Jan 172009


Many people react strongly to a pet in clothes.  “Demeaning, stupid, absurd, ridiculous…” 

The basis for this reaction is primarily the notion that the animal is embarrassed by wearing the clothes, and the owner who put the clothes on is irrationally anthropomorphizing an animal into a child or a Barbie doll. 

Let me suggest an alternate theory—the people who are bothered by this are actually the ones anthropomorphizing: an animal does not care about how he looks in a sweater.  He is not embarrassed.  He has no emotional reaction to the idea of wearing a sweater whatsoever. 

There are several reasons a person might decide to put clothes on a pet.  Let’s consider them individually:


1.       Socialization: responsible animal owners devote considerable time and energy to increasing their animal’s level of comfort in the world.  Part of doing this involves exposing the animal to a wide range of sensory input.  Wearing clothes or glasses or a hat is a new experience for an animal, and getting them used to that experience increases their temperamental stability.  I have trained many animals to happily wear clothes, and in every case it has been well worth the time in terms of their psychological development.  





2.       Animal gets cold: I am really not sure why wardrobe detractors do not imagine that dogs might get cold, but they do.  Particularly small dogs, or dogs with little coat, or in the rain, and having an insulating layer can be very effective in helping the dog to stay warm. 

3.       Protection: foxtails, thorns, sun, and many other environmental hazards can be significantly ameliorated in certain situations by using an appropriate jacket.

4.       Owner thinks the animal looks cute in clothes: personally I think this reason is a little silly, and I generally think animals are beautiful enough without clothing, but if a person derives pleasure from putting a dress on their poodle, and it does not harm or bother the dog, why is that objectionable?

5.       The animal likes wearing clothes: I think most animals are indifferent, but there may be some who really like the feeling or the attention.

There is little question that most clothing made for animals is absurd, and I am not about to start dressing all my pets, but I am going to continue training them to wear clothes, and when weather or circumstances warrant clothing I will happily put it on my pets.  Certain people will assume that I am simply a shallow, silly, sartorially obsessed ninny, but you will know better.  I am a responsible animal owner who is doing what is best for the animal regardless of what is politically correct…



 January 17, 2009  Posted by at 10:07 am Tagged with: ,

  7 Responses to “Dressing your Pet is Wrong…..Or is it?”

  1. My dog is of a breed that gets cold very easily… but I also like to buy clothes that look ‘cute’. I figure, if I have to dress them anyway, why not make them look nice? But I’ll bet lots of people look at us and assume I’m playing Barbie with my dog… But I don’t see why people who own a breed that benefits from extra insulation should have to only buy those ‘dog blanket’ coats just to prove to total strangers that we’re non crackpots!

    Though most of the dog clothes I see in stores isn’t very practical or useful… it’s actually harder to find nice-looking functional dog clothes without going online. I think part of the stigma against dog clothing is for the simple fact that a lot of is IS tacky-looking and pointless.

  2. I have found that clothes can really make the woman… I find that when my female doberman is wearing girly little coats or sweaters in the winter people do not perceive her to be a doberman and readily approach her with coo’s and ooh’s and want to pet her. She gets loads of compliments, and it’s a great way to introduce people to a historically stigmatized breed. They’re much more willing to approach a “pretty dog” than a “doberman.” They’re always shocked to find out that she’s a doberman when they’re inquire about what breed she is… And I love the sweaters and coats because it means her rather hair-less underbelly and chest is kept warm in the frigid Ohio winters. And she loves the adoration, I’ll unbutton her coat so she can step out of it as trained, instead she’ll walk around with it and sleep in it for hours even though she could easily just step out of them if she wanted to…

  3. Catharine,

    That is an excellent point. We sometimes put clothes on animals that we know are likely to appear intimidating to people. It is hard to be intimidated by an animal wearing a sweater or a cute hat!

  4. You have only covered (literally) dogs and most dogs want to please their owners. Cats don’t have that behavior and most would go barmy if you try to put anything on them

  5. @David Rayfield

    If you buy clothes specifically designed for a cat, most “won’t go barmy”. A lot of times “cat clothes” are just clothes designed for dogs and labeled for cats. Cats and dogs have different shapes and therefore require different fits. Cat, dog, or human, nobody wants to wear something that’s uncomfortably fitted.

  6. @David Rayfield

    I have had the same experience with cats, tigers, lions, bears, birds, anteaters, etc. Heck, in the original article there is a picture of an antelope wearing fake antlers, and I promise you he is by nature every bit as independent and reactive as any cat! Yes, many animals would “go barmy” if you just stuck some clothing on them and sat back, but with a gradual introduction and some training, most animals can learn to relax and enjoy having clothing put on them. And that is somewhat the point–to teach an animal not to panic or react negatively when it feels something strange and different…

  7. Dogs wearing clothes, boots, harness, backpacks and even muzzles is a way to prepare your animals for life. When I first adopted my dog as a stray her pads were severely worn down cracked and bleeding they had to be be wrapped for months! taking her out was a chore when I was using gauze and plastic bags the vet provided. But once I got her boots it was no big deal. Instead of wearing a cone she wore a box muzzle it allowed her to walk around without knocking into things, open her mouth to pant drink and bark.

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