To Dress Or Not To Dress

…that is the question!

Before answering this question, you must first decide the definition of dressing up your dog. Is it putting on a harness, a jumper or a coat on a cold day, a cooling jacket on a hot day, adding a bandanna for a bit of style, blinging up their collar with diamanté or donning a fancy dress costume. “COSTUMES – NOOOOO, CRUELTY” I hear all the haters immediately cry. However, what do your dogs really think of all this? Do you know what they are thinking? Have you really thought about the answer to this question? Have you asked them? That last question was to all of you out there who do actually talk to their dogs (I’m one of them! I talk to my dogs all the time – sometimes they listen, sometimes they talk back, sometimes they just fall asleep.). It’s quite OK to ask your dog if he/she wants to wear something and you can even get them to choose what they want to wear, or not to wear, of course. You just need to know your dog.

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. The main thing to remember when ‘dressing’ your dog is to make sure that it does them no harm – physically or mentally.

Physically

Does it fit? If it’s a harness or costume, make sure it’s not too tight (especially collars) that it restricts movement or breathing or too loose that it’ll come off or get hooked on something that’ll panic the dog and cause restriction.

It also needs to be well made so only buy from a reputable company. Little attachments and accessories can easily be nibbled off and cause choking. Is it appropriate for the environment? Adding items (even harnesses) to your dog may cause to overheat, especially on a hot day.

Your dog may be terrified during thunderstorms or fireworks. You can get anxiety vests that fit so snugly it helps soothe and calm your dog making them feel safe and comforted.

Think about the item your putting on your dog and ask yourself, is this item appropriate for this type of dog, eg you wouldn’t put a jumper on a malamute unless for some reason, it’s lost all its fur (please consult your vet about fur loss because 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be treatable, and fur is much preferable than fabric).

Fur is structured in a way that aids a dog to keep cool in summer and warm in winter. However, while most dog breeds are available to own in the UK, they are outside their natural environment – for example, an Alaskan Malamute or a Siberian Husky, Labrador Retrievers are from Newfoundland, Poodles are from France/Germany, Chihuahuas are from Mexico, Pug are from China, Boxers are from Germany as are Dachshunds and Dobermanns, to name but a few. The climate in the UK is also very changeable and the weather can be completely different ‘just up the road’. I’ve know people to photograph a bright sunny day to the left of their garden and a snowstorm to the right. So, on a cold day, a short haired/thin or light furred dog or even one that’s recently been groomed may need a little bit more coverage when going out. This rule also applies to elderly and/or sick dogs. Your heavily coated dogs like the malamute or husky has a built in duvet that keeps them warm and therefore putting a coat on it would result in overheating but there’s nothing stopping you from buying them a pretty harness with stickers on them, personalised collars or a bandanna. Booties are also essential in certain climates – they can protect the pads from salted ice paths or prevent blistering on severely hot days (not many of those in the UK though!).

Mentally

This is where you really need to know your dog.

Every dog is different: they all have their own individual personality and they have feelings. They can also be incredibly sensitive to your feelings as well. How many times have you said, “My dog knows I’m not feeling well because they won’t leave my side.” When you’re upset, they’ll nuzzle, whimper and look at you with those big round sad eyes. If a dog is happy and healthy, it’ll bounce around the place, yapping, howling, barking at everything that moves or comes to the door, wag its tail, play with/chews its toys, a ball, the remote control, get excited at feed time, jump all over you, prick up its ears when it hears the word “walkies”, go to sleep in your arms and somehow manage to take up all the space on your bed at night. They do all this while interacting with you, your family and other dogs and if your dog’s happy, that makes you happy too. You smile and laugh, you put on your special doggy voice and you tell them what a beautiful girl or good boy they are.

Some dogs may not like to don a harness when going out for a walk. Some dogs need a halti fitted to stop them from pulling. Our malamute hated his halti and while he was young but I insisted that he wore it because I didn’t want to be dragged down the road. I didn’t like upsetting him and always kissed his nose when we got home to say sorry. However, he learnt not to pull so I stopped using it. Result, that’s called training. We teach our dogs all the time, sometimes they may not like it, sometimes they get it straight away, and sometimes, it takes headstrong puppies a little longer. Either way, they learn because they love you and they want to make you happy.

So the question ‘should I put a costume on my dog’ comes down to this ‘will my dog feel OK wearing this’. If the costume fits correctly, is easy to put on and the environment’s correct, how does your dog know the difference from a new harness and a costume? You’re still going to smile at him/her, tell them how beautiful they are, laugh at them while they’re playing, aren’t you? So what’s the difference? In theory, your dog shouldn’t notice they are wearing a costume instead of or as well as a harness. If, however, your dog looks like they are really not enjoying wearing something that may smell funny or feel a bit strange on their backs, take it off. Your dog will let you know either way… if you know them well enough.

Here’s the rest of Hamlet’s soliloquy:-

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.