Is It OK To Put Clothes or Costumes on Your Dog?

Every October, you love finding a cute Halloween costume for your pup to wear. And then when winter rolls around, you put him in a sweater and booties, and in the spring and summer he wears a raincoat.

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Though he looks adorable, and he doesn't seem uncomfortable, you still wonder if dressing up your pet is OK. You don't want to do anything that would make him feel unhappy, after all.

Before you put another Halloween costume or any type of clothing on your dog, it's best to figure out whether or not he actually likes it.

Is it OK to put clothes on your dog?

When it comes to putting clothing on your dog, Janet Cutler, PhD, and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist at Landmark Behaviour, told Cuteness, "It really depends on the dog. There are many who are perfectly comfortable with clothing or costumes, however in some dogs it can increase anxiety or fear."

Some types of clothes are worse than others, according to Cutler. She said that in general, dogs are less tolerant of costumes, hats, or shirts, "especially if they interfere with ear movement/ability to hear, or if it puts them off balance. Of greater concern would be types of clothing that would have pieces that could be chewed or items that could be removed and be hazardous if the dog ingested them. Any time a pet is wearing a costume they should be carefully supervised."

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If you're dressing up your dog in a Halloween costume or taking him to a party, keep in mind that the stimulation could make your dog unhappy as well. "Around Halloween, there are many other factors that can cause fear in your dog," said Cutler. "The strange or additional noise, people in costume, and possible extra attention can be very scary for dogs, so for many dogs keeping them away from much of the action is advised."

Signs your dog doesn't like wearing clothes

If your dog hates clothing, he may tell you so with his body language. For instance, if he refuses to move, it likely means he doesn't feel comfortable in the clothing. He may also roll around on the floor and act like he's trying to get the clothing off. Cutler said that many dogs will try to bite at the clothing if it's new to them, or they will display signs of fear.

"If your dog shows signs of fear (tail tucked, body lowered, hiding) after they've had clothing on for a bit, that's a sign that it's causing them to be fearful. Any signs of aggression would also be a sign they aren't enjoying the experience." If you observe any of these signs, take the clothing off right away.

Clothes that are good for dogs

Halloween costumes may not be necessary, but sometimes, your dog does need to wear clothes. According to Cutler, some breeds, like those who are small or have very short coats, might need a sweater or jacket in cold weather. Additionally, dogs with sensitive paws may benefit from boots in the winter.

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"It's not uncommon for dogs to find walking outside unpleasant, especially when [it's] very cold or there is salt on the ground," she said. "There are also specialized shirts on the market that can help with anxiety, such as during thunderstorms."

What should I do if I need to put clothing on my dog (due to weather, etc)?

If you need to put clothing on your dog, Cutler advised doing it slowly and give praise and rewards for calm behavior so that it's a good experience. (This may take multiple sessions.)

Once your dog is wearing the clothes, make sure you monitor him so you can see if he's having an allergic reaction. "There is a possibility of allergies or even irritation due to material movement," said Cutler. "If there is any redness you're concerned about or excessive scratching/biting at an area, I would recommend talking to your veterinarian."

Conclusion

Some dogs are fine with being dressed in clothes, while others are not. Pay close attention to your dog's body language—if he indicates that he doesn't like it, then you should take it off.

If you need your dog to wear clothing for his own protection, such as in cold weather, introduce it slowly and give him rewards. Then you will have peace of mind that your pup is safe and cozy in his new clothes.