Is putting clothes on a dog cruel or beneficial?

We advertise a range of dog coats, such as waterproof versions and products designed to keep them warm in the winter. There are also vests which can help reduce anxiety. However, there are a lot of people out there who feel that putting clothing on a dog is cruel and unnecessary. The RSPCA says that people who force their dogs to dress up can be prosecuted.

As responsible owners and admin for this website which gets thousands of visits a day, we thought it was the right thing to do to research dogs and clothing and whether or not it is right for us to recommend certain clothes and be in a position to give advice. 

It isn’t inherently cruel to put clothes on a dog provided they like it, and it doesn’t cause discomfort or harm. It’s important to consider the breed and temperament of the dog, as well as the fit and material of the clothing, to ensure their comfort.

It is also crucial to always supervise dogs while they are wearing clothes to prevent any accidental injury.

Protection from the elements (cold, rain, etc.)Reduced mobility and discomfort
Reduced risk of injury (cuts, scrapes, etc.)Overheating and increased risk of heat exhaustion
Increased comfort and warmthInterference with the dog’s natural movements and behaviours
Fashion statement and personal expressionIncreased risk of skin irritation and infections
Easier to spot in crowds or low light conditionsThe clothing may get caught or snagged on objects, leading to injury
Pros and Cons of Putting Clothes on a Dog

Why do people put clothes on dogs?

dog wearing clothes

Every owner has their reasons for putting clothing on dogs – fancy dress is a popular method of having fun and is often used for social media attention, sadly.

Some owners put clothes designed for dogs to bond with them and make them appear more human, but then there are functioning dog clothes, such as coats and suits, designed to keep them warm and safe from the elements.

So, is it cruel to put clothes on a dog?

There isn’t a simple answer to this question quickly other than to say that it CAN be cruel to put clothes and coats on a dog.

When my Jeff was a puppy, we did what most owners did during seasonal events such as Christmas and put a themed jumper on. He hated it, but we didn’t stop. As soon as the jumper was on, Jeff was scratching at it and wriggling around, clearly trying to get it off. He was visibly annoyed with it being on, and we took it off soon after.

We regretted it, of course, but we learned that if we knew that Jeff didn’t like it, then continuing to try and put clothes on him by force would indeed be cruel, even if they weren’t in any physical pain or distress.

If you can relate to this story, then we do feel that persevering to get them ‘used’ to the clothes being on is at the expense of the dog to serve the human.

That said, if your dog seems happy to allow you to put clothes on them for fun or a fashion show, then why not? Some dogs crave attention, and if they know they will get it by being patient while you dress them, they’ll do that. It all boils down to choice and consent. 

The word consent brings us to our final point – what is and isn’t cruel is subjective to the person receiving the treatment, we feel. If your dog hates having clothes on them and you force them to do it, that’s cruel; on the other hand, if your dog loves doing it and the attention, then it is not cruel.

Listen to your dog, and let them decide.

When should you put clothes on a dog?

However, there is another side to this story which can cause some confusion and involves items of clothing which offer a tangible benefit to your dog – namely waterproof coats, vests which help with anxiety and clothing designed to regulate temperature during winter. The question is whether or not it’s cruel to put these kinds of clothes on a dog.

We are advocates that dogs need outdoor exercise every day, and there is no other substitute. If the weather isn’t great, it should be avoided, but if it is ‘good enough’, then a waterproof coat can make it even more enjoyable. But is putting on these kinds of clothes cruel?

Read More: Best Dog Coats to Buy for Winter in 2023

Jeff doesn’t like waterproof coats, either, so we no longer try and put one on instead, we walk him a short path and let him get wet. After all, he has his guard hair to keep the water from soaking him. But would we think we were being cruel by trying to get one on? No.

Putting something beneficial on a dog despite their protests would be seen as ‘tough love’ by us. You can easily make the dog see it as less cruel by ensuring they are given treats when it is on and then go for a walk straight away after. They can associate the coat or rain suit with treats and a walk. 

If they don’t get these clothes on, they can’t be walked, so it’s fine for them to protest, but it is up to you whether you force the issue and let them have their way. If your dog is still itching to go for a walk, get the coat out again and repeat this until the message sticks. By doing this, you are not forcing the dog to do anything they don’t want, nor a mini training session.

What types of clothes are appropriate for dogs to wear?

A good rule of thumb is to ensure that the clothes fit well and do not restrict movement. Clothing made of breathable materials and without any rough edges is a good choice. If it’s too tight, it can cause discomfort and injury. Additionally, poorly made or inappropriate clothing can cause skin irritation or lead to overheating.


  • Jonathan Spaeth

    I'm a professional business person who loves dogs. I'm motivated by a passion for dogs and a deep understanding of pet care and behavior. I have more than 10 years of experience in animal healthcare—my lifelong passion for helping dogs.

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