August 31, 2013

Raisa Stone: Should You Dress Up Your Pet?

People ask me, "What is the most common thing animals say?" 

For pets who have had a home other than their birth home, and especially if they've been in tough circumstances, it's, "Are they keeping me?" voiced in a plaintive tone.

For dogs and cats, a common complaint is lack of fresh meat. 

Equally common, is....what? A lack of play time? Not enough animal shows on TV? The need to visit a dog park?


With a great deal of distress behind it, a common request I receive from pets is, "Please make them stop putting that pink/blue/red/green THING on me. Don't they like my fur? Do they think I'm ugly?"

The energy behind this creates a choking sensation or creepy crawlies on my skin.

Except for certain Labrador and Golden Retrievers, animals are almost universally frustrated and humiliated by being dressed up. 

They can certainly be made to understand and calmly (if not cheerfully) accept a rain coat or a modest sweater in subzero temperatures. 

I'm talking about costumes. Outfits that are for our vanity, the ones that make people squeal, "Kewwwwwt!"

Your dog/cat/rabbit/pony/bird is fuming. 

Animals highly prize their natural coats. They feel dignified and at One with the world in them. They consider clothing a cross between human vanity and our need to cloak fragile (and unattractive) naked skin. To animals, our skin looks as if we've been scraped raw. They feel compassion for us. And don't envy our fragility or nakedness in the least. A component of their tenderness towards us, is their belief humans are, at least partially, un-furred infants.

After major holidays, I receive a flood of complaints about behavioral problems. Fluffy is suddenly peeing all over the house, Taffy is touchy, and Blackie has started swinging his rump at you when you approach.

Did Fluffy not get enough turkey? Or Blackie not enough brushing? Did visiting kids pull Taffy's ears? Sometimes. Every situation and animal is unique. 

But across the board, I hear angry statements by pets: "Tell them I'm embarrassed by the red coat...I hate it when they try to make me look like another species...That black thing was stuffy, and I couldn't see well. I was scared!"

Animals are incredibly dignified. Humiliation can damage trust and change behavior radically. In my experience, as much as physical abuse and neglect. 

Think back to your childhood: can you remember being humiliated? Do you recall that it stung your heart and lingered as badly as a slap to the face---or worse? Shaming by a schoolyard bully hurt, shaming by a trusted adult was excruciating.

Your pet only has you. They can't protest to their teachers or neighbours. They're unable to retreat to a safe place and shed the hated costume. Instead, their humiliation is usually paraded in public.

I've spoken with pets who desperately try to give their owners the message. They pee on their clothes. They destroy the laundry basket or some precious item. They become inexplicably aggressive or sullen.

Dressing animals stunts their senses. Animal fur is a highly evolved antennae. You know that prickly feeling you get on your neck, or the goose pimples on your skin when "something's up"? Animals live by similar sensations, much amplified. 

As well, costumes limit their vision and hearing, e.g., I see a trend towards dressing them in hoodies. Yo. Not kool.

Dressing animals attracts unwanted attention and even aggression from other animals, who fear them and view them as threatening. It's much like the first time you were exposed to a monster in a horror film. The same adrenalized response that caused you to scream or dive under a blanket, heart pounding, can cause an approaching animal to attack yours.

Small dogs seem to get the worst of this dressing up trend. Please consider that they struggle with carrying wolf size spirits and hearts inside of bodies that don't measure up. They're poignantly aware of their limitations. Small dogs need their self esteem and courage bolstered, not infantilized. They're not eternal babies. 

If they need weather-appropriate gear, purchase the most mature looking raincoat or sweater. Involve them in choosing. I've seen dogs clearly indicate their choice of weather gear in pet stores. 

Watch and listen for clues. The pinned back ears are a big, "No way, buster!"

You know what your pet's "happy face" looks like.

An animal's lack of struggle doesn't always mean acceptance. Sometimes, it's shock. An animal in distress has three responses: flight, fight or freeze.

Take your time. Watch for the genuine clues of their emotion. The trust in your relationship could depend upon it.

I've never met an animal who likes pink, or sparkles. Being cute is of no interest. Here's an article I wrote about the small dogs' experience. 

Given what I hear from clients (who thankfully want to know how to humanely solve problems) and their pets, I have to wonder how many pets end up in shelter or even euthanized due to behavior triggered by costuming.

An extra tip for Halloween: put on your costume, piece by piece, in front of your pet. Your familiar scent and voice coming out of a costume will scare them, and could easily damage your trusting relationship. People who jump out and yell, "Boo!" at animals, well, I have no words. Just don't be that person.

Dignity is merited by every creature on our beautiful planet.

Raisa Stone
Expert Animal Communicator
Energy healer 


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  1. Very well said, Reisa. Other than sweaters for small short coated breeds in cold climates, I don't think animals enjoy being dressed up. I think Dakota the Corgi would be mortified. But she has a lovely thick fur coat and we live in a mild climate. I have knitted sweaters for my granddaughter's Chihuahua-MinPin, but he does get cold in the winter time.

  2. No, people should let dogs be dogs and go too far with their pets. A collar is good enough for your pet. The pet industry will do anything to make a profit and these poor pets suffer with all that extra garb put on them. Itch, scratch only puts extra burden on them.