There are probably two types of people when it comes to dressing up pets. Those who do, and those who get really angry at the thought of it.
So how good or bad is it? Is it just cute, harmless fun, or is it something that should be banned as cruelty to animals? Will the two polar opposites ever find common ground?
The PDSA says, “If the clothes aren't designed to keep them warm or safe, then it's best to avoid dressing up your pet.” The RSPCA goes a step farther, and has warned that in certain cases there may be grounds to prosecute if pets are forced to wear clothing that could be deemed harmful.
Some people will argue that it does the dog no physical harm, nor does it damage its dignity. And while social media is awash with photographs of dogs dressed up in silly outfits, no animals have given us their opinions. All things being equal, we all need to put our own dog’s welfare and well-being first.
At the very least, check that none of the stuff from the dressing-up box can cause our dog any harm: scarves, for example, can get caught in something, and cause choking. Or a cute but unnecessary accessory could cause pain. Dressed-up dogs should never be left unattended. Dogs use their bodies for non-verbal communication and a dressed-up dog is certainly not a dog as nature intended.
Dressing up for fun aside, should you dress your dog at all? What about for cold weather? Common sense needs to prevail here. We do seem to be experiencing more extreme weather as climate change progresses, and dogs are only equipped with everything they need, warmth-wise, up to a point.
What breed have you got? If you’ve got a dog with short hair, or a thin coat, or an older dog, they do feel the cold. Protection against cold weather is a very valid reason for putting them in a jersey or jacket or coat of some kind. In fact, it’s a necessity, if the two of you are out and about a lot. On the other hand, if your pooch has a thick coat - a Husky, for example, and built for the cold, a jersey is an absolute no-no. There are loads of fabulous commercially produced jackets on the market; or, if you’re so inclined, you can have some fun making your own.
And booties? Where you live is probably the main factor in your decision. In very snowy conditions – especially if roads and pavements are salted – booties will help protect your dog's paws. Read Dogs Get Cold Feed Too by grooming expert, Julie Harris, for great advice on how protect your dog through the cold winter months.
If your dog suffers from anxiety caused by outside factors such as the sound of thunder or fireworks, a thundershirt is a kind, even vitally important, item of clothing. Chat to your vet, or a qualified behaviourist to find out what will work best for you dog. There are commercially produced thundershirts available, though you might find that “tailoring” a thundershirt to fit your dog is a sensible idea. Expect to pay around ₤35 or more for a store-bought one.
Our advice? In all matters of dressing your dog, put the well-being of your dog first. What is best for them? Let that be your first question you answer, and if you aren’t sure, get expert advice from your vet..