It’s very common to scoff at the idea of clothes for dogs, but even the cutest outfit can sometimes be very practical. Even some vets will say that dogs should never wear clothes, but I’m all for what makes your dog most comfortable.
The obvious reason to put clothes on your dog is to protect him from the elements. Depending on your climate, the size of your dog, and his age and coat type, he may need a little help to tolerate heat, cold, rain, or ice. Most owners can tell if their dog is uncomfortable with the weather; that’s a better gauge of when to break out the jacket than your own discomfort. They don’t make a lot of dog coats in extra large sizes because bigger dogs tend to love cold weather. My dogs will break through the ice to roll in a puddle in the middle of winter, so obviously they’re not wishing I’d buy them a jacket. That’s not always the case, so it’s good to watch your dog for cues he’s not liking the weather.
Even fluffy dogs may appreciate something that blocks wind in cold enough weather, especially if they’re not being especially active. Smaller dogs, puppies, and seniors are more likely to need the extra protection. Some dogs just don’t like water and if your dog is one of them I don’t see a reason not to try a rain coat if you think your dog would like one. As long as it’s fitted correctly so it’s not digging into your dog’s armpits and he’s supervised, it can’t hurt anything and it will probably be obvious whether it helps or not.
Dog boots can be necessary in places where there’s lots of ice and salt on the walkways or in areas where there’s hot pavement or sharp rocks. An overlooked use for dog boots is for senior dogs who are losing some stability in their hind legs. Sometimes dog boots that give them some extra traction can improve their mobility very easily and cheaply. Since senior dogs are also prone to bladder control problems, that can be a much better option than putting carpets down on all slick floors in the house.
The less obvious way dog clothes can be useful is that they change the way the public perceives your dog. If you’ve got a dog that’s generally perceived as an aggressive breed, a big goofy flower, bow tie, or giant pink sweatshirt can pretty much eliminate that type of reaction from strangers. However, it’s important to remember that putting these sorts of things on your dog may get him lots of attention. That may be great if your dog is outgoing and seeks attention from strangers, but it can be too much for a shy dog and even dangerous to deck out a dog that is aggressive or fearful with strangers. If you’re trying to cut down on fearful reactions to your dog, you may have to experiment to get to the correct “cuteness level.” If your dog just doesn’t want to be a public ambassador for his breed, you should probably skip it and embrace the extra personal space.
This is also something to remember when you’re picking out more functional clothes for your dog. He may need a coat, but if he’s not receptive to strangers making a fuss over him, you’ll want to stick to strictly functional garments without the adorable embellishments.
No matter what your dog is wearing, it’s important to make sure he’s comfortable and safe. If he’s trying to chew his way out of the adorable jacket you got him and he swallows some of it that can be a big problem. Unless you’re trying to cover a wound, it’s usually best to skip things with sleeves and pick things that are easy to remove if your dog looks too hot or is trying to remove it.