I’ve always had big, long-haired dogs, so it’s never occurred to me to dress them in clothes. In fact, had I tried to outfit my overly excitable Husky, chances are, I’d be dressing my wounds instead of his body. But for many dogs, clothes can be a source of comfort as well as a fashion statement.
“While a Siberian Husky doesn’t need a coat, a lot of smaller dogs can get cold outside,” explained Jay Wiktorzewski, manager of One Haute Dog in Ross Park Mall, which has been providing pet clothing since 2015. “If you’re only letting your dog outside to go to the bathroom for a couple of minutes, they’ll be fine; but if you’re taking them on a half-hour walk, you might be more inclined to dress them warmly to make them more comfortable.”
According to Wiktorzewski, whether to dress a dog or not can depend on the breed, the type of hair the dog has, and how long it will be exposed to the elements.
“Most of our customers dress their dogs for practicality, but there are definitely humans who just love to dress their dogs for the fun of it,” he said. “If I had to guess, I’d say about 70 percent buy items for practical use, such as coats in the wintertime, but there are also a lot of people who just want to buy cute t-shirts that are fun for a picture.”
While some dogs love to be dressed, others do not, and it’s important to never force an animal to wear clothing if it makes it uncomfortable. Some other considerations, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, include not putting pets in clothing that irritates or breaks the skin, restricts breathing, has buttons or other components that could lead to choking, or has zippers that could get stuck in fur. When shopping, pay attention to the size of clothing, thickness of materials, and ease of putting on and removing the clothes.
“You also want to be careful with dogs with heavy natural coats that can overheat when they’re put in outdoor coats,” added Wiktorzewski. “It’s pretty much common sense stuff. There’s no real drawback, as long as the dog likes it and you make sure you’re safe about it.”
One Haute Dog specializes in dog accessories and clothing, ranging from t-shirts to sweaters to fleece jackets and winter coats. The majority of clothing is for dogs 30 pounds or less.
“Little dogs get catered to, whereas big dogs don’t have as many options in terms of cuter things,” he said, noting that clothing manufacturers tend to only create clothes for dogs up to a certain size. “Unfortunately, the bigger dog sweaters and coats are usually plain and kind of boring. There is a lot more fun stuff for smaller dogs.”
He adds that every brand uses different sizing, so it’s important to have a dog’s measurements before shopping for clothes.
“A ‘small’ at one company is an extra-large at another,” he said. “Coming in with just a size, you might as well throw it out the window.”
He advises measuring the dog’s length from where the collar sits to the beginning of the tail, and then around the belly (behind the front legs) to get a proper chest measurement. “If you have those two numbers, we can pretty much figure out what will fit,” he added.
For the more fashion-conscious, it’s also important to dress for the season.
“Just like human fashion, there are definitely dog seasons,” said Wiktorzewski. “In spring and summer, dresses, doggie t-shirts and dress shirts for boys are in; in fall, you’ll see more fleeces and Halloween-themed outfits. And of course, in winter, we’re selling coats and sweaters.”
In addition to clothing, One Haute Dog also sells parody toys, including Chewy Vuiton, Gucchewi, Pawda and Kate Spayed plush bags. Other stores in the area that sell animal clothing include most big box retail stores, and you should also check out gift shops in animal shelters, including at Animal Friends on Camp Horne Road, where your purchases help to support the shelter’s services.