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.
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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.
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.
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)
- 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.
Facts About Dogs Body Heat
- Smaller dogs have a harder time retaining heat than larger dogs
- Dogs with weakened immune systems may need an extra source of warmth
- Older dogs may become chilled more easily
- 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.
- Dogs who have lost muscle mass due to illness or age may need a sweater or coat to stay warm.
- 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.
- Puppies are less able to keep their body temperatures stable than adult dogs.
- Medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or cardiac issues can make a dog less able to tolerate the cold.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
Canada Pooch brand, mostly size large
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