Your Dog, His Sweater, and that Disappointed Look on His Face

Your Dog, His Sweater, and that Disappointed Look on His Face


Pancho here. ‘Tis the season when you humans get all pumped about dressing us dogs in winter wear before heading outside, everything from handknit sweaters and brand name puffer coats to hats and booties. My squad nominated me to have this potentially awkward talk with you (because they are all cowards) because I’m a straight shooter and you appreciate that about me. So, I’m just going to dog-up and put this out there: some of us don’t like wearing clothes.

Part of the problem may be that you have terrible taste in dog clothing (see photo above), but part of it may be that you’re anthropomorphizing again, thinking of us in terms of human needs and wants. This is the same urge that caused you to create a personalized calendar for my birthday featuring 12 months of photos of us together in various seasonal backgrounds. I wasn’t sure how to break this to you, but I don’t use a calendar. The word February means nothing to me. I wanted a dirty sock. (Don’t worry, I still adore you and want to lick your face repeatedly.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some dogs do enjoy fine attire. If you want to try it out, go for soft, natural fabrics like wool or cotton, since they can breathe. (My ex Dixie prefers cashmere, but she’s totally high maintenance.)
Arm and neck holes should have plenty of room for movement. Remember how you act like you’re going to suffocate when you put on your fitted turtleneck for the first time in the fall? That’s what we want to avoid here.

Cognitive scientist Dr. Alexandra Horowitz (what? I google stuff while you’re at work) has written about this very topic based on her animal research and says that for some dogs, having clothing put on feels like an act of domination, rather than the warm, cozy protection from the elements you’re intending. In her book Inside of a Dog, she says:
“The subordinate dog...would feel the pressure of the dominant animal on his body. The raincoat might well reproduce that feeling. So the principal experience of wearing a coat [or sweater] is not the experience of feeling protected from wetness; rather, the coat produces the discomfiting feeling that someone higher ranking than you is nearby.”

Size may be something else to consider. Skinny little bitches can have a hard time regulating their body temperature out in the cold and might need some extra protection. Larger, furrier dogs (they prefer the term “big boned”) probably have enough, ahem, girth and natural coating to keep warm even out in the snow.

Dr. Horowitz’s advice? Pay attention to our signals. If we wag our tails and excitedly allow you to dress us, go for it. If we curl our tails under and wear a worried “WTF?” look on our face while getting dressed, we likely prefer to go commando.

It’s pretty much that simple.

On behalf of all my buddies, I thank you for taking time to consider this. Now come here and let me lick you. Who’s a good human? That’s right, you’re a good human! You are! Yes you are, yes you are!

P.S. Can I have a dirty sock now? I still want a dirty sock.

Gabby Slome

Gabby Slome

NYC native. Certified canine nutritionist. Equestrian. World traveler. Columbia Business School grad. Healthy eater. Mom to the best mutt in the world, (well according to me), Pancho.

 

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