Should Dogs Wear Clothes? An Ethical Quandary

Well it’s Halloween again and the age old argument is out there. Is it cruel to dress your dog in a Halloween costume? My dog Rowdy recently participated in the Annual Narrows Botanical Garden Harvest Festival Doggy Costume Contest and The Dodo was there to film the event. The next morning they streamed the event as a FaceBook Live event and I watched as the comments flowed in. Most of the commenters were positive and encouraging in there responses but others, maybe because they were coming from a place of concern for the animals, were opposed to the event. I want to take a moment to respond to some of these concerns.


Oh Toze, what can I say to you? Though I do appreciate that you are concerned for the animals welfare, I think your definition of torture may be a bit out of focus. There are plenty of places online to find examples of animal torture, this most assuredly, is not one. If you or anyone who shares your opinion would like to help animals who have been tortured, I encourage you to volunteer at your local pound, no-kill shelter or rescue and you will get to see what the result of torture looks like.


I always give my dog a choice as to what he wears and whether or not he puts it on. I hold out the open neck hole and Rowdy puts his head through. Then he lifts his legs to put them through the leg holes. If at any time he puts up a fuss and he has, I will pull back and reassess the situation maybe the fit is wrong, in which case, I don’t attempt to make him wear whatever that article of clothing is. However, I have been walking with him on a cold day while carrying his hoodie in my hand. When, unprompted, he started nudging my hand and the hoodie in it, indicating that he wanted the hoodie on. So I always consider Rowdy’s input on this.

BTW: I don’t think Greg watched the video if you look at the timestamp on his comment. If he had, I think he would have seen a lot of dogs having a great time.



Well it’s not illegal or demeaning to put clothes on a dog. If it were you would see K-9 dogs without bullet-proof vests or search and rescue dogs without their high visibility or flotation vests. The notion that dogs are not smart enough to understand wearing clothes I think is more demeaning to dogs than the notion that what they are wearing might not fit into your opinion of good taste.


I absolutely agree with Barbel, Divya and sad snoopy, they are not dolls. I like to do lots of things with my dog and this is just one of them. We go hiking, we do nosework, we go to the dog park and we do recreational carting. These are all fun dog things to do. Running around in the ring to the cheers of an adoring crowd, is just one of the ways Rowdy likes to enjoy his life. If you watch the video I think you’ll see what I mean.


Wha?!?! Some people need to learn how to form a reasonable argument, before they learn how to operate a keyboard.


This might be the only argument against doggy costumes except for the fact that this contest was held with the express purpose of raising awareness and yes funding for a local no-kill shelter. People donated to Sean Casey in order to participate. Those who were attending, that didn’t have pets, were exposed to the magic of the rescue dog world, breaking down the assumptions of many, that a dog is something to be purchased from a store. There was a lot of good done by this event.

Here are some other working dogs, wearing clothes.

There are 1.1 thousand comments and over 122 thousand views of this video as of the time I post this article. The overwhelming majority of comments are in support of the event. I want people out there that enjoy dressing up their dog to be aware that they should make sure that they keep it fun for their dog. If your dog is willing and ready to dress up than go for it! Make sure it’s not all you do with them, but sure why not have fun with this harmless and silly little hobby. Please be sure to support your local no kill shelter and if you want to donate to Sean Casey here is their link.

Dog Carting-Part One: A Brief History


(c) Williamson Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Does your dog get excited when you put a harness on them? Do they yank you out of the door and down the street? Do you ever wonder why horses, goats, bulls and almost all the other four-legged domesticated animals are expected to draft heavy loads behind them, but you hardly ever see dogs doing this work? Well, here are some answers to your questions.

Dogs have been by our side for a very long time. Since prehistory, they have been a loyal hardworking companion, as well as a compassionate, steadfast bone-handeled-knife-dog-wearing-harnessfriend. At a site termed Ust-Polui, near the Arctic Circle in Siberia, Dr. Robert Losey, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, has found archeological evidence of dogs being ceremonially buried in the same way as humans from the same period. Also found on the site was this carved bone handled knife. The decoration on the handle seems to depict a dog in full pulling harness. On the same site were two dog sleds. This site in particular dates back 2,000 years and indicates that the practice of dog sledding had been around for much longer.

So what are the advantages that these dogs have over horses, or some other drafting animal? Well first of all, horses get cold in these arctic environments. This is a very harsh climate, and since dogs are much smaller, they’re able to conserve their body heat. Secondly, horses mainly subsist on grasses, which much of the year are not available this far north. Dogs eat what we do for the most part, and so their diet can adapt to whatever we’re able to forage and scavenge for ourselves. Thirdly, dogs can double as protector, pulling guard duty. I’ve never heard of a guard horse; maybe they exist somewhere, but I’d bet that a dog is better suited to the job. Lastly, the ice gets very thin, and a heavy horse can pull you and your load down into the chilly brine. Dogs can pull themselves out of this situation though. So even if the ice does break and your whole load goes into the drink, the dogs can make use of their dew-claws to pull themselves out of the water. Check out a video to see labradors doing just that here.

So, for thousands of years dogs were getting good work as the load bearing, tug toting engines for small farmers and hunters alike. There is evidence of dogs pulling loads behind them from all around the world. In pre-Colombian North America there were no horses, and the predominate work engine was the Native American dog.

dutch-belgian-dogcartAnother advantage to having a dog pull your cart is that they take up less space and are more maneuverable in many situations. So in metropolitan areas, teeming with crowds and tight alley-ways, the dog became a relatively low-cost; more reliable option for small farmers bringing their wares to town.


