Is It Harmful For Dogs To Wear Clothing?

Atlas in Sweater

I was searching online for some clothing today and I came across a question.  “Is it harmful for dogs to wear clothing?”   I even found an old case where the SPCA was attempting to claim that it was animal abuse.   Forcing animals to wear clothing is not abuse.   However, I’ve been putting my dogs in clothes for a very long time.   Being  very observant to the wants and needs of my pets is necessary.

So, why do I dress my dogs up?  Is it to make them feel ridiculed? Or to force them to do something they don’t want to do?  No.  There are so many reasons I dress my dogs up in clothing and it’s not always because they look cute.  Let’s dive into the why’s.

Short Haired Dogs.

First – I have two very short furred dogs that live with me and because they lack the long fur that they need to stay warm in certain conditions, I try to put them in clothing that will keep them warmer during season changes. Long furred dogs are wearing a fur coat all year long, so that means in you live in a colder weather area, your dog might already be protected when you take them out.

Imagine this – it’s less than 65 degrees outside and you walk out of your house naked, or, even in a very thin full body suit. Do you think that you will be warm without a sweater of some sort? You’re not wearing shoes to cover your feet and for humans, that’s a big deal because most of our body heat leaves through our feet and our heads.

Being less than room temperature of 72 degrees will feel very cold for you if you’re outside with nothing on. While short haired dogs do have a thin coat, it’s not the same as a long fur dog like a husky or lab.

Small Bodies.

Second – I have two very small Chihuahuas’s, and they are notoriously cold and shaking. I choose to put them in sweaters, coats, rain jackets or anything else that will protect them if I think they’re cold. Like small children or babies, they get cold faster than we do when we’re older and bigger. The smaller the body, the more cold it will feel on a continuous basis.

If you have small dogs like Chihuahuas’s, Yorkie’s, etc, then you know what I’m referring to when I say they shiver all the time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always about cold, it could also be nerves since they can be scared often. But for my smallest dog, when she’s wearing a coat or a sweater, she doesn’t shake as much.

It may be that something wrapped around her calms her as well.

Cold Alaska Climate.

Third – If you’ve been reading my articles, then you already know that I live in Alaska. Up here, our climate is different from other states because up here, it’s naturally cold most of the time. The exception to this is if we get a decent summer and actually see our temperatures rise above 70 degrees for once.

In these instances, I don’t normally dress my dogs up unless I want to go to the lake and have them looking cute as we get on our boat. Because my dogs are used to clothing already, they don’t feel stressed when I put something on them, so regardless of whether they’re in summer clothing, they still seem happy, even in clothing.

This morning as an example – I organized my house in preparation of winter around the corner. I found a small black hat with a flower attached to it that was part of a Halloween costume I got my small dog a few years back.  Wanting to show my husband this cute little hat I found, that honestly, I forgot about.   So, I put it on Buttons and she looked so cute in this little hat!

Well, Atlas got jealous that she didn’t have one, so she stretched up on her hind legs and wrapped her front legs around me letting me know she saw the hat. She sniffed at it, looked at me like, “Where’s my hat, Mom?” I went to put it on her, but there are clips on this hat to hold it down and she’s very short furred, so I had to just hold it to her head, and she immediately started wagging her tail looking very happy to have a hat.

You know when your dogs are miserable by their reactions, and my dogs have never shown me that they don’t like clothing.

Wet Environments.

Lastly – In Alaska, we’re in our rainy season right now, so it’s been raining non-stop and when it rains up here, it gets very cold. Unlike the Hawaii rain when I lived there, it’s only 52 degrees here right now. Imagine walking out of your house in your super thin body suit when it’s 52 degrees outside. I don’t know about you, but I’d be extremely cold without a thick sweater on, socks, rain boots, etc.

When it’s this chilly out, and the environment is wet on top of that, the cold almost feels like it soaks through to your bones. People that have a broken bone really know what I mean right now. Dogs experience cold in much the same way as we do. If they’re traveling just in the vehicle with me, then I don’t put them in sweaters. But if I’m taking my dogs on a walk then I dress them up in sweaters or simply just a rain coat to keep them protected.

You can find raincoats and coats here.


So, is it harmful for dogs to wear clothing? No. Now, if I keep my dogs in clothes all the time, then I’d imagine it would bother them if I didn’t take the clothing off. I never leave clothing on my dogs for very extended periods of time. Usually for walks, or to outside if the weather requires it.

I mention dressing them up in cute bathing suits or cute outfits, but again, only when we’re going somewhere outside and not just in the house. There’s no need for my dogs to be dressed up in the house when we’re lounging.

