If you’ve ever spent any significant time on the Internet, chances are you’ve come across pictures of dogs dressed up as something adorable/terrifying.

The owners will often be the first to tell you that their dogs absolutely love being dressed up, but is it ever ok to parade your pooch around in one of these costumes?

Upon considering this question, I find myself torn. As a dog walker, I have a passion for pooches of all shapes and sizes, and some of them genuinely need an extra layer when we go out for walks. But it’s not an Elvis costume or Santa suit that I choose – it’s a dog jacket. Apart from a few smaller dogs that aren’t quite built to deal with the cold effectively, I generally find that very few dogs need a jacket, even in extreme weather. Dogs have evolved to regulate their body temperature in these conditions, and making them wear a jacket interferes with this regulatory system. Man’s best friend is tough as nails, and making them wear unnecessary layers of clothing can be detrimental to their survivalist instincts.

And it’s not just mild discomfort that a dressed up dog might experience; some experts have warned that it can have a similar effect to leaving them locked in a car without an open window, something that kills thousands of dogs every year. The RSPCA have further clarified the severity of unnecessarily giving dogs an extra layer of clothing by warning that owners who do so could be prosecuted for neglect, making it serious business.

But even if you’re taking care to only dress up your dog when you feel that they absolutely need the extra layer, there is another aspect to this argument that is rarely discussed – embarrassment.

 

There are claims that dressing dogs in extra clothing, even if it’s just a simple jacket, can actually be quite demeaning. I wasn’t totally convinced by this argument until I saw a huge Lurcher being paraded around in a fluffy poncho – his face definitely suggested embarrassment and discomfort.

The main argument that I hear from pet owners who dress their dogs up is that their pets ‘enjoy’ wearing the extra clothing. But in many ways, this could be even worse for the dog’s behaviour and development. Loving your dog is understandable, but ultimately they are pets and should be treated as so. Dogs that are dressed up by their owners tend to behave poorly because they aren’t treated like animals; they’re treated like spoilt kids. So don’t be surprised when they behave like a spoilt kid.

But despite my arguments, there are times when dressing up dogs is entirely appropriate. Family photos just aren’t the same without a dog in a bad sweater, and every dog should have at least one bad Halloween costume. Just make sure you take it off straight after they’re done posing in it, you don’t want them to overheat.

Dog clothing has become a huge industry in recent years, and an increasing number of owners have started dressing their dogs up on a regular basis. But whether you’re doing this for a laugh or you’re doing it because you genuinely believe they need the extra warmth, always consider their safety and feelings first.

 

 

Barbara owns Dog Walking Dunfermline (http://dogwalkingdunfermline.org.uk) a dog walking company based in Scotland.

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