should dogs wear clothing?
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Do Dogs Need Clothing and Why?

Do dogs need clothing? Why do people put clothes on their pets? I am asked these questions regularly, so let’s address them once and for all. There are both functional and fashionable reasons for dogs to wear clothes.

Every time I run a photo contest for dogs, there are a few folks who chime in on how unnatural it is for dogs to wear clothing. “These dogs aren’t happy doing this,” one dog parent wrote to me. Of all the people I’ve met during my career in the pet industry, the majority of dog parents who put clothes on their pets are super loving, kind, and dog lovers of the highest order.

For each time my dogs wear clothes, they get 10 runs in the park, romps in the mud, play sessions galore, walks around the neighborhood, trips to the treat store, and one-on-one time with me having fun. Many pet parents are the same way.

Dogs are not suffering by wearing clothing unless the dog is in pain, doesn’t get to do normal “dog” things, and has no quality of life because of it.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I am also a Chewy affiliate.

Do Dogs Need Clothing?

Yes and no, sometimes and maybe. Dogs need clothing when it serves a function–like a sweater for warmth, a cooling vest in warmer months, and boots for hiking or walking in the winter months.

Dogs need clothing when it provides warmth, comfort, keeps them from a chill after a bath, and/or protects them from the elements. Does that apply to any of your dogs?

Unless your dog is accustomed to wearing fun, fashionable clothing, you’ll have to start slowly and get them used to it. My dogs have a closet of their own because it’s functional and fashionable to do so.

Pre-pandemic, my spouse and I hosted yearly pet-friendly in-person gala events to benefit various dog rescues. More people attended because they had the opportunity to put fancy clothes on their dogs. We made more money for charity because most folks love to see dogs dressed up. They are also willing to share images, promote the event, and have a great time.

Hairless and shorter-haired breeds wear clothing to stay warm. Postoperatively, dogs may wear protective clothing to cover an incision site and prevent the dog from licking.

Stay tuned as I’ll share tips for getting your dog used to clothing a little further down. In the meantime, here are some myths and facts about dogs and winter coats.

Designer Clothes For Dogs

From dog booties to Swarovski crystal-laden collars and even canine handbags, pet parents are doting on our dogs, and designers are cashing in. Janice Craig hails from North Carolina and has been involved in pet fashion for many years.

“My main profession is in interior design which I have done for well over 30 years but couture pet fashion design has become a major business for me,” she shared.

Years ago, when the economy took a major fall and there just wasn’t much of a market for interior design, Craig decided to embrace her passion for pet fashion. She has become involved in Yorkie rescue for a good number of years and knows a lot of people around the country who are pet lovers.

Pet fashion just seemed like an interesting direction to go for her.  She reports it has been unbelievably successful and yes, there is a huge market for well-made pet clothing.

How does Craig respond to people who say dogs shouldn’t wear clothes?

“I rarely have anyone say that to me because most of the clothing I design is not only fashionable but also very comfortable and easy for pets to wear,” Craig stated. “There is a huge market of people who actually dress their dogs (and cats) just about every day.  They like to do really special designs for holidays and birthdays.  Those are the people who are my clients.  I don’t force clothing on people who have no interest in dressing their pets.  If anything, the comments I hear are astonishment that people would actually spend that kind of money creating full wardrobes for their pets. “

We went straight to the experts on this one. Here are a few of our favorite canine fashionistas:

Another canine couture designer, Anthony Rubio, is one of the best in the industry. From Liberace-inspired outfits to suits and costumes, his Chihuahuas, Bogie and Kimba, are trained to wear sunglasses, too.

“On the other hand, I won’t force my dogs to wear shoes or boots because they feel unnatural to the dog,” Rubio stated.

anthony rubio

Is It Cruel To Put Clothes On Dogs?

I wouldn’t put a dress on a wolf unless he was a character disguising himself in a children’s book. I would put a tux on a dog who didn’t mind doing so and whose personality didn’t suffer for it.

