As much as we love snapping photos of our dogs in their warm hoodies, fleece sweaters, and funky t-shirts, are we even sure that dogs know what clothes are? Although we humans can tell the difference between a yellow cardigan and a burgundy flip-flop, dogs are likely more concerned with their next dog-walking adventure or when their next meal is.
Although it is conclusive to say that dogs do not know what clothes are, this doesn’t omit their aptitude for pattern recognition. This is why dogs will get excited when they see their leash or harness––they know that that piece of “clothing” means it’s time to go outside.
Picking up patterns and sticking to routines is one of the best tactics to engage your dog in new behaviors and learn tricks. The same can be said when introducing a new toy, person, or even dog gear and costumes. For a more in-depth understanding, read on to discover the steps you can take in making sure your pup looks (and feels) great.
Do Dogs Know What Clothes Are?
Our furry friends are definitely aware that the sweatshirts and tank tops we wear are not attached to us. Otherwise, they would be incredibly bewildered each day of their lives by the assortment of outfits, or “skins” to them, that we change in and out of.
Astudy based on aposematism, which is Mother Nature’s way of warning predators and prey of potentially harmful animals, also found that dogs were responsive to humans that wore patterns that imitated other animal’s fur patterns—thus concluding that dogs could care less about the clothes we wear and respond more to their pre-domesticated innate responses.
Do Dogs Care About Looks?
When we’re first looking to adopt a pup, most people gravitate to dogs that suit their preferences like breed, color, and size. But the question goes deeper than just that––do dogs care how they look in the same way that we care about how we look?
Most domesticated animals have a natural tendency to clean and groom themselves because, like humans, nobody likes to have mud stuck between their paws or dander in their fur. In a way, dogs do care about their own appearance and will display their feelings accordingly. A dog’s mannerisms will simply tell you how pretty your dog is feeling.
By paying attention to your dog’s body language, you can easily tell if they’re feeling healthy and happy. These are some behaviors that your dog may exhibit when they’re looking good and feeling fine.
- High energy levels and alertness
- Playful barking, tail wagging, and jumping
- Having a shiny and lush coat
- Positive social behavior with other dogs and humans
- They hold their head up high and stand proudly
- They have a trotting strut to their walk
To keep your pup in high spirits, it’s essential to regularly track their mood as they adapt to new surroundings andthe clothes you try to put on them.
How to Keep Your Dog Looking Great
If you’ve gifted your dog a new wintery tracksuit or baby dinosaur Halloween costume, be sure to follow-up with the best pet clothing etiquette:
- Combing your dog with a proper brush or comb suitable for your dog’s coat to remove tangles and knots
- Using appropriate dog shampoo that does not induce allergies or cause any adverse skin reaction
- Regular toenail clipping and trimming to avoid foot pain, especially on concrete or hard surfaces
- Daily play and social time––it’s recommended to play with your dog for at least two hours a day
It’s easy to say that dogs just don’t care about their looks because, well…they’re “just dogs.” However, if animals can have feelings of joy and excitement, then they can most definitely have feelings of discomfort and stress.
Are Dogs Comfortable in Clothes?
Like all animals, every dog has a different personality and temperament. Their comfortability depends on factors like their breed and the climate they live in.
Dogs with short hair, low body fat, and senior dogs may need jackets that cover their bodies to keep warm during the winter, whereas long-haired and thick-coated dogs may have suitable fur for the colder months (even though your dog has short hair, it does not necessarily mean that they are comfortable in clothes!).
An easy way to tell whether or not your dog is okay with wearing clothes is to notice their behavior: if they continue to run around and play, they’re most likely all right with wearing clothes.
However, if your dog shows behaviors like biting at or rubbing off the clothes while it’s on, this is a sign that they aren’t comfortable with it and want it off. Additionally, if you find your dog standing frozen in time after dressing them up or if you can physically see the whites of your dog’s eye, this is another indicator that they are barely tolerable of it and would prefer the clothes off.
Types of Dog Clothes
It’s essential to keep in mind that dog clothes and accessories should only be worn when appropriate, taking into consideration climate and activity.
- · Cotton and Wool Sweaters – Cotton and wool sweaters are ideal for dogs who live in geographically cooler areas. To avoid your dog from overheating, use thicker garments only during wintery seasons and not for extended periods.
- · Dog Booties – Dog shoes work perfectly as long as they are the correct size for your pup. Dog booties are used in both cold and hot climates and are beneficial to your dog’s health and comfort. In the winter, dog booties protect dog paws that collect snow and ice between their toes. And during the warmer summer months, they protect their paws from burning up on heated gravel and pavement.
- · Anxiety Vests – If your dog struggles with anxiety, the chances are slim that they’ll easily enjoy wearing clothes. However, some dogs with anxiety find comfort when wearing anxiety vests, which have been proven to reduce anxiety and calm your dog when they’re under stress.
- · Bandanas and Scarves – Some of the more fashionable accessories, bandanas and scarves, make adorable accessories. They are generally more comfortable for dogs to wear since it’s worn in their neck area near their collar. As a safety precaution, bandanas and scarves should only be left on when your dog is being supervised or around someone who can remove them safely.
How to Ease Your Dog into Wearing Clothes
Like any human-made object, dogs often need time to warm up to wearing clothes because it’s quite abnormal and most certainly not a part of their natural state. Whether you’re looking for a Halloween costume for your dog or a functional winter sweater, keep these tips and your dog’s temperament in mind:
- It’s crucial to introduce clothing to your dog slowly to create a positive experience and avoid stress.
- Find clothes that properly fit your dog because improper fitting can lead to difficulty breathing or snags on objects.
- Refrain from clothes that inhibit your dog’s movement, sight, and ability to bark to reduce stress and discomfort.
- Check and remove any chewable accessories that can be a potential choking hazard.
- On rare occasions, dogs have allergens to some materials, including wool, cotton, and synthetic fabrics. It’s recommended to check with a veterinarian if your dog displays signs of allergic reactions.
Regardless of accessory, dogs don’t fully understand the purpose of clothes because their fur is ironically interchangeable with their birthday suit. As a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to provide your dog with all of the right tools for comfort and happiness.
A healthy dog is a happy dog––so be mindful of your dog’s reaction and behavior when dressing them up. As exciting as Halloween costumes and holiday photoshoots are, your pet’s safety should always be the priority!
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