It can be a fun diversion to dress our dogs in cute outfits. Who wouldn’t smile at a beagle in a bow tie, a Maltese wearing a tutu, or a dobie in a cool hoodie. You can dress your fur friend in a t-shirt celebrating your favorite band, a witch or hot dog costume, or a fully sequined ball gown. The numbers support the fact that dressed up dogs are seemingly everywhere. The global pet clothing market was valued at almost 5.2 billion dollars in 2021 with projected growth to more than 7.5 billion by 2031. Before you jump on the consumer train and buy your fur friend a full wardrobe, however, you should take a moment and think about whether pets really like to wear clothes or if we are assuming they share our likes and dislikes.
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What to consider?
The most important thing to consider is your dog’s personality. Some dogs clearly love the attention they get when wearing a cute outfit, get excited when you bring out the clothes, and patiently wait to be dressed. Others might find clothing restrictive and uncomfortable and start to shiver and whine when a shirt or onesie heads their way. Their comfort and happiness should always come before our desire to put them in clothes.
If your dog seems happy in clothes, there are a few considerations as you choose some pieces for them to wear. Go slowly in introducing them to clothes and make sure they are not showing any signs of stress. Offering treats and lots of positive reinforcement can help make it a good experience as they get used to wearing outfits.
Understand your dog’s body language to know how they are feeling. If they are trembling or have a stiff, rigid body, have their ears pinned back or are showing the whites of their eyes, you might all be better off finding another way to bond and letting your dog’s natural cuteness speak for itself.
It is important that all dog clothes fit properly and do not hinder any normal movements. Comfortable, stretchy materials will help prevent hot spots and irritation from rough fabrics and edges. Dogs should be able to see, hear, and go to the bathroom without anything in the way. Choose clothing that allows for free tail movement and leaves their faces and ears exposed, as those are essential ways for dogs to communicate.
Any clothing that you choose for your pup should be checked that it doesn’t have any straps or loose ties that could get hung up on something and cause harm to your dog. Always supervise your dog when they are wearing any clothing.
When is it beneficial?
Some dogs really benefit from wearing clothes. In cold climates, dogs with short hair or who are hairless, who are very thin or elderly might need to wear a sweater or coat during the winter in order to stay warm. Other dogs find that booties help prevent cold or irritated foot pads. There are cooling jackets and vests available for dogs who live in warm climates and could use help staying cool.
Clothing can also be adapted to cover a wound or surgical site and prevent a pup from excessively licking or worrying it, which can slow healing.
Dogs with certain medical illnesses such as Cushing’s disease, which can cause hair loss and fragile, thin skin, can wear clothes to add warmth and protection for their bodies.
Snug fitting clothes can also work to soothe and calm a nervous or stressed dog by applying steady pressure along their body, following the model of a thunder wrap to help a dog with thunder fear or other anxieties.
Reflective vests and illuminated collars can be important safety measures when walking your dog at night.
Keep your dog’s needs first
Dressing our pets in clothing is a way we can show our fur family how much we love them. We can give our dogs lots of attention and spend time choosing items for them and dressing them. We know that they are feeling and thinking members of our households and are not just objects in the room. If your dog is happy wearing clothes, it can be a fun way to bond with them.
It is always valuable, however, to stop and look at life from our best friend’s point of view. Remember that our pets are not just small, furry humans, but that they have different ways of seeing and interacting with the world. A long dress that makes it difficult to walk and wag a tail, or a tiara that doesn’t let the 18 muscles controlling their ears be as expressive as they can are not fun and cute to a dog but will instead cause discomfort and stress. Dressing up wouldn’t be their first choice for interacting with us, and sometimes, a good play session and a tummy rub is all the attention our pets need and want.