Co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott is a veterinarian with over thirty years of experience. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987, and worked as a veterinary surgeon for 7 years. Afterward, Dr. Elliott worked as a veterinarian at an animal clinic for over a decade.
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Dressing up your dog can be both fun and practical, especially if you live in a climate where your canine friend can use a little extra warmth now and then. Getting a dog used to wearing clothes takes some time and effort, however. Start by picking out clothes that are easy to put on and comfortable for your pet. Once you’ve picked an outfit to start with, start gradually training your dog to wear it. Be sure to keep the process relaxed and low-pressure for your dog.
Part 1 Choosing Clothes for Your Dog
- Start with clothes that are easy to put on and remove. When you’re first starting to get your dog used to clothes, look for simple items that fasten around the dog’s chest or belly. Avoid clothing that you have to pull over its head or limbs, since some dogs find this frightening or uncomfortable.
- Good options to start with include sleeveless coats or jackets that fasten with straps across the chest and under the stomach.
- If you want to start even simpler, look for a large bandana that you can fasten around your dog’s neck.
- Avoid clothes that cover your dog’s head, feet, legs, or rear end. Your dog may feel stressed or panicked if you try to put on clothes that cover too much of its body. Don’t try to start with anything that might feel too confining, such as garments with hoods, sleeves, or pants that cover the dog’s hindquarters.
- As your dog gets used to wearing simple clothes, you can eventually work your way up to more challenging items, such as pull-on sweaters, hoodies, or full-body outfits that cover your dog’s back legs.
- Check that the clothes fit your dog properly. Your dog will be uncomfortable in clothes that are too loose or too tight. Before purchasing an article of clothing, such as a coat, get your dog’s measurements to make sure you are choosing the right size. Use a soft cloth measuring tape when measuring your dog.
- Make sure doesn’t have small parts that your dog could swallow, such as large buttons, since they could get stuck in its bowels.
- For most dog clothing, you will need to get a measurement around your dog’s neck (where the collar typically sits), around the widest part of the dog’s body (typically the chest, just behind the shoulders), and from the back of the neck to the base of the tail.
- Check the clothing labels to see if they offer specific sizing guidelines (e.g., the weight, girth, and length ranges for which the item is appropriate).
- Look for items that are adjustable, such as vests or jackets with adjustable straps.
Part 2 Training Your Dog to Wear Clothes
- Start getting your dog used to clothes as early as possible. If you can, work on training your dog to wear clothes while it is still a puppy. Younger dogs have an easier time than older ones adjusting to new things.
- Even if your dog is already an adult, you may still be able to train it to wear at least simple clothes with a little extra patience and effort.
- Allow your dog to sniff the clothing you’d like to put on. When you’re ready to try putting clothing on your dog, bring out the outfit and let the dog examine and smell it. Praise your dog for showing an interest in the clothes and offer it a treat.
- By rewarding your dog for simply being around the outfit, you will begin to create a positive association with the clothing.
- Put the clothing on gradually while praising the dog. Take the item of clothing and gently touch the sides of your dog’s body with it. Reward the dog with treats and praise if it stands still. Then, try draping the clothing over its back. If your dog is willing to stand still while you do this, start slowly fastening the clothing in place while continuing to offer praise and treats.
- If your dog acts nervous or uncomfortable, stop and try again later. This will help prevent the dog from developing bad associations with getting dressed.
- Give your dog a toy to play with while it wears the clothes. Once you’ve successfully put the clothing on your dog, offer it a favorite toy or a puzzle filled with treats to keep it busy. This will distract the dog from the clothing and help it associate being dressed with having fun.
- Continue to praise and pet your dog while it wears the clothing.
- Increase your dog's time in the clothes by 5 minutes a day. The first time you dress your dog, leave the clothing on for no more than a minute. If the dog tolerates it, try increasing the length of time to 5 minutes the next day, and then 10 the day after that.
- If your dog gets stressed out or upset when you try longer sessions, go back to leaving the clothing on for shorter periods of time for a while.
- Consider your reasons for wanting to dress your dog. It’s okay if you want your dog to wear clothes to look fashionable rather than out of practical necessity (e.g., if your dog needs help staying warm in winter). However, don’t force your dog to wear clothes unnecessarily if it finds them uncomfortable or stressful.
To get your dog used to wearing clothes, start by dressing it in simple, easy-to-put-on clothes that won't make it feel too confined or restricted. Then, gradually introduce it to more challenging items, like pull-on sweaters and full-body outfits. Also, limit the amount of time your dog wears the clothes at first, and slowly increase the duration by 5 minutes every day. When you dress your dog, praise it and give it treats so it learns to associate the clothes with rewards. To learn how to choose clothes that fit your dog, scroll down!
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