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Are Pets The New Black?

The growing focus from a marketing and media perspective on the human-animal bond also continues to attract niche sectors usually targeted at people. From dog booties to crystal-fashioned collars and even canine handbags, we dote on our dogs, and designers are cashing in.

Do some dogs truly have a better wardrobe than most of us? Dog fashion seems all the rage and what was once considered a fad has emerged as a trend and has now entered mainstream.

There are both functional and fashionable reasons for canines to do couture, and perhaps a bit of both in many cases. Here’s the scoop on dog apparel and what dog lovers should know before purchasing clothing for dogs.

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, just don’t do it.

However, many dogs just need a little coaxing and positive reinforcement. This means no yelling, getting frustrated or in any way getting upset. Try starting with a bandana and if the dog allows it for a minute or two, reward him and praise him like he just won a best dressed award in a dog show.

Work up to longer periods of time changing the choice of clothing like a doggie scarf. Again, if the dog accepts this, praise. If the dog is freaked out or otherwise uses the scarf as a chew toy, forego the effort. Move on to something like guard dog training!

One of the best times to get him used to wearing clothes is when he first enters your world. As a puppy, try t-shirts on the dog around the house and let the pup associate clothes with a positive experience. Then try something lightweight like a loose-fitting sweater to acclimate towards cooler weather and to something with functional warmth.

You’ll know if your dog does not like wearing clothes. If the tendency is to either freeze in place, act like they were lathered in glue, or otherwise are just extremely unhappy then for the love of Rin Tin Tin, don’t make them wear clothes. There are so many fun leashes, collars, and bandanas on the market these days that you don’t have to feel excluded because your charge rejects fashion.

Be sure to consider, is it too hot, too cold, or just right? Dogs can overheat easily, so ensure your dog’s clothing is not too bulky or heavy. Watch for elastic features around the paw area and be certain there is enough room in the chest. If a dog can easily trip over the legs find something else.

There is a time and a place for fashion for pets. For some, it’s year round and for others it’s a functional thing. For yet another group of owners, they prefer the naked and unafraid approach!

Then there’s this to consider…

“Dressing up is a form of attention pets get from their owners and other people,” says Dr. Wailani Sung, a veterinary behaviorist. “And it’s attention-seeking behavior for people, too. ‘Look how cute my dog is.’ We take pride in that.”

But styling pets as nature never intended can stress some animals. Loose clothes can fall over eyes and ears, limiting sight and sound. And, according to Dr. Sung, tight clothes can restrict movement and literally rub an animal the wrong way, making him feel uncomfortable and restricted.

A stressed dog can have less patience for situations he might otherwise tolerate, and if he’s covered up, there are fewer body cues visible to signal a dislike to humans and canines. You may think he looks adorable in that cashmere hoodie, but you may not realize that it can impact how he interacts with other dogs. Normally, when his archenemy, the poodle from down the street, approaches him, he may subtly signal with his ears how he feels, but the hoodie impacts his ability to deliver that information.

“When they are wearing clothing, some of their natural behavior may be suppressed. They cannot fully display normal signaling, and the situation may escalate to more overt signaling, such as barking and lunging.” Dr. Sung says.

What’s more, if your normally confident pet seems more deferential because of the clothes, other dogs may take advantage of that change in pack order. “The other dog may press on and become more assertive,” explains Dr. Sung.

This doesn’t mean your pooch automatically becomes a walking victim of fashion who is at the mercy of other dogs, but there are safety rules to consider and behavior cues to look for to make sure your pet is happy wearing the truly impressive wardrobe you’ve created for him.


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