Is It Okay to Dress Up Your Dog?

dog wearing tutu and outfit

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Instagram is overflowing with accounts of dogs who have thousands of followers. Lots of these dogs have daily photos in another cute little outfit. They're not alone—there are many owners who maybe aren't as social media-savvy that like to don their pup in fun dog clothes. This does court controversy. Many would argue that a dog is a dog and they should not ever be dressed up.

However, some occasions call for dressing up your dog to benefit its welfare and, even when it's not needed, that doesn’t mean that dressing up your dog is terrible. Every dog is an individual, and owners just need to be approach each situation with common sense and the dog's happiness and comfort at the forefront of their mind.

5 Times It's Okay to Dress Up Your Dog

Cold Weather

You may hear people argue that a dog doesn’t need to wear a coat—they already have one. Yes, this is true, but every breed is different in terms of their coat types and their ability to cope with wintry weather. A whippet, for example, has a thin coat and very little body fat. Compare them with a Newfoundland that has a thick double coat and has been bred to survive in severe weather conditions, and it is obvious which one is more likely to need to wear a doggy jacket or sweater!

Puppy Border Terrier
Tim Graham/Getty Images / Getty Images

Elderly dogs and puppies are also more likely to feel the cold than a fit, active, and healthy adult dog.

To Help a Nervous Dog Feel More Secure

If you have a nervous dog, it may respond well to a Thundershirt or a tighter fitting sweater or doggy t-shirt. The "snuggly" pressure created has often been shown to have a calming effect.

It's important to remember, though, that this doesn’t work for every dog, and it's essential to make sure that if your dog is nervous, you introduce it to the item gradually, when your dog is relaxed and in conjunction with lots of tasty rewards.

After an Operation or Illness

If your dog has a nasty skin condition, grass allergy, or a wound from an operation, sometimes putting them in a little doggy overall or t-shirt can help prevent further irritation and stop them from worrying any sores.

Don’t forget that this is not a solution to a skin condition or allergy problem and it is vital to seek advice from a vet if an issue persists.

For a Photo Opp (If Your Dog Is Comfortable)

Okay, so we all know how much everyone loves a photo of a cute dog in a novelty outfit. If you want to get a photo like this, as long as your dog is comfortable and is not being forced into wearing something it doesn't want to, then why not? Make sure that it's fun for your dog, they are not left in anything cumbersome too long, and always pair the photoshoot with lots of tasty treats. Some dogs do love the attention they get when a dress-up session is happening!

For a Special Occasion

At Halloween, Christmas, and other significant occasions, we often see elaborate costumes for dogs available at the pet stores.

We all want our beloved companions to be part of the festivities. Just make sure that, if you're going to put your dog in a holiday outfit, it's comfortable to wear, they are happy to have it on, and that it is not too cumbersome.

Ready for a little trick or treating
svetikd / Getty Images

When It's Not Okay to Dress Up Your Dog

If Your Dog Is Fearful or Unhappy

If your dog is showing signs of being scared or uncomfortable, then, unless there is a necessity for it, don’t do it to your dog. It's not fair and consider the fact that you are doing it for your gratification and not theirs.

If your dog shows signs of being unhappy or fearful, don’t force it. Not only could it start to associate the camera coming out with being shoved into some uncomfortable costume—making the dog less likely to pose happily—but you could end up making your dog mistrustful of you, and it could react negatively.

If the Outfit Will Make Them Uncomfortable

Make sure that whatever you are putting your dog in, that they are not going to be uncomfortable. A coat has to be the right size for your dog; you don’t want it to rub or get caught up in its legs.

If you are considering a novelty outfit, make sure it's not too cumbersome and that it does not impede their movement or vision. Watch out that the item is not so heavy that it could cause your dog to overheat. Don’t leave it on for long periods or unsupervised. And most of all, only put your dog in the outfit if you are sure that they are happy.

If, for example, a dog feels the cold and needs to wear a coat, it's important to get your pup used to it gradually. Start by placing the coat somewhere in plain view of the dog where it can investigate the item at its own free will. and be sure to administer lots of yummy treats during this time. With each session, slowly bring the item closer to your dog. Gradually move onto touching the coat to your dog's body, before finally putting on the coat for short durations. If at any point your dog becomes uncomfortable or you are moving too fast, you need to go back a step and spend more time at this stage before moving on. The goal is that your dog will associate the coat with lots of treats and views it as something positive and not something that they are frightened of and forced into.

Many dogs can end up loving a dress-up session if introduced in a fun and positive fashion.