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I want to start this out by saying one thing: Please, please, please...DON'T DRESS YOUR PET IN CLOTHES UNLESS THEY TRULY LIKE IT!
If your pet hates wearing clothes, don't torture them by dressing them up. It's not very nice. 😿
Now that we got that out of the way, that brings us to this question:
I want to preface this by saying I am not an animal expert, veterinarian, dog whisperer, etc. That said, I am a pet owner, and I've had the opportunity to raise two dogs who hated clothes, and one dog who loves dressing up.
Based on my experience, there's three tell "tail" signs your pet actually likes to get dressed up.
When I pull out a top, jacket, etc, my dog Flower visibly shows signs of excitement. She comes towards me, jumps up on my legs while I'm holding the garment, and wags her tail loosely from side to side at it's natural height.
According to the ASPCA, the height of the tail is extremely important (source). A tail at natural spine level or slightly below indicates your pet is feeling relaxed. A tail that is elevated above the spine indicates your pet is getting more and more excited. A tail that is tucked between the legs, however, is a sign that your pet is fearful.
If your pet's tail is at the relaxed or excited level, it's a good sign they don't mind clothes. If they are tucking their tail between their legs, it's likely they do not like clothes and are fearful of being dressed up.
Just before I put a piece of clothing on Flower, she does something really cute: she helps me dress her.
Here's what I mean by that: When I am about to put a top on her, I hold the neckline open to make it easier to put her head through. While I'm doing this, Flower actually moves forward and puts her head through the neckline herself.
If your dog runs from you, shies away, or turns their head to the side to make it harder to get a shirt on, it's a pretty good indicator that they don't want to get dressed.
Just think about it like this: does your dog making it easier, or harder for you to dress them? If they exhibit any behavior that clearly makes it more difficult for you to cloth them, it's a good sign you probably shouldn't dress them at all.
Once Flower has her outfit on, you can see she's happy. Sometimes she's relaxed, sometimes she gets really excited.
When she's excited, she wags her tail at a neutral or elevated level (refer back to tail levels mentioned in sign #1). If we're in a group setting, she'll walk around to other people wagging her tail...she loves the attention! Sometimes, she'll even go into a "bowing" position that indicates she wants to play (source).
Other times, she'll immediately look relaxed after she's dressed. She'll lay down, chill in bed, or simply sit on my lap.
All in all, she exhibits behaviors that tell me she's happy, and feels comfortable wearing her clothes.
If your dog's body goes stiff, they put their tail between their legs, etc., that's a solid sign that they do not feel comfortable wearing clothes and you shouldn't dress them up.
Hopefully this article will help you make a more informed decision as to whether or not you should buy clothes for your pet. We all want to make our pets happy...and as tempting it is to dress them up, please make sure they actually feel comfortable wearing clothes before you do!