Some say it’s cruel for dogs to wear clothes because dogs aren’t humans. I know this.

If the fates honor me with my dog-sharing life for a solid 15 years or more, unlike a teenager at age 15, my dog isn’t asking for the car keys, won’t enter the dating world, and will never become a source of gray hair as I worry because he is out 10 minutes past curfew. His time is getting limited, at this ripe old age.

The lifespan of a dog is short — a flicker, if you will, compared with a human’s. He will pass from this world and leave behind a hole in my heart where it used to be, well, “whole.” I’ve been down this road, and I will again and again. Being in a room where needles to stop pain are injected into a dog is a surreal and life-altering experience.

I live a bit more vicariously and in the moment since becoming a dog mom: And after all, aren’t dogs always living in the moment? They’ve taught me well, these creatures amazing beings called dogs. I’ve yet to see my dog worry about what just happened, or panic at something that’s going down tomorrow. Dogs have taught me to live life to its fullest because, at any time, it can end.

If my dog hated wearing clothes and put up a fuss against it, I’d stop. I’d still want him to be warm and protected from the elements, so we’d face that hurdle. So far in my life, this has never been the case with my dogs.

When Shouldn’t Dogs Wear Clothes?

If your dog genuinely hates clothes, puts up a major fuss, and won’t move no matter what, then your dog is unhappy. You can try encouraging your dog to wear a functional sweater or coat in winter weather. But otherwise, your dog doesn’t need to wear clothes just for fun.

If you have your heart set on clothes, consider a doggie bandanna or fancy leash, collar, and collar tags. Etsy and Amazon have a lot of bowties for dogs that easily clip or slide onto their collars.

If your dog is forced to wear clothing and left alone, she may try to escape from the garment and wind up stressed out or hurting herself.

If you had to go outside in a bitterly cold snowstorm and walk until you urinated and defecated, could you do it without a coat on, would you do it? If you had to poop badly enough, sure you might. Your dog has no choice. If you need something to keep warm, so does your dog.

Many dogs are fine with wearing clothes. Some hate it, will tuck their tail between their legs, hide behind furniture, or try to eat the outfit. Take the clothes off, start with a smaller or more lightweight item, and work up from there.

Positive reinforcement is key with plenty of praise, a happy tone, and a treat or two. The same holds true with dog boots or paw apparel. Start with one boot in the house and let them get used to it.

dex
Me and Dexter at one of our fundraising events with Wigglebutt Warriors. Photo courtesy Luminaria Photography.

How to Get A Dog Used To Wear Clothes

Aside from the functional reasons dogs should wear a coat or sweater, there is another huge bonus reason from which my dogs benefited.

When my Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, injured his leg (twice) and ruptured his ACL, he required surgeries. I opted for a “onesie” for dogs of sorts during postoperative recovery – from the folks at Tulane’s Closet.

My dog was so accustomed to apparel, he never blinked an eyelash at wearing a one-piece “cover me” outfit during his postop period. He never bothered the wound. He never had to struggle with the cone of shame.

Not all dogs are into fashion. Not all dogs like wearing clothes. If this is the case and your dog is truly upset or stressed by it, don’t do it. However, many dogs just need a little coaxing and positive reinforcement.

This means no yelling, getting frustrated, forcing a dog to wear clothes, or in any way getting upset. This means starting with a bandana and if the dog allows this and walks around with it for a minute or two, reward him and praise him like he just won a dog show.

Work up to longer periods of time but switch the item of apparel out. Try a doggie bandanna. Again, if the dog accepts this, praise. If the dog is freaked out or otherwise uses the bandanna as a chew toy, stop. Positive reinforcement and acting like your dog won Best in Show for walking around in a t-shirt for five minutes is key.

How To Measure Your Dog For Clothing Properly

Don’t ever go by what the manufacturer claims are the right size. My Cocker Spaniels have worn everything from medium to extra large depending on the cut and style and manufacturer.

