While most dogs can be taught to wear clothes, not all will adjust at the same pace. Laid-back pooches may get used to wearing clothes with little persuasion,
while more sensitive dogs may take a longer time to grow accustomed to their
new attire. The experience should be enjoyable for your dog and should
never cause him to be afraid or uncomfortable. If you sense your dog
becoming stressed or afraid during training, take a break; when you
return to training, start with a less stressful step, such as rewarding
your pooch simply for sniffing the clothing when it’s lying on the floor.
Your dog’s well-being should always be your first concern. For some
dogs, the cost of wearing a sweater or coat may be greater than the
benefit, and clothes may not be the best option for that particular pet.
In any situation, a combination of patience and positive reinforcement training is the best approach to teaching a dog to wear clothes. And remember, pets should always be supervised while wearing clothing, and you should make sure there are no parts that could be chewed off and swallowed.
Even if you don’t plan on regularly putting your dog in clothing, it’s best to teach your pooch to comfortably wear clothes during his puppy years — you never know when he may need to dress for inclement weather or wear protective clothing after a surgery. However, while dogs are more likely to tolerate clothes if they are introduced during puppy training, older dogs can become comfortable with it as well.
Keep Clothes Simple
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 legs, feet, private parts 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 clothing on over your dog’s head, which can be frightening to some pups.
Make Getting Dressed Fun
Teach your dog to have a positive association with clothes before he wears them by rewarding your pet with a treat just for looking at the outfit. If he sniffs it, mark the moment with a “good” and reward. Next, reward your dog 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. Finally, fasten the stomach and chest straps and reward your dog for staying calm.
Expand Your Dog's Wardrobe
With some practice, you may be able to put your dog in a T-shirt or sweater, which will require putting his head through a neck hole. Begin by treating your dog for staying still while you reach the shirt toward him. Use one hand to pull the neck hole over the dog’s nose and head, while you continue to treat out of your other hand. After a few seconds, remove the shirt and try again. Eventually, work on putting the paws through the shirt, rewarding and praising your dog with each step.
Keep Dress-Up Time Short
Start out with your pet wearing the clothes for between 10 and 60 seconds. While he’s wearing his new outfit, offer him treats and praise, and distract him with something productive, such as a food puzzle, tricks or playtime. When the clothes come off, the treats and praise should slow down as well — this teaches him to associate wearing clothes with good things happening.