In cold weather, which is almost all year in Alaska, they have to wear clothes to protect them. Dogs get extremely cold when it’s winter up here.   My short haired dogs HAVE to wear protection, especially when our temperatures can drop to the negatives. I would never take my dogs outside in the winter months up here without a coat, sweater and booties on.  Their paws can get frost-bite.  They can get extremely ill from the extreme cold and that would be animal abuse to me.

It’s all about where you live and why you’re putting your dogs in clothing and for how long.  Waking up and putting animals in clothing all day can be harmful.  It can rub their fur and cause irritation.   However, if you’re like me and only dressing them up for short stints of time, then it’s not cruel and even may be necessary.

Each animal is different in what they need and each state or climate it different in what your animals may require in order to be healthy, happy and loved pets. Pay attention to their needs/requirements and try to meet them as good as you can.

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8 thoughts on “Is It Harmful For Dogs To Wear Clothing?

  1. This is a very informative article, thank you! I care for a Chihuahua cross named, Kevin. He is a foster pup and he often gets cold during the night. I have been dressing him up in a sweater during bed time and when I take him for walks. He seems to be fine but I have been struggling with whether or not it is really safe for him. Especially since he’s not exactly a fan of being dressed up. I am glad I found your article!

    1. Hi Darcy,

      I’ve noticed that males don’t like to be dressed up as much as females do. It definitely takes them more time to adapt to it and be okay with it. Being in a colder climate can be hard on a dog, especially Chihuahuas’s since they’re so small with very short fur usually. I have one short haired and one long haired, but the fur doesn’t help the long haired much.
      It is safe for pets to be in clothing, you just have to be sure to take them out of them for periods of time. One thing I’ve found to help my dogs at night is extra blankets on the bed when we sleep at night. If he sleeps in his own bed, a small fluffy blanket might help him. Mine often go under the covers at night to stay warm with us, this way they don’t have to wear PJ’s.

      Hope this helps!


  2. Very informative article. I used to put a anorak style coat on my french bulls of when it was raining outside and a fleece like throw over when it was cold. I personally think some people go over the top with ‘cute’ outfits. But if the clothing benefits your dog it makes sense.

    1. Hi Russ,

      I have to admit, I’ve been one of those people that’s gone over the top before with my dogs. I can’t help it though when I see something super cute and I know that it will look awesome on my dogs! Kind of like my daughter dressing my Bully up earlier in her Hot Dog costume… was pretty cute actually.

      She’s a hot bodied dog though, so I had her take it off so she didn’t overheat today. In the cold months, she has to wear sweaters and coats though since it gets super cold up in Alaska.

      Thanks for reading my article though!


  3. Hi,

    I agree, if the weather is cold or rainy, then it is better to put a dog sweater or coat on a dog . Some dogs love to run in the rain, but most don’t. Mine refuse to go outside when it rains (except for one). In the winter I put sweaters on them too (except for the one who loves rain, he doesn’t like clothes, so he does not wear any sweaters or jackets). I have an old (14-year-old) maltipoo, and she gets cold in the winter, so she has a little collection of cute jackets, and she loves putting them on. After she has her sweater on, she always rolls around happilly, wagging her tail.
    I also heard about cooling jackets for extra hot temperatures. A friend of mine bought one for her dog. They often go for walks, and in the summer she makes him wear a cooling jacket which keeps him cool during the hot weather. 🙂 I think that’s really great, I would love to get some for my dogs.

    1. Christine,

      That’s awesome about the cooling jacket, I’ve never heard of those, but I think I now have an idea for my next article!! I’ll definitely look into those for sure since right now in the states, it’s super hot and dogs can easily overheat and get very ill.
      In Alaska, it gets cold a lot, so my dogs have to wear coats, sweater and booties. I also have a dog that hates clothes, so I don’t take him out during the winter months – he would just get too cold. My other two dogs though (females) love clothing and they get all excited like yours does!

      Most people think that clothing is just cruel, but they don’t see how dogs react when they like them, so they just judge the idea before seeing how some dogs get happy and excited. Mine definitely love dressing up, and the one that doesn’t, well, he just stays home when it’s too cold out.

      Glad you found my article useful! Thanks for reading it!


  4. This is an interesting thought and one that I haven’t really considered much. With domestication and breeding, dogs don’t have the same natural fur as their ancestral wolves. So it could make sense that some dogs might require an extra layer while in the cold. Though we would have to be careful as to not let them overheat during the hotter climates.

    1. Johan,

      I absolutely agree that people should be careful when it comes to the heat. I actually had someone bring up a cooling coat for dogs in hot climates and I’m looking into that so I can write about them. I had never heard of that and I want to tell more people about it in the event they live in hot climates. Especially August being warm in most states, just Alaska is cold and rainy!

      Thanks so much for reading!


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