Teach Your Dog to Wear Clothes

Dog wearing polo
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The more dogs are integrated into our families, the more we humanize them, often treating them like hairy children rather than descendants of wolves. In fact, it’s no longer unusual to see dogs in shirts, dresses, hats — even jewelry.

There are several reasons you might want to put your dog in clothes. Perhaps your pet is a functional Fido who needs clothes to protect him from bad weather. Or maybe your dog is a pampered pooch who sports designer fashions because, well, you like dressing your pooch up. Whatever the case, you can teach your pet to be comfortable in his new clothes by the combined use of patience and positive reinforcement training. Here's how to teach your pet to be the best-dressed dog on the block.

Start Early and Simple

Dogs are more likely to tolerate clothes if they are taught from puppyhood that it’s simply a part of life. Even if you don’t plan on regularly dressing up your dog, it’s best to teach your puppy to comfortably wear clothes while he's little, in case a change of outfit is needed at some point in his life, either for a special occasion or for maintaining proper body temperature.

But if your dog missed early puppyhood training, it’s not too late to train him to be accustomed to moving around with some clothes on.

Whether you’re working with a puppy or an adult dog, it’s best to begin with easy-to-wear clothing that’s comfortable and doesn’t cover the back legs, feet or head. Start with something that has an open stomach and can be fastened both on the chest and underneath the stomach. This eliminates the need to put the outfit on over your dog’s head, which can be frightening to some pups. 

Teach your dog to have a positive association with the clothes before he wears them by pulling out the clothes and treating your pet just for looking at the outfit. If he sniffs it, mark this moment with a “good” and reward. Next, move the outfit toward your dog and reward him for standing in place as you gently touch his side with the clothes. Drape the clothing over his back for a couple of seconds and reward him for standing there. Then, fasten the stomach and chest straps and reward your dog for staying calm. 

Start out with your pet wearing the clothes for only 10 to 60 seconds. Focus your dog’s attention on something productive that will distract him from the clothes, such as eating kibble out of a food puzzle, doing tricks or playing.

As soon as the outfit is off, the treats, praise and fun times should be lessened so your dog realizes that clothes mean fun and games. Eventually, your dog will not only tolerate wearing clothes, but will actually enjoy it. 

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