Why Dress Your Dog?

Why would ANYONE put clothes on a DOG?!“ My mother was so practical.

Why not?” I too had a logical side. “And they were too big for my dolls anyway.” Again, note the logic.

But she did have a point…why DO we put clothes on our dogs?

You may be looking for insight into your own psyche or you may be looking for validation for what you secretly wonder might be a silly thing to do, and I’m not sure I can do either, but here goes.

Photo by Crystal Rolfe via Flickr


We dress our dogs for them, for us, or both, and sometimes we don’t know the difference.

Reasons given for doing it for them range from “because he’s cold” to “because she’s sooooo cute” (the implication being that your dog knows what cute is which is probably not true).

We may, rightly or wrongly, do things for our dogs that we think they would like because we like them, or that would be good for them because it’s good for us.  “I think organic is the best diet for me, therefore it must be for Fido too” or “I feel good about myself when I’m dressed nicely, therefore I’m sure my furbaby does too.”

There are legitimate reasons for putting coats, booties, even sunglasses or visors on your pups that have nothing to do with dressing them up or being “cute.”

Some dogs are frightened by loud noises such as storms and fireworks, and can suffer from anxiety in other situations such as crowds, vet visits, or air travel, and their owners have spent literally years trying to find a way to calm and comfort them, often with no success.  Calming coats or anxiety jackets can greatly ease stress which in turn can help protect your dog from some of the physical ill effects that can result from stress.  While not technically considered clothing, these calming coats can make your fur baby look pretty darn snazzy if you do need to use them.

Jackets and sweaters have their place too, namely for protection from the cold, rain, or snow.  Although a dog’s fur is usually adequate for this, there are exceptions.  Short-haired dogs, seniors, and those with health issues can be more susceptible to the cold. Also, booties should be used to protect delicate pads when walking on very hot or very cold surfaces.  Again, while these aren’t technically “dressing up” there’s no reason they can’t be fashionable, right?

Visors and sunglasses aren’t merely decoration – they protect from sun, wind, and sand, on walks, at the beach, in cars, etc.

Laughing dog in sunglasses with hearts bandana
Photo by Kathleen Tyler Conklin via flickr

But aside from these practical reasons, sometimes our pups do genuinely enjoy dressing up, at least insofar as it can be a bonding time for both parties, they get attention, we bestow attention, everyone benefits, and when we take them out they get more attention.


What about our motives?  Have you ever asked yourself if there’s some scary Freudian reason you want to dress your dog, is it weird, and am I the only one? (The answers are no, no, and no.) I f so, you’re not alone.  Some experts, and I don’t pretend to be one, say that if we don’t have enough contact with other humans, we may anthropomorphize our pets to make us feel more connected to the world. So we name them, put clothes on them, bake cakes for them, paint their nails, and overall treat them like one of us.

And again, the attention – let’s face it, most of us like being the center of attention sometimes.  “Hey everyone, look at me and my adorable dog, we’re dressed alike, aren’t we so cute?!”  I don’t think that’s ego, it’s just human! Dogs like the positive attention too.  So a win-win.

But it’s not all deep psychological mumbo-jumbo. We love our fur babies; just as with our kids, we want pictures to remind us of the good times, we want to show them off, we want them to be like us, we want and need to bond with them, we pamper them, and sometimes, well, girls just want to have fun, right? Guys, too, now don’t pretend, I know you’re out there.  No judging here.

Photo shoots are popular.  Our pups are members of the family and part of our daily lives, perhaps more than anyone else, so we want to include them in things like Christmas cards or graduation and even wedding photos.  So we dress the whole gang in matching ugly sweaters, position ourselves around the tree, we bring them along for the professional graduation pictures, make a  place for them in some of our wedding photos, or put the fancy duds on both of us and have a professional photo taken, and sometimes give them their own Christmas photo.  In an age of smart phones that allow us to take multiple pictures with a press of a finger or even only a voice command, one perfect, lasting photo to keep and display forever is preferable to a thousand casually snapped digital photos that could potentially disappear forever if a phone is lost or an email or photo storage account is closed or simply forgotten about.

Pug in Santa hat
Photo James_Seattle via flickr

Maybe we want to show off our best friend’s personality as well as how stunningly gorgeous they are.  Sometimes they like it too, they get the personal attention from us, get some bonding time with us, and have a welcome opportunity to do something that is outside of their daily routine.

But the bottom line is that we put our dogs in dresses and tuxedos for us. They may reap some benefits from it, like one-on-one time with us, but we wouldn’t do it for that reason only, we would choose other activities.


Yes! January 14 is National Dress Up Your Pet Day, created by animal advocate and pet lifestyle expert Colleen Paige in 2009.

But of course, in my book every day is Dress Your Dog Day.

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