It’s that time of year again—the Western Hemisphere is officially cold. We grumpily don our flannels, poofy jackets and ridiculous hats; all the while we bemoan the weather and reminisce about the months where we could comfortably complain about the heat. Summer is over and it’s time to bundle up.
Unfortunately, some of our four-legged friends don’t have that option. Short haired dogs still need to walk and potty in the winter months, but the season’s chill affects them more than it does their longer-haired cousins. Dog clothing is the obvious solution, but many pet owners dress their dogs in silly, frivolous and undignified clothing that’s neither practical nor flattering.
Maybe dressing your dog in a French maid outfit has its place in the home, but out in public your pooch will know when people are laughing at him. It might seem absurd, but it’s absolutely true—and it all has to do with the dog’s owner.
This is a delicate topic, and it all has to do with your perception as a dog owner. If your short-haired male dog acts manly and tough, he’ll know that you’re laughing at him when you dress him in something lacy and frilly. He can tell the difference in your demeanor—you’re either giving him a vote of confidence or you’re emasculating him. He has no idea what he’s wearing, but he definitely knows what your intentions are.
You need to have your dog’s best interests in mind when you’re dressing him for the cold weather. And, heck, as long as you think your American Bulldog looks legitimately good (and not just kitschy, cute or ‘ironic’) in a pink parka, it should work out just fine. If you’re all in, he’s all in.
Function Over Fashion
The most important aspect of dog clothing, once we agree that it needs to be dignified, is how functional it is. Is this garment practical? Does it keep your dog warm or dry in adverse weather conditions? Will he be more comfortable walking around in the cold while he’s wearing it? These are the things you need to consider. It’s also important to keep in mind how difficult your dog is to dress and how hard the garment is to secure.
My Min Pin, Herschel, is notoriously grumpy and fussy about almost everything—but he’ll let me put clothes on him any day of the week. My mom’s Dobermans, on the other hand, are total sweethearts but flip out the second she tries to put a parka on them. A big part of function is making sure you can actually put the clothes you invested in onto your actual dog. They’re not as useful when they’re just shoved into a closet.
A Little Personality
So, let’s take a step back here. Just because a dog’s clothing is functional doesn’t mean it has to be boring—it just has to be more about keeping the dog warm than it is about looking fashionable. That being said, there are tons of great looking dog clothes that aren’t lacking in the practicality department. For instance—I have a friend who screens merchandise for various local punk and hardcore bands. Whenever she sets up a new screen, she puts the design on a little hoodie for her dog. It keeps him warm, looks great and shows off her work. Also, it’s okay to be a little bit frivolous and match up a scarf or kerchief with your dog’s coat, parka or sweater—as long the two of you can still walk down the street with a sense of pride, it’s perfectly okay.
I know this might come off as a little bit harsh and preachy in some places, but that’s not my intention. I just get sad whenever I see a sweater-wearing dog walk down the street as his owner and casual onlookers point and laugh at him.
Your dog is your best friend, and he deserves a certain amount of respect and dignity when he’s out in public because he can tell the difference between your admiration and your ridicule. This winter, wrap your dog up in something that’s practical, attractive and dignified.
Stephen is a writer, Humane Society volunteer, and lifelong dog-lover. Most of his time is spent trying to keep Herschel, his Min Pin, out of trouble and away from the garbage can.