You need to measure your dog to get the right size every time. Skip over the label and look for the measurements of the garment if you are purchasing online. Here are the measurements you will need:

  • Neck to Tail
  • Chest girth (very important – the chest girth is key)
  • Neck
  • Chest measurement across (for custom)

Of note, my Dexter would not walk in clothes if the underside of the garment touched his private parts. I made sure to allow plenty of space in the garment underneath or alter the garment once it arrived.

I record my dog’s sizes in the DogMinder we created for under $10.

Make sure the apparel is not too snug nor too loose or you defeat the purpose and can make your dog very uncomfortable. Snaps, buttons, and elastic should never cut into a dog’s skin or cause her discomfort.

how to measure a dog for clothing

Facts About Dogs Body Heat

  1. Smaller dogs have a harder time retaining heat than larger dogs
  2. Dogs with weakened immune systems may need an extra source of warmth
  3. Older dogs may become chilled more easily
  4. Some dog breeds have a thick double coat, such as the Newfoundland (Newfie) and the undercoat acts as an insulator for the dog. Newfies also have a waterproof coat.
  5. Dogs who have lost muscle mass due to illness or age may need a sweater or coat to stay warm.
  6. A dog’s paw pads are sensitive and benefit from proper care. Chemicals can be absorbed through a dog’s paw pads. Dogs may lick at their feet and ingest something dangerous like ice melt, rock salt, or antifreeze. Paw protection is essential.
  7. Puppies are less able to keep their body temperatures stable than adult dogs.
  8. Medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or cardiac issues can make a dog less able to tolerate the cold.
  9. Some breeds don’t have a lot of body fat, such as Whippets and Greyhounds. You’ll often see these breeds wear apparel to keep them warm.
  10. Arthritic dogs tend to have flare-ups in colder months. Protective clothing can help keep joints warm so they don’t become stiff.
No matter what breed or age of dog you have, no dog should be left outside in frigid weather, in low wind chills, or in wintry or rainy weather. 

Should Dogs Wear Clothes In Warmer Weather?

A lightweight warmer weather piece of clothing is ideal to prevent sunburn. Cooling vests can keep a dog from experiencing heatstroke.

Dogs with lighter-colored skin may suffer skin damage if exposed to the sun’s UV rays for too long.

We live in a very social media-facing society. If you want tropical shirts for dogs, cute tank tops for your pup, or a patriotic outfit for your doggo, go for it!

Matching Dog and Owner Outfits

We all love to twin alongside our dogs now and then. Why not match your apparel to your dog’s and be fab friends forever?! Besides, matching outfits make for the best social media content.

Bonus: 20 of the best dog mom and dog matching gifts

Where to Find Cocker Spaniel Clothes

We love all dogs here at Fidose of Reality, but our hearts beat extra for Cocker Spaniels. It can be difficult to find clothes for Cockers because their chests are often girthy while their bodies are shorter length-wise. If you have a male Cocker, it’s often a struggle between medium and large.

Here are some of my favorite brands and clothing sizes for Cocker Spaniels:

Petrageous brand dog pajamas, size large: Usually, Amazon has them in stock, and sometimes BaxterBoo

The best winter coats for Cocker Spaniels

Canada Pooch brand, mostly size large

Made by De on Etsy

Should dogs wear clothes

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32 Comments

  1. Coco Chanel Bella loves wearing clothes! She has been wearing clothes since she was 9 weeks old when I got her. I got her in the winter and the breeder told me not to take her outside to go to the bathroom, but that’s where I wanted her to learn to go to the bathroom so I bought her a sweater so she would keep warm and would take her outside quick to go to the bathroom and bring her back in. Now she has a walk-in closet of clothes! We can’t wait to see what Anthony Rubio makes for Hollywoof! But I agree if your dog doesn’t seem to like wearing clothes then don’t force them to! Great article!!

