Get that Fit!
With Mountain Dog being one of the UK's largest suppliers of dog apparel and harnesses in the UK, I'm sure you can imagine, we have many conversations on the topic of sizing and regularly need to provide guidance to our customers.
Here are a few top tips and headlines we have learnt over the years. Some may sound obvious, but it is always best to pause before a purchase and consider all elements of getting a fit for your dog, before you hit that buy button. We simply want to ensure you are using your best judgement based on the facts available.
Just like buying clothes for yourself, a dog coat, a pair of boots or a harness can be an iterative process to get the right size. Whilst the huge majority of our customers do get a fit first time, that can never be guaranteed, which is why we offer an easy exchange service to allow you to buy with confidence. We've got your back in case things don't go right first time, do take a look at our reviews - it's one of our most appreciated services.
Check the item specific size chart
Once you have found a product style that meets the dog's needs, take a look at the sizing chart specific to that item only. Note that just because you've bought a certain size from that vendor before doesn't always mean the next product you choose from them is designed, cut or sits the same. In most cases, they are consistent, especially from within major manufacturers own ranges, but never assume this to be the case, as sometimes items are designed with a different fit in mind. Often, people think for e.g. that using a Ruffwear harness in small would mean that the coat in small would be correct choice - it might be, but it needs checking against you dog's dimensions.
When comparing between different vendors, it is pretty universal that one company's size rarely relates to the same size of another suppliers. One man's medium, is another man's large and so forth. The statement of 'he always fits a medium' and similar is often touted, but rarely correct.
Believe the manufacturers size chart
In our years of being in business, we have not experienced a wildly inaccurate size chart being published. Major manufacturers sell many tens of thousands of items, so it's in their interest to get this right. We aren't saying they are infallible, errors can always happen, but what we do assert is that it's very rare for these guides to be incorrect, and they fix them quick if something is found. The important thing to note is that these charts/guides reflect the size of the garment and what they adjust to. What they can't do is say if that the product will suit your dog - the sizing charts are generic, whereas our lovely dogs are all individuals, and sometimes only rock certain garments.
Measure, measure and measure again
The biggest challenge we find selling online is what we politely call 'Laissez-faire' measuring or guesstimates. If your decision is based on anything like 'they should be a X size...' or you used a steel tape measure from the garage, that's a surefire way to get into our returns process which, although nice and efficient, ultimately slows you down. You will also get dirty looks from the dog if they haven't got their super shiny new gear for that trip you've planned on time.
The key is to make time to measure, but only after you have digested the sizing guides. Then for 'good size', purposeful pun, do it again until you are sure.
Different products have more important factors than others:
- For a harness, girth is the most important measurement
- For a coat, back length and girth is most important
- For shoes, paw width (note - the front paws and back paws are often different sizes)
Sometimes, the size chart likes to confuse you on other measurement factors outside of those mentioned above for e.g. coats often include a neck size which is huge compared to your dog's actual size - treat these as a maximum head size as often they can be adjusted. If it's the other way around, you probably have a round faced dog that may only suit certain garments.
Another top tip: Don't use old measurements, unless you are 100% certain they haven't changed
Measure the dog correctly
Sounds obvious right? Measuring too much or too little of your dog will lead to frustration, we have had some quite comical size choices put to us at Mountain Dog HQ. That's certainly another blog for another day.
- Girth (Sometimes called chest by some vendors) This is the total distance around the body at the widest point just behind the front legs - the part where the buckles usually secure on a harness. Sometimes we have to be creative with dogs such as greyhounds that have a larger / more exaggerated ribcage, but outside of those type of breeds, this is usually an easy measurement to take. We can usually get a fit for the latter so do get in touch.
- Back Length - This is the most important measurement for coats and should be considered above everything else. The key here is not to over-measure, otherwise we start to get terms like massive, huge or gigantic in our returns reasons. The guidance is very simple here. Please do not measure any of the neck or the tail - simply measure from the shoulder blades (Bottom of the neck) to where the tail sprouts from the body.
- Neck - easy one this, just measure the circumference around where the collar would sit. For comfort, do add a little bit onto that.
- Paws - The full width of the paw is needed when it is load bearing. Handy hint, lay a piece of paper on a hard floor, position the dog's foot and draw a mark each side and measure after they have left the scene. Remember, do front and back separately - yes that's why dog boots are normally sold in pairs :-)
For products like rain suits and similar, you are often asked to assess leg length as well - if you need help on this, please contact our team who will be only too happy to try and help.
