Puttin’ on the dog

My daughter has discovered a website that allows you to be the designer of your own clothes. You can design baby clothes, a wrap for granny and a dress for every size and occasion. It’s quite impressive. So I suppose it wasn’t too much of a hop for her to design a sweater for her bunny for the upcoming season or a matching set of Harry Potter Halloween costumes for our four dogs. My daughter – such an imagination.

Of course, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Before I gave birth to human kids, my dogs were my children. I doted on them like babies. Sure I trained them – I am a dog trainer after all – and more important, I socialized them to all of life’s nuances, but still being über maternal by nature, I was guilty of anthropomorphizing them in the best way possible. I worried over the salt in their paws during the winter and provided water in various formats during the summer heat. I sprinkled. I hosed. I filled kiddy pools – all to enhance my pets’ comfort. And they did repay me with loyalty, tolerance and devotion. I cherish each and every one of them.

These days, I have little time to plan my own dogs’ fashions, although I still enjoy serving as a judge for parades, community events and festivals. People thrill at the opportunity to bring their dogs out and most pets truly enjoy adventures with their family. If having to be dressed in a festive frock or fedora is the ticket, most will oblige.

The only question then becomes do dogs enjoy wearing booties, headwear and motion-restricting coverage? And if they don’t, can you condition them to play along? Is there an ideal time in a dog’s life to socialize them to apparel?

Puppyhood is the ideal time to condition your dog to being handled and outfitted. Treats can be used to cajole them and teach them how to maneuver within the restriction of, say, booties or bonnets. Stay positive, treat often and begin with short outings that end in play or fun.

If you’re hoping to weasel your dog into a pirate costume for this coming Halloween – fully equipped with silken breeches, motley silks and a sword – start with one item at a time. Center the presentation of each article around mealtime or a highly coveted food treat. Let your dog sniff the clothing before attempting to dress him. Keep the sessions short and fun and plan on conditioning your dog to the costume for a few weeks before taking him public.

Promise me just one thing: Do not join in the pet meme Internet craze circling the globe. While others may think it painfully funny to see a dog’s image tattooed with an often-embarrassing phrase, I can’t help thinking that people have finally crossed a line with their devoted canine companions.

Dogs, like young kids, can’t articulate their discomfort or humiliation. But as adults we can respect their innocence and enjoy the fun of spending our lives with them at our side.


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