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Canine Couture or Fashion Victim?
6 tips if you want to dress up your dog

One of my favorite dog magazines has a raging war in the Letters column between those who think putting human-style clothes on dogs is "disturbing, freakish behavior' and those who see nothing wrong with it and in fact, embrace canine couture.

I was amazed at how passionately people feel about the issue. The minority believe that it is wrong to dress up a dog. They see this as encouraging the trend for people to see their dogs as humans or child substitutes.

A dog should be allowed to be a dog, this group argues, and not a toy to be dressed in diamond-studded collars, fur coats and sun dresses.

The other, larger group see nothing wrong with putting a dog in clothes. Many enjoy shopping for and dressing up their dogs.

I think we all would agree that dogs, especially small and older dogs, need coats and boots for the winter. Most would also agree that rain coats are useful.

For my smallest dog, I have a wardrobe of coats including a polar fleece jacket for cool days, rain slicker for wet ones and a quilted parka for cold days.

If a dog doesn't like an outfit, he will make it extremely difficult to put on and waste no time in figuring out how to get it off. My oldest dog hates to have anything over his head and easily works off any pair of Doggles, the sun glasses made for dogs, that I try to get him to wear.

Other dogs accept dressing up and seem to relish the attention. A friend's Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is so used to being dressed up, the dog walks over to any camera she sees, expecting to have her photo taken.

For most of us, our dogs are considered and treated as family members. I don't see anything wrong with this. I don't feel my dog's dignity is violated when I put a Halloween costume on him and take his photo.

I do agree that some people seem to feel their dog is a furry human being and that can lead to undesirable behavior in both. A dog that's expected to act like a person is bound to disappoint his owner.

Couture clothes on Fido may be a symptom of emotionally stunted owners, but it's not the dress or tuxedo on the dog that has made the owner a nut!

Whatever you decide to put on your dog, do keep a few safety rules in mind.

1. Ensure clothing fits properly - snug enough so a paw can't get caught where it shouldn't but loose enough so there's no constricting normal movement.

2. Think about how it gets put on and off your dog. I only buy clothing with Velcro strips so I can wrap the sweater, etc around his body. Nothing goes on over my dog's head.

3. For active wear, make sure the clothing could be removed with reasonable effort. If your dog gets caught in something, you don't want him choked by a collar or trapped by an intricately designed coat.

4. Avoid loosely woven items that can catch on paws, claws and pointed objects.

5. Never leave a dog unattended when wearing doggy jewelry or anything else with small parts that he could try to swallow or eat. Trust me, there are dogs that will swallow anything even a 'diamond' tiara.

6. Don't dress up your dog to take him to the dog park or day care. Dogs read each other's body language and clothing may impede the ability of a dog to show that he's ready to play or whatever. Clothing also could be accidentally caught by another dog during a chase or wrestle and cause injury to either dog.

Bottom line, while I respect the opinions of those who think it unnatural to put human-style clothes on dogs, my dogs don't seem to mind and I love shopping for them. My only regret is that there aren't more Mom and Dog type clothes for us to wear!

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