    1. my malchi has thin hair and likes wearing clothes. he weighs 4 lbs 1 oz.
      plus I love picking them out. I have no kids at home and my grandkids are y6oungest is 11. so I really love and he likes it . he will bring a outfit to me I was just concered how long he should wear them. I do take them off for air to get to shin.he doesn’t shake as bad when he goes out in snow and really cold air. he has quite the wardrobe my daughter got him.

  2. Yep, my dog loves wearing clothes. He has a wardrobe that rivals most humans. I started having him wear doggie football jerseys as a young pup. From there we went to jackets and coats. Now he has a wardrobe of fashion couture for special occasions. He has no problem wearing clothes, and I believe it is because he started wearing clothing at a young age.

  3. ChazztheDog humors me and will wear the clothes I put on him. I don’t think he likes it per she. We only keep him in them for a photo op. But he looks awful cute..

  4. Dante and Ziva both have super short fur, so they wear lots of sweatshirts and doggy coats in the winter and wet weather months. 🙂 They also have boots for hiking and snowshoeing to protect their foot pads.

  5. Buster is not a big fan of clothing, but if the occasion calls for it, he will give in and wear something.

  6. We don’t wear clothes. Well, occasionally we wear something for a fun photo shoot, but for normal life, our collars are our clothing. Even for photos we mainly wear hats and/or glasses.

  7. Ironically my male loves to wear clothes, but my female Chihuahua has no interest! She pulls the classic dear-in-headlights move when we try to dress her up, and freezes until we take off the outfit. She’s more of a “free spirit,” or nudist as we like to joke. It’s a shame too, girls are more fun to dress up! But like I said, my male pitbull loves his comfy sweaters and shirts. He will generally refuse to go outside in chilly or inclement weather without a jacket. He is also rather fond of wearing a shirt to bed, like pajamas. Anyway, we admire your pups fearless style! Great fashion taste!

  8. I know that mom is disappointed that I don’t like to wear clothes, especialy coats in the winter, but if I did I know she wouldn’t go overboard. Its important that the dog enjoys it. Love Dolly

  9. My Jack Russell, Boo (male), loves his tees, and winter coats; he’s everything about warmth, comfort and cuddling… 🙂
    My little Pomeranian girl, Quinn, she will just tolerate a raincoat and/or a winter coat on the coldest of winter days; I call her my ‘snow~dog’, because she loves winter, she loves the snow, and it takes quite awhile before she’s ready to come in from the cold!
    🙂

  10. I have put certain items of clothing on my huskies for a photo shoot and things like that, but other then that, they hate clothes! I have no issues with people dressing their dogs though, as long as the dog is comfortable with it, and is not hot or anything like that.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  11. Our dogs hate clothing, but we fostered a dog once who loved clothing – he went to his new home with a full wardrobe. I so want a small dog who likes to dress up 🙂 Even if it’s only tshirts and jackets.

  12. I’ll admit that I’m being converted into liking dogs in clothes and am even starting wardrobes for each of mine! It’s so adorable! I’ve even started dressing my crew up occasionally and they were all very accepting of it. Kronos really loves the fur tight fitting doggie outfits (everyone will wear dog shirts after a bath to stay warm). For normal day wear it’s either naked or collars or harnesses though 🙂 But I have a lot of photo ideas that are starting to develop that involve Bella, Terra, & Kronos wearing clothes. I’m lucky that my canine models are pretty easy going and accepting of odd things (in exchange for being handsomely paid in food yummys or play time of course).

  13. My cocker is very picky about her clothing. She never freezes, but theres one tracksuit she just hates. We usually dress up all the time, for both practical, hygienic but mostly for medical reasons, and we have been doing so since she was a itty bitty puppy. However we live in an area where just a plain shirt on her will get rude comments and stares and pointed fingers, not to mention her in a winter jacket with booties, tge comments of passer-bys get quite horrible… Thankfully she cant understand a word they’re saying and I love her and put her health first, so I try not to care.

  14. Yago is a frenchie. Clothes for him are a necessity, from a wet white T shirt or bandanna to keep him cool in summer to a lovely varsity jacket that is easy to put on in winter. I never dressed my other dogs other than for a special ocassion such as an important soccer game, I hate dogs clothes. They’re ridiculous. But some breeds do need them and should be worn.

