  I also recommend patience and treats for your obliging dog model.

Basic Dog Coat Measurements

Whether buying or making a dog coat, taking a few simple measurements can help make sure you get a comfortable and secure fit.  It’s important that the jacket not impede natural movement, rub and chafe, or cause other discomfort. The three key measurements are:
 
  • Length is measured down the dog’s back from the neck (collar) to the tail.
  • Girth is measured around the torso of the dog. 
  • Neck size is measured around the neck.
If you’re buying a ready-made dog coat or jacket (affiliate link), some or all of these key measurements are usually included in sizing guides and charts. Refer to your specific retailer for detailed guidance on how to measure a dog for a coat from their product range. As you can imagine, it can be tricky to get a perfect fit. That’s why dog coats often have adjustable closures, like Velcro strips or snaps, to help you refine the fit. When you’re shopping for a coat, look for this extra flexibility to help make sure you get a comfy fit and that your coat can change with your dog over time, if needed, for longterm use.

Additional Dog Coat Measurements for a Custom Fit

If you are making (or buying) a custom coat, you can adjust the design or measurements for a better fit, tailored to the shape and size of your dog. The basics of how to measure a dog for a coat are the same, but you take extra measurements to futher custom fit your coat. The diagram below shows the key measurements (red), plus then supplemental measurements (blue) and additional fit checks (green) I used for making my dogs’ coats.
Measuring a dog for a fitted coat or jacket

Girth is measured at the widest part of the body (usually in the chest area, right behind the front legs), but depending on your dog’s build, for a blanket-style coat you may want the belly bands to sit a little further down the body. The neck wrap will keep the coat from sliding back and the wider chest forward of the bands will keep it from sliding forwards. You can also make the bands wider with a tapered fit for a similar hold with more chest coverage, but that wasn’t viable for my coats due to our dogs’ notably different chest girths.

Extra DIY Dog Coat Measurements 

  • Mid-torso girth measured at the point where I intended to attach the belly closure bands. 
  • Flank size measured from mid-back/spine to the lower side of the torso where it curves under to the belly. This was used to determine how far the jacket should fall at the side for comfort and clearance.
  • Leg and privates positions relative to each dog’s length to help with belly band size and positioning.
  • Chest width shoulder to shoulder at the front of the body and chest depth from neck to leg joint to help with sizing and closure overlap allowances.
  • Ear position relative to the neck measurement to help with collar sizing. Since I was making popped collars to shield the neck, I wanted to avoid making them too high or wrap too far lest they be an annoyance to the dogs ears or when tuning their heads.
  • The collar/harness loop position was measured with the partially completed coat fitted so I could be the placement as close to perfect as possible for our type of collars and walking style.
DIY fleece dog coat with popped collar and shielded leash access opening

Creating a DIY Dog Coat Pattern for a Custom Fit

Sharing, Sizing, and Compromising

Our household is somewhat unusual. Age and activity difference means our dogs are usually exercised separately. As a result, our dogs can share coats instead of needing to wear them at the same time. But I would need to make a few compromises for sharing to be viable.

Oli is slightly longer, rounder, and has a much deeper chest than Humphrey. Length was an easy compromise, but the differences in girth means that a full chest dog jacket wouldn’t be suitable for sharing. A blanket-style dog coat, however, could be made to fit both dogs. For, sharing, I needed to ensure that the belly band width and position suited both dogs. It would also need to have extra adjustment in the closure to fit snug on smaller Humphrey and still be secure on stockier Oli.

Material Efficiency

I wanted to be efficient with material, but for the raincoat I also wanted to minimise upper seams for waterproofing. I based my design on a modified rectangle (single piece) for the body, neck, and chest with separate belly bands, collar, and leash opening shield. The body of the coat and tabs were gently rounded for comfort. I experimented with laying out the pattern pieces in different configurations to minimise off-cuts. By planning combined with chance sizings and a bit of luck, the design was very low waste on cutting.  

Creating a custom fitted blanket-style DIY dog coat pattern

Creating a Paper Pattern

Armed with the measurements above, I did something I very rarely do. I created a paper pattern for my project. Nothing fancy, just a rough full-sized mock-up using butcher’s paper. I drew the pieces using the measurements above, checked the measurements between the drawing and the dogs, and tweaked the dimensions until I was confident with all aspects of the sizing including compromises made to allow the same coat to fit both dogs. Then I cut it out, laid it out, and double checked again before cutting my materials. 

The elements are shown above (visual aid, not to scale) with notes so that you can use it to help create your own pattern to perfectly fit your pup. The diagram in the measurement section above also shows the measurements overlaid on a photo of Humphrey in one of the coats. Below, you can see the same elements assembled alongside a photo of Humphrey modelling one of the coats.

The Final Custom DIY Dog Coat Design

I’ll cover the assembly and construction in detail in our follow-on DIY coat posts. But to wrap up our custom coat pattern info first, but here are a few notes on the extra elements in our dog coat pattern and why I used them in my coat design.

Design elements of custom fitted dog coat pattern

The basic dog coat and belly bands are easy to size and sew. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of creating and sizing your own custom fitted pattern. To simplify, you can switch from a popped collar to a basic wrapped collar, or skip the collar all together. Without the collar, you may no longer need to create a leash access or covering. You can also can modify (or omit) the leash grommet and/or cover flap. A basic buttonhole is an easy alternative to the leash grommet, but unfortunately it doesn’t suit the types of collars our boys wear.

Form, Fit, and Function

  • The popped collar stands naturally thanks to stiffened materials. It also naturally pops since it’s a rectangle sewn to a curve, like the side of a cylinder. For a fold-over collar, you can skip the stiffening. For a lay flat decorative collar, you use matched curve instead.
  • The modifications to create and cover the leash access are more complicated. The leash grommet hole is sized to fit Humphrey’s double-loop collar. It also works great with Oli’s extra wide collar. An oversized buttonhole could be a good alternative for a different style of collar or harness (and may not need covering), but our double-loops that would lift and shift awkwardly under the coat. 
  • The cover flap is layered into place with the collar and coat body. It’s a small detail, but it really makes the coat feel more finished than an open hole. Initially, I wasn’t going to include a cover, but the styles of our dogs’ collars require a sizeable hole. Nobody wants a leaky drafty hole on the back of their neck (or in the middle of their back if you use a harness).
  • After making the red fleece jacket and wearing it a few times, I decided to add a small belly band sleeve. It secures the end of the top band when fastened on Humphrey’s smaller body. He’s much smaller than Oli, and the end was flopping. This isn’t shown above, but it’s just a little strip sewn to create a loop. Velcro inside holds it closed when not in use or when worn by Oli. Both the hook side of the Velcro and the sleeve hold the end of the band when worn by Humphrey. It works perfectly and was included on the raincoat.
DIY dog coats and raincoats

Our DIY Dog Fleece Coat and Raincoat

Ready for dog coat DIYs? Check out the details on the construction and assembly of our DIY dog coats in these follow-on posts:

How to measure a dogy for a coat or DIY coat pattern
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