Top tips for dressing your dog up safely at Christmas

A dog with some antlers on

Festive season is almost upon us, which feels like the perfect excuse for our pets to model cute costumes and comedic Christmas coats. 

But, before you reach for the nearest Santa suit to snap a quick pic of your pet, let’s explore top tips for dressing your dog up safely this Christmas…

Make sure their clothing is safe and comfortable

As you know, your dog is entitled to live a happy, healthy life. In fact, responsible pet ownership involves making sure your canine companion has all their needs met:

  • A suitable environment.
  • A suitable diet.
  • Ability to behave in a natural way.
  • Suitable companionship.
  • Protection from pain, suffering, injury, and disease.

So, if the outfit you’ve chosen for your dog prevents them from enjoying any the above freedoms, it isn’t appropriate for them to wear. For example, a coat that rubs your dog will make them uncomfortable and cause them pain, so shouldn’t be used.

In order to make sure your dog’s coat, costume, jumper, or other Christmas outfit is safe and comfortable for them, you’ll need to do the following: 

Check it’s the correct size – The same as you would for a dog collar or harness, you’ll need to be certain that your dog’s costume fits properly before expecting them to wear it.

Assess your dog’s range of movement – No-matter how active your dog is, whether they’re a sofa snoozer or a playful prancer, they must be able to exercise their full range of movement in their outfit. This means your dog should walk, run, jump, lie down, roll, and curl up comfortably in their Christmas costume.

Make certain your dog can carry out normal behaviours – Your dog should be able to breathe, eat, drink, toilet, and move freely in their coat, costume, or other outfit. 

Please note: Wearing an outfit can cause dogs to overheat, which is dangerous for their health. It’s important to consider whether wearing a coat, or other outfit, is right for your dog – especially if they are overweight or have a skin condition. Also, some coats shouldn’t be worn inside and may only be suitable for dogs to wear outside, when the weather is cold and/or it’s raining.  

Let them get used to wearing the outfit

Whether you’ve chosen a Christmas costume, jumper, coat, onesie, bandana, antlers, or another outfit, it’s important to allow your best fur-iend the time to get used to wearing it. 

Just like wearing a harness for the first time, your canine companion will need plenty of opportunity to trial their new, correctly fitted outfit before the big day. 

Begin the process long before the festive season, by letting your pet wear their costume, coat, or jumper for a couple of minutes at a time. If your dog seems even slightly stressed by the situation (see signs of stress below), please remove their outfit, praise them, and try again another day.

Remember to give your dog plenty of praise, affection, and (healthy) treats whenever they wear their outfit!

Consider your dog’s coat length and type

Our dogs are individuals with their own, unique temperaments. While some dogs might enjoy dressing up, others are likely to hate it. 

Dogs who dislike dressing up should never be forced to do so, since causing your canine companion any type of discomfort should be avoided at all costs.

Another consideration is your dog’s coat type. Those with long hair or curly fur are at greater risk of overheating – which could have serious consequences for their health.

Also, long-haired dogs may end up with their hair getting tangled in the outfit, so it’s not recommended that long-haired or curly coated dogs wear costumes.

Keeping track of how long your dog spends in their outfit is important too, as they shouldn’t have to wear it for longer than is comfortable for them. You’ll need to remove their outfit straight away if they seem distressed or uncomfortable.

Pay attention to their body language

Their amazing ability to share feelings through body language is something we love about our dogs, though it’s also easy for us to overlook subtler signals as pet parents.

By being able to understand how our canine companion is feeling, we’re in the best position to decide whether wearing an outfit is something they enjoy.

Remember: If your dog displays any signs of stress, discomfort, or aggression while wearing an outfit, please remove that clothing immediately.

Signs of stress in dogs include:

  • Licking their lips repeatedly.
  • Yawning repeatedly.
  • Rolling onto their back and staying still.
  • Ears pinned flat against their head.
  • Tucking their tail between their legs.
  • Low, slowly wagging tail.
  • Looking tense (e.g. holding their head low, avoiding eye contact, etc.).
  • Turning away from you (sometimes following a quick lick of your hand).
  • Walking away from you.
  • Hiding.

In some cases, your dog may show they’re stressed through aggression instead:

  • Intense eye contact.
  • Ears pointing forward (not relaxed and floppy).
  • Stiff, shaking (not wagging) tail.
  • Alert body position.
  • Baring teeth.
  • Growling.

Please note: Your dog uses body language to communicate with other canines, so it’s vital that any coat or outfit they wear allows full freedom of movement.

Dos and Don’ts of dressing up your dog

Now we’ve established whether our canine companions are happy to wear costumes, there are some extra dos and don’ts to consider…


Prioritise their happiness – Look out for signs of stress; if they show the slightest signal that they’re stressed, remove their costume, coat, or other outfit straight away.

Consider an alternative – If, for example, your dog dislikes wearing coats or jumpers, yet they’ll happily wear a collar, you could make a Christmas-themed bandana for them instead.

Make sure their ID tag is visible – Since it’s a legal requirement, you’ll still need to check their ID tag is visible while they’re wearing a coat, costume, or other outfit.

Purchase products from reputable pet retailers – By buying your pet’s Christmas outfit from a trusted pet shop, it’s less likely that product will contain toxic materials or dangerous accessories.

Use specialist, vet-approved canine clothing for wellbeing purposes – Examples of useful outfits include coats for short-haired dogs to stay warm, lightweight hi-vis jackets so they can be seen in low light, or therapy vests following surgery.


Leave them alone – Unsupervised dogs are more likely to overheat or hurt themselves by getting trapped in a costume, coat, or other outfit. 

Choose coats, costumes, or other outfits with accessories – Small items could become a choking hazard.

Let them wear anything for too long – Even though your dog might seem happy to wear a costume, and show no signs of discomfort, it’s important that they don’t wear an outfit for too long.

Dye or paint your pet’s fur – Changing the colour of your dog’s coat could cause more harm than good, and it’s something vets tend to advise against doing due the health risks involved. 

Put outfits on dogs with short noses (brachycephalic breeds) – Dogs with short snouts can overheat easily, so they shouldn’t be expected to wear costumes, even at Christmas time. Most flat-faced dogs struggle with respiratory problems and eye conditions as well, making it more difficult for them to wear costumes comfortably.

Ultimately, if your dog isn’t wearing an outfit for the benefit of their wellbeing, then thorough consideration is needed before dressing them up for Christmas. 

For a second opinion, you could have a chat with the experts over at Joii Pet Care. As an Animal Friends dog or cat policyholder, you can benefit from access to FREE vet video consults with Joii!

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