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 2: Things To Know Before Getting Started- Mushing Commands

Dog carting should be fun. If at any point you are not feeling that your dog can handle this type of exercise physically, intellectually or emotionally, you should stop and reassess the situation. Sometimes moving backward in the process and allowing our dog to master the step before the one we are currently engaged in, will allow the dog to move forward later. It is important to pay close attention to what your dog is saying to you during this process. Remember this is not a one way conversation. Take your time, be patient and again, have fun.

Step 1- Mushing Commands

Before the cart, before the harness, before all the other trappings of carting there has to be a way to communicate direction.

“Ho,ho,ho” and “Hold!” – Slow down and Stop

Start by walking your dog at heal and just before coming to a stop say the command “Ho, Ho, Ho” as you stop say “Hold.” Repeat this until your dog is able to anticipate stopping. This is the command for stopping forward motion. It is separate from the “Stay” command. “Stay” implies “you stay here, I’m going there, but you stay here.” However, “Hold” is something we are all doing now. By the way The “Ho, Ho, Ho” may sound familiar as something from The Night Before Christmas. In it, the sound is attributed to Santa’s laugh, but if you remember he had a team of reindeer in front of him and was probably telling them to slow down. Indeed all of the commands I use are also used with a variety of other drafting animals, even magic reindeer;)

“Gee” and “Haw” – Right and Left

Ever heard a cowboy crying out “Yee-Haaw!” That sound comes from the rodeo tradition. Riders atop wild horses would be tossed right and left, hence they were “Gee” and “Haw”ing all over the place. To teach your dog how to listen and respond to this command start by saying “Gee” every time you turn right and “Haw” when going left. The sound of the command should have a tonality to it, so as to communicate that this is different from your normal speaking voice and needs to be listened to now. Practice short turns around garbage cans or outdoor furniture. Make it a gauntlet of fun to turn quickly right and left through the obstacles. Occasionally try the “Hold” command. If you have a hard time remembering which is which, write the word Gee on your right hand and Haw on your left. (see the picture above) As you go through your day, when turning one way or another say the corresponding command under your breath. You’ll  have it by the end of the day.

“Up” and “Hike” – Go and Run

I mentioned stop before go for a very good reason. It’s safer to have a stop command than it is essential to have a go command. From here on out though every time you want the dog to move any where in a forward motion, use the command “Up” even if the dog is being told to get down out of a car or down a flight of stairs. We use “Up” in these scenarios because it inspires them to move forward regardless of their elevation relative to their desired destination. Once you are going forward and you want to pour on the speed use the word “Hike!” and begin to run. This can sometimes get a little wild and dogs may try to bite the leash or nip at you. That’s ok just firmly but calmly reassert your control of the leash and start over. “Hike” is a lot of fun for high drive dogs so this behavior should be expected and corrected but not to the degree that you are chastising the dog. After all this should be fun right? Short spurts are a good way to go at first with this command as dogs younger than the age of two should not be made to run long distances.

“Back, Back, Back” – Back up

This is probably the hardest command of the bunch and should be regularly polished in order to maintain the dogs ability to back up on command. This is also an absolutely essential command for a carting dog to get, as it is very difficult to get a dog in carting traces and bars, without having them walk backwards for at least a little bit. Furthermore, while carting, it’s not unusual for a dog to get in to a difficult spot that requires the dog to back up in order to maneuver out. So getting the dog to takes a few steps backwards needs to be learned.

First it will be important to find a wall or fence that is long and has no obstructions on the ground. Walk the dog parallel to the wall, use the “hold” command, stopping the dog at some point along the wall. The dog should be between you and the wall or fence at this point. now with a treat, bait the dogs nose back over their shoulder in order for them to step backwards. If they step back, immediately repeat the words “back, back, back” and give the treat. If this is working repeat the exercise until you can give the command and then see the behavior. If you need to use the leash in order to guide the dog backwards you can do this at first but try to get to the point where no leash pressure is required. Something that may confuse the dog and be an obstacle to achieving this move is in the mechanics of the trick. Often when dogs are taught to sit, raising the treat hand over the shoulders will be part of creating a physical posture of the sit. This however can be an obstacle in this scenario as sitting is not the desired response. If this becomes an issue try wrapping an additional leash under your dogs belly and when they attempt to sit, hold it steady. Don’t lift, just hold steady and bait the dogs nose back while repeating the “Back” command.

Things to look out for and other useful commands

If your dog completely hates one or all of these exercises, you may not have a dog that can do this kind of work, and that’s okay. Remember this is supposed to be fun and if at anytime you are not having fun, guess what, your dog probably isn’t either, so don’t continue doing this kind of work. There could be any number of reasons why your pooch is resistant to this stuff. They could be too young, they may have other talents, or you’re not the right teacher for this type of exercise, and all of that is okay.

Some other things that need to be taught in order to keep you and your dog safe are:

  1. Redirecting their attention back to the task at hand or “leave it!”
  2. Get ready to listen or “3, 2, 1”
  3. Not resist the harness or playing with the leash
  4. Peeing or pooping on command… yup that’s possible.

In the next dog carting post I will be discussing some of the first steps to equipping you dog with the proper gear, how and when to start doing so, and what the best options are for your dogs physique.

If you have any questions or suggestions please leave them for me in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you.

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