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Dressing Up Your Pet: Things to Consider

This weekend is National Dress Up Your Pets Day. Here's some thoughts to consider!

January 14th is National Dress Your Pet Day. Dressing up one's pet is a topic with some divided opinions. Here's a short summary of the benefits and drawbacks of dressing your pet.

Obviously, dressing your pet up in a costume can be funny and cute and many humans enjoy it. Dressing a pet in a costume can have benefits in some situations, such as at an adoption fair or an adoption photo shoot. Dogs that are "less attractive" because they're older or have other physical issues can look more attractive to people with something as simple as a brightly colored bandana on their neck. Likewise certain breeds that are more intimidating can look friendlier with a cute costume on. And finally, dark colored dogs are hard to photograph well and that pop of color in the photo from a piece of clothing like a ribbon, bandana or more can help to draw more attention to them.

Another way that dressing a pet up can be good for the pet is when you live in colder weather and you have a dog that doesn't tolerate the cold well when you're outside, such as senior dogs or dogs with very short fur like a Chihuahua or a Boxer. These dogs may appreciate a well-fitted warm, waterproof coat. And for dogs that are fearful, body wraps such as a Thunder Shirt can be helpful to some dogs.

On the other hand, dog behavior and training professionals tend to frown on dressing dogs up in costumes. Says Marjie Alonso, Executive Director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), "it's important to be mindful of how those costumes can effect pets. Some dogs are really uncomfortable wearing costumes, and some bites are reported each year just from people putting costumes or coats on their pets. Also, costumes can significantly interfere with dogs' natural language, masking body signals and eye contact in ways possible to cause fear, fighting or miscommunication with other animals and people, even those they know well."

Some dogs may also develop skin irritations from costumes and clothing which is something to look out for with any items they wear, including regular dog collars and harnesses.

If you do decide to dress up your pet, here's some general guidelines to follow:

  • Observe your dog's body language. Anything you put on them should not restrict their movement and the dog should seem relaxed with the items on them.
  • If your dog appears uncomfortable, fearful or anxious, it's best to remove the clothing or costume item from them.
  • Make sure everything fits properly. You may have a dog that doesn't mind wearing clothing, but a poor fit can make them physically uncomfortable and lead to skin irritation.


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