  15. My dog doesn’t mind wearing clothes. He has over 25 outfits and he loves all of them. My dog started wearing clothes at 1 and he’s almost 2 now. I would suggest to start putting clothes on your dog early so he/she gets used to it. In my opinion i don’t think you should start putting clothes on a dog later then the age of 3. But, some dogs don’t have a problem with it. And, make sure your dog is clean when you dress them because you don’t want his/her clothes to get dirty. Let your dog have a break from clothes. Especially if your dog has a thick coat. It might get him/her hot.

  16. Howdy would you mind letting me know which web host you’re using? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different internet browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most.

  17. I started dressing my Boston terrier the day I got her. Penny Rose was just 8 weeks old. She has over 100 dresses and many nightgowns. We keep our house at about 68 degrees all year because of our health issues. When she is naked , Penny will go get under a blanket until I get her dressed. She has summer dresses as well as winter apparel. She loves her clothes and looks at other dogs without clothes as if they have lost their minds it are just classless. Many folks in our neighborhood make cruel comments like God gave dogs fur for clothing and only crazy women FORCE a dog to wear human clothes. Others think she is adorable, as she certainly is. I have lived long enough not to care what other people think. My main concern is that my Penny Rose is happy. If she didn’t like the clothes, she wouldn’t have to wear them.

  18. Wow, it’s very nice design dogs clothes I like this design. The growing focus on a marketing and media perspective on the human animal bond an attract niche sectors usually targeted at people, recently I purchased one designer dog clothes for my pet online from Posh Puppy boutique and this store also very good stores for designer pets accessories.

  19. Yep, my dog loves wearing clothes. You also have to be mindful about the colors and styles and settle for the ones which will suit your pet best while showing off your own sense of fashion. Get Personalized designer dog clothes and accessories Unique Dog Lover Gifts. @ SassyDogFashion

  20. I got my dog at around 8 months old, and quickly got fleece dog booties and a hardy coat to help her deal with the winter. She never minded the coat, but the booties took some time. I recently got her some summer boots to deal with the hot pavement and she loved them the moment we stepped foot on the blacktop in 80° weather. She’s been tolerable of shoes for a while now, but the confused joy on her face when she realized she could walk across the blacktop without any heat was simply amazing.

    1. This makes our hearts so happy, Jayden. YAY for taking care of your dog’s paws. So wonderful to hear.

  21. Interesting Blog! Yeah, my dog loves to wear clothes. You do not have to force your pet to wear clothes if it does not want to wear. Thanks for such simple, amazing ideas and precautions on wearing dog clothes. You can get simple, personalized, and charming pet clothes online.

  22. Some dogs are really enjoying their new outfits but some are not, and i guess we should take it easy and choose light outfits until they get used to it.

  23. Yeah, My Dogs loves wearing Clothes. I order online clothes from Posh Puppy Sports for my dogs. They feel very Comfortable and the clothes also take care of their skin and their health also.

  24. I liked that you said that one thing to consider when you are looking for clothing for your dog is to make sure that you measure their sizes correctly first. I have been thinking about buying clothing for my dog but I have been worried that it wouldn’t fit my dog correctly. I would be sure to measure the size accurately before purchasing clothing so that II would acquire the correct pieces.

  25. wow really the very nice blog, always I follow such type of information, because I love a dog and anytime conscious for her health and trendy fashion, I got some information info and trendy product for my dog through online Nandog Pet Gear this store very trust able and providing all kinds of product for dog

  26. My little Angel Phoebe loved wearing clothes from day one! I think she just loved all the attention. Oohs & Ahhs she got from me & everyone else. She also needed sweaters & the occasional jacket in the cold. She was born a fashionista! My Husky doesn’t need or love wearing clothes so we stick to some fancy collars, leashes. Bandanas, & harnesses.

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