Knitting dog sweaters is not insane

September 22, 2009 at 5:17 pm Leave a comment

jan07 002I love dogs and knitting, so knitting dog sweaters is a natural inclination – far more natural for me to knit sweaters  than it is for some dogs to wear sweaters. However, toy dogs, low body fat dogs (greyhounds and whippets) and elderly or ill dogs can all benefit from a little help keeping warm this winter. If you know how to knit, or want to learn, try to knit or crochet a dog sweater.

My friend Chris O’Rear’s elderly basenji, Kissy, benefited from an Icelandic yoke sweater I made for her. Basenjis like warmth: They’re kind of like heat-seeking missiles, and this sweater helped keep Kissy snuggly warm in her last year. Knitting for elderly dogs is a similar but somewhat opposite feeling from knitting a human baby sweater, but still a good feeling.

I’m not talking about insane little costumes with froo froo touches, or leopard skin patterns, all of which make me gag. I’m talking about keeping dogs warm in winter. Sweaters get a bad reputation because people associate them with toy dogs carried around in purses. Toy dogs have to wear sweaters in cold weather, but they don’t have to look like one of Paris Hilton’s woebegone fashion accessories. Knitting sweaters for dogs is not insane. That said, I have not spent the time to make one for my Great Dane friend Jack no matter how many times his mom asks. Jack is just too dang big.

I think I have every book on the market about knitting for dogs, from the classic (and my personal favorite, where I found the pattern for Kissy’s sweater and Ginger’s plain one) “Dogs in Knits” to “Puppy Knits” to Vogue Knitting’s “Knit for Pets” and even “Men Who Knit and the Dogs Who Love Them.” There’s a really cute baby sweater with paw prints in “The Gift Knitter: Knitting Chunky for Babies with Four Legs and Two,” and I have made several baby gifts with that pattern.  Ginger has a solid burgundy sweater, although she’s never been fond of getting it off or on. There’s also “Top Dog Knits,” “Knitting for Dogs,” “Doggy Knits,” “Stylish Knits for Dogs” and so on. Many yarn manufacturers, such as Lion Brand and Patons Yarn, and online magazines such as provide free patterns on the Web (although I would never, ever ask a dog to wear Lion Brand’s King of the Beasts Lion sweater. Get real. Lion Brand patterns give dog sweaters a bad name).

When my dog Fred was treated for anal sac cancer, he lost almost all his hair from chemo and had a baboon butt from radiation; he absolutely had to wear something outside in Wisconsin in February. Almost every dog in the lobby at the vet school in winter had sweaters or jackets covering up huge shaved areas. I knit a sweater for Fred, but it was too difficult to put it on because of his treatment, so he wore a fleece jacket most of the time. I was upset when some jerk in the vet school’s parking lot said “aww, mom, let me wear my birthday suit.” That guy had no idea Fred had lost his coat from his legs, face, throat, belly and most of his back. He also had no idea how exhausted, tired and cold Fred was.

Not to mention: Knitting a sweater for Fred was something I could do for him when I was feeling helpless.

Practically speaking, the problem with sweaters is that most of them have to go over the head, which most dogs don’t like.  Many dogs dislike sleeves. Also, the sweater can get snagged. However, unlike most jackets and coats, the sweater covers the belly and keeps it free of ice. Nonetheless, knitting a dog sweater is a labor of love, and Ginger always gets compliments on her plain burgundy sweater. I beam with pride the few times a year she wears it.…

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