So when and why did this all change? In England at the beginning of the Victorian period there was an ordinance passed called the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839. It forbade the use of dog carts within fifteen miles of Charing Cross.

“XXXIV. [Prohibition of Dog Carts.] And be it further enacted, That after the First Day of January next every Person who within the City of London and the Liberties thereof shall use any Dog for the Purpose of drawing or helping to draw any Cart, Carriage, Truck, or Barrow, shall be liable to a Penalty not more than Forty Shillings for the First Offense, and not more than Five Pounds for the Second or any following Offense.”

Rabies, or as it was commonly termed Hydrophobia, was becoming a real problem on the island and in an effort to stamp it out many theories were put forth as to a cause for the disease. A very popular theory was that over worked dogs were more susceptible to the condition, and so fines were imposed on anyone seen employing their dog in this regard.

That was the beginning of the end of dog carting. As we approached the industrial age, dogs were given less and less work and became more a show of wealth and stature. As we needed them less for their pulling talents and more for their companionship they retained the compulsion to pull. So now when you harness up your little canid powerhouse are you seeing just your own frustration that they won’t walk at heel? Or instead are you seeing all their potential? I have taught a great deal of dogs how to walk at heel and many owners how to maintain the leash language of the guided walk at a steady pace. But what if your dog is a massive engine that is meant to pull more than his own weight? In the next part of this series on Dog carting I will go into how to prepare your dog for the exciting, enriching and entertaining world of dog carting.

If you want to read more about the history of dog carting here are some links.

Dog carting in history 1

Dog carting in history 2

Dog carting in history 3

Ancient Dog Sledding

Dog Friendly: Oktoberfest 2016

This is the first of a series of regularly reoccurring blog posts, meant to help people find events and locations that are dog approved.


Nestled in the Bear Mountain State Park, just off the Palisades Parkway at exit 17 is the new site of an annual Oktoberfest that Rowdy loves to attend. My dog is, like me, a German mutt. At one point we did a DNA test and the results were Dachshund, Doberman, Min Pin, Weimaraner and Schnauzer. So obviously oompah music is in his personal playlist.

There are some great trails nearby, and your dog will love burning off some energy first by going on a nice walk in the woods. After that, the entire festival is not just dog tolerant but seriously dog friendly. People approach, ask very nicely if they can greet your dog, and have a hand out for a sniff before you have to instruct them to do so. The dog culture is on point!

There’s an assortment of booths set up selling crafts as well as food, but Rowdy honed in on one that seemed a little more important than the others. Good Reasons is a not-for-profit dog treat company on a mission. They create scrumptious, human-grade all natural dog treats, while providing employment opportunities to people with autism and other developmental disabilities.


We saw all kinds of other shapes and sizes of dogs there, from tiny Tibetan Terriers to great big Great Danes and everything in-between. All were friendly and approachable. The food was yummy above the table and below. The music was appropriately silly and the beer… well Rowdy was the designated driver so he didn’t have any of that.

The party continues until October 30th and we might return, so maybe we’ll see you there! Here’s a link to the Bear Mountain Inn Oktoberfest site.

What Is A Dog Puzzle?


Cognition is the process of interpreting the world through the use of thought, experience and the senses. It’s something that we do every day all day and so does our dog. Creating a scenario that allows our dog to solve problems in a controlled environment gives us a way to help them create good habits for how they process the wider world. Sure, we give them toys and maybe a bone to chew on occasionally, and that is a great way to help them burn off some mental energy, but what if we want to challenge them more? Here are some examples of how dog puzzles can help you do just that.

Defining a Puzzle

A Dog Puzzle is different in one significant way from a dog toy, in that it involves your input. A kong toy is fun and difficult, demanding the dogs attention for a good period of time, but it can be solved without your presence. In this way, I would argue that the kong toy and toys like it are in a category by themselves. Puzzles should involve the handler setting up the item while the dog sits and watches at a distance, and then is invited in to try and solve it. Once the dog has achieved the goal of solving the puzzle, the handler should immediatly praise the pup. This way, our dog learns that there is value in both waiting for something good and in persisting through something difficult.

DIY Puzzles

Muffin Tins are great!


Getting your dog to find things in difficult-to-reach places is a big part of how this works, and an easy and cheap way to start is with stuff you may already have. Have your dog sit and stay. Take a few steps back, and kneel as you set the muffin tin upside down on the floor. While the dog sits patiently, place some treats between the inverted cups. Wait for your dog to look you in the eye. As soon as they do, push the puzzle halfway to them, stand up and say “Find it!” When your dog does this, reward them with praise.

Scale the difficulty

So maybe your dog has moved past that and you want something more difficult? Try this…


Turn over the muffin tin and put stuff in the cups. Here, you can see some tennis balls and an old sock have been placed in the tin, and underneath are some yummies. Now repeat the routine that I set out in the first level.

Once they have gotten that down, try cutting the tennis balls in half and/or inverting another identical muffin tin on top for more difficulty.


Got an old plastic bowl or piece of tupperware that doesn’t have a top any longer? Give it a shot!

Dog Puzzles You Can Buy, Sure There’s That Too.

This is the Dog Tornado made by Nina Ottosson. It’s a great puzzle and very versatile.


They make a lot of puzzles out of quality materials and my dog Rowdy really likes all of them, except for the Pyramid. That one should probably get a reboot.

If you are able to find something that you like and it works for your dog, please let me know what it is and where to get it.

The Ultimate Dog Toy!


You are your dog’s best challenger and rewarder. Your attention and diligence are what are going to foster your dogs intelligence and talents. Make your dog’s brain work and you will gain trust and confidence from your pooch.

Let me know how it goes!