Inches or Centimetres
Pick your measurement style and stick to it. It may sound obvious but we've had poor dogs looking at micro size garments due to mixing the two. Mountain Dog allow you to use our sizer in inches or centimetres to your preference.
Some breeds seem to come off precise production lines and their sizing is super-consistent, but the majority are a little more variable shall we say? Breed size guides are available online, but should be treated with caution.
Buy More Than One Size
If you are not confident in the size choice, why not buy two adjacent sizes to try? As long as the one that is surplus to requirement is returned quickly and in as-new condition, this allows you to make that judgement in your own home. Technology can be great, but there is no substitute for the garment meeting the dog.
Reach Out to the Team
It can seem to be a minefield sometimes, so if you want to reach out to us, we would be delighted to offer a range of support from choosing the right product to discussing that fit. To help us, please try to follow the steps for measuring above, let us know what measurements you decided and we will be able to help you quickly.
We always love seeing photographs of your lovely dogs, however it is measurements that are key. Sometimes a picture will help us get more context if they are a cross-breed or have a specific physique so they are gratefully received too.
Visit Our Store
Visiting the North East, on holiday in Northumbria or just plain old lucky enough to live in our wonderful county of Northumberland then why not pop in for a fitting?
You can find us here:
Products Arrived Too Small / Large
We know nothing is more frustrating than receiving a package, and despite your best sizing effort, it seems (or is!) to be smaller or larger than described.
The reason we are so definitive about the accuracy of manufacturers size charts is that we have taken time to independently measure a lot of our products to verify their claims and understand where they get their numbers from. Yes, we need a better hobby, but that aside, the reasons for items being too small/large can be numerous and include:
- Adjustments - a lot of the products are highly adjustable and sometimes, if you haven't had experience in adjusting webbing straps and similar, you may come to the conclusion it is not possible to adjust to a certain size. For these situations, it is worth looking at our posts on specific products which will give you the tips to make that adjustment. With one product, that will remain nameless, the extra strap is, by design, neatly hidden in the body of the harness - easy when you know how, but not always obvious when you see it for the first time. Of course, the item you have may not be a suitable size, but it is always worth speaking to our team to check if you are not sure.
- Coat Length - our advice as above is to avoid over estimating the length of your dog, as even a few centimetres extra makes the garment much bigger than you need. If the back length is correct, it may still not fit as you wish. This can be the case for dogs with a slight build, or when the garment has an integral hood, allowing them to sit further forward into the garment. These factors can skew your measurements. There is no real way of mitigating those points when making your sizing decision, but we will quickly exchange for the right size as needed.
Remember, until the garment meets the dog, you can never be 100%
Product arrives but still not correct?
It happens, a picture on a page and a size guide can only tell you so much.
Try to assess what you think doesn't work for you, as often a different product, a change of size or even change of brand can often get you to the right choice.
- Consider Another Size - if you have the wrong size in hand, it should be easy to determine how much bigger/smaller an item should be to get that elusive fit. IMPORTANT: Whilst most brands offer reasonably granular sizing steps, some have very large differences between sizes. This is especially true with US brands and especially on coats - double check the charts to see if the size up or down will actually work for you.
- Consider Suitability - ask yourself when you have the the product with you if the actual design would be suitable for your dog if you made a size change. This is particularly important on harnesses as these, especially ones with double belly straps, can be too long for a shorter dog. A solution would be to consider changing to an every day harness with a single belly strap. We don't want doggo's bodily functions being impeded!
- Switch Brand - often a change of brand changes the sizing and style dynamics, and it may just be the change you need to get the perfect fit. We offer many brands for that reason. For me, Marks & Spencers will always offer a better fit than any designer range - I, like the dog, have to shop accordingly :-)
We are extremely confident that, from our great range of manufacturers, we will get a fit for even the most prima-donna of canines. Our team are there to help and have experience from fitting many dogs in-store and at shows. We always love to help, just get in touch.
First thing, don't despair! You have just gone a bit further on the journey to get that final fit. Once you have debated if a size or product change is needed, simply use our easy exchange service accessed via our Returns Centre.
Just get the original garment back to us and the replacement is sent out at our own cost. Should you have any questions before going through this process, simply contact the team and they will be delighted to assist. Our goal is delighted dogs and delighted owners, sometimes it just takes a couple of steps.
Thank you for trusting our small business.