Get your dog to like wearing clothes

Have you heard the old adage about the cobbler’s children having no shoes? It’s kind of like that with our dogs. None of our dogs is crazy about wearing anything. Living in a cold climate, it was crucial to teach the dogs to like wearing clothes.

Not playing dress-up

When we say clothes, for us it’s pretty limited to necessities. Warm coats in the winter, boots so their paws don’t freeze or get salt burns. The only time we have them wear other “stuff” is just for the time it takes to snap a cute picture, and a “stay” command works for those. They don’t like it, but they’ll do it because they know a treat is coming.

French Bulldog Teddy didn't like wearing clothes

It’s a different story when you expect your dog to actually move around wearing a coat. Not to mention doing his/her “business” while dressed. Teddy (Hope’s French Bulldog) was infamous for hating wearing his coat. He’d stand still to put it on. Walk around, bark, look cute, etc. But if you wanted him to actually get down to “business,” you were in for a long wait. When we were in a hurry, we have to admit he “won” the battles – we took off the coat just to get him going, so to speak.

Key to success

We’d recommend that all small dogs have at least one “go-to” coat. Where we have seasonal changes, the need is obvious. In warmer climates, dogs, like people, become acclimated to their surroundings. A sudden change in temperature that a Chicagoan may not notice, say down to 50 degrees, would make a Miamian shiver. We know, because that’s when our grandmother would pull out her ancient and venerated fur coat. Dogs feel the same way. If you’re used to 80 degrees, 50 is pretty darn cold.

The first step to getting your dog to like wearing clothes is to “add value” to the garment. If your dog really hates clothes, take your time with this step. Just take out the coat and when your dog shows any interest in it, give him/her a treat. Pretty soon your dog will associate the coat with good things. 

If the coat has Velcro, open and close it while giving treats to the dog. Some dogs are unfamiliar with the sound and it can be startling. We know the aversion can be overcome. At one point we had treat pouches that had Velcro. It didn’t take long for all of our dogs to recognize the sound and come running – they knew it meant “COOKIES!”

Step by step

Once your dog is used to the sight of the coat and finds it interesting or even good, it’s time to touch it. If, like the Highline Fleece, it’s a step-in style, try putting one leg in a sleeve. Give a treat, and take off the coat. When your dog is okay with one leg, move on to the other. The whole idea is allowing your dog to become familiar with something that’s new and different. When he/she realizes there’s no threat, that it’s actually a good thing, you’re, quite literally, good to go.

Dogs who like wearing clothes

If you’re one of the lucky ones whose dog just adores playing “dress up,” that’s terrific. For those of us who struggle with it, knowing our dogs need the warmth, but that the clothes make them miserable, it’s more difficult. It’s worth taking the time to teach your dog to like wearing clothes. Fortunately, it’s also like riding a bike, you only have to learn once. Your dog will remember next winter that the coat is a good thing. 

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