Sunday, November 29, 2009

The arthritic dog sweater conundrum

I'm pretty sure dog ownership causes temporary insanity.

Over the holiday break, my dog has breathed toxic fumes into my face, woken me up to his barfing noises (one of his favorite hobbies) multiple times, whined incessantly for turkey scraps, and pulled gastrointestinal pyrotechnics so unholy they earned him the nickname The Golgothan and made me late for work.

And yet, after giving him a haircut this afternoon...all I want to do is knit the foul beast a sweater.

Hobbes is the sort of dog who actually needs sweaters in the winter. He's fourteen years old and has arthritis that flares up when he gets cold. Add to that the fact that we live in Minnesota, and the ridiculous baby blue dog parka I got for him a few years back is his favorite thing in the world four months out of the year.

But there's a problem with most dog sweaters (and parkas). They're not designed for dogs with shoulder joint problems. Even the cardigan-style ones have to be pulled over the dog's head with his legs pulled out straight, because the opening on them is along the chest and belly, like cardigans for humans. Hobbes's shoulders won't move like that anymore, so this is as far as I can get store-bought sweaters onto him:

He seems to think a badly fitted cowl is better than nothing, though, because he's been happily wearing his old fisherman sweater around the apartment like this.

This got me thinking about dog cowls. Which got me reaching for the baby alpaca/acrylic blend in the bottom of my stash that I got from a friend's destash and never found a use for. Which got me thinking again about the construction of dog sweaters. I've tried knitting back-closure dog sweaters before, and they're still tricky to get an arthritic old dog into, because there's leg-lifting and sensitive paws to worry about. But what about a sweater with a neck and shoulders knit in the round that splits at the legs and gets buttoned up in lines behind them?

It may be the temporary dog insanity talking, but I'm going to try this. If it works, I'll report back with some kind of arthritic dog sweater formula. If it doesn't, I'll rip it out and knit him a nice lace dog cowl for the hell of it.


  1. I like the idea of a dog cowl as long as it keeps them warm and doesn't get caught on anything. An alternative to consider is velcro, we bought a halloween costume last year at Target that had velcro down the front. It made it east to put on and it fit snugly when on. If you knit a holiday sweater please post it on our Facebook page we are making a sweater for the photo that gets the most "likes".

  2. Hi Jinenne! Hobbes's favorite piece of clothing is a front-velcroing parka I got him a few years back (he gets so excited when he sees it and struts around like a fuzzy little pimp when he's got it on), but even with the velcro, getting it on him has become too difficult. His shoulder joints are bad, so pulling his legs into sleeves at any angle but straight down is painful for him. I save the parka for when it's below zero out, because otherwise the pain isn't worth the added warmth. And I'm hoping to figure out a way to knit him a super warm woolly poncho this winter!

  3. Nicole,
    I found your blog while searching for the same sort of thing for my aging keeshund, Jean-Luc. I started crocheting him something that is shaped vaguely like a goblet (top of goblet to go on his spine, bottom of goblet to cover his tailbone). I'm thinking I'll make two straps - one for around his neck and one for around his belly - and use buttons or velcro. Does this make sense? What did you end up doing?

    Amy in No. CA

  4. Hi Amy!

    I wound up making an oddly shaped dog sweater, too, but in a different way. It ended up looking like your basic sleeveless dog pullover, but instead of having two armholes, I made two gaps for button bands. So it's like a doggy cardigan, except instead of having the button band along the chest, there are two button bands each leading back from behind the arm holes. I'm hoping to have time to put up a proper post about this soon, with diagrams and a recipe for recreating it.


Comments on this blog are moderated. :)