Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Inside the world of canine fashion

MATT STEINER Updated: December 24, 2012 at 12:00 am

Sweater? Ruff.

Bomber jacket? Ruff.

Tutu and sunglasses? Ruff, ruff.

When it comes to fashion in the canine world, there are no limits.

Some dogs strut around in tuxedos. Others find themselves wearing pajamas, snow suits or ugly plaid shorts.

And accessories. Lots of accessories.

So, what do Benji, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin think of their fancy duds? Well, just like Duke at Bush’s Baked Beans, if they have opinions on the new look, they’re not sharing.

“I think it’s mostly for people’s amusement,” said Brandy Bongibault, a dog-behavior expert who owns K9 Connection Dog Training in Colorado Springs.

Count Bongibault among the owners who relish the amusement — even if her French bulldog doesn’t share the feeling.

“She sits there with this awful look on her face, like, ‘How dare you do this to me?’” Bongibault said.

Go to any dog park, particularly at this time of year, and you’ll most likely find plenty of pooches dressed for the runway.

Sadie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Pekingese mix, recently sported a pair of pink bows at Bear Creek Dog Park. Her owner, Gary Dhondt, said his pooch is extremely stubborn when it comes time to get dressed up in anything more than the bows.

“She won’t wear a sweater,” said Dhondt, a 79-year-old who’s lived in Colorado Springs since 1994. “She just braces her feet and refuses. She won’t move until you take it off.”

Clothes for dogs can have practical uses, and some dogs seem to love wearing them. Dr. Lisa Bausch, a veterinarian at Bijou Animal Hospital, said she once told a pet owner to put shorts on a boxer to protect a groin abscess that was healing.

“I have never seen a dog more proud to wear a pair of pants,” she said. “He sported them all around.”

Bausch said people will often use sweaters on dogs that have hypothyroid — the common canine disease that plagues older dogs, causing them to lose their hair.

“We refer to them as heat seekers,” Bausch said. “They just don’t feel like they’re warm, but their body temperature is fine when they come in.”

The doctor added that other dogs, especially those with short, white fur, tend to be very light-pigmented.

“Those dogs are susceptible to sunburn and can get skin cancer,” Bausch said, noting that vets will recommend light T-shirts whenever the fair–skinned creatures are in the sun.

Medical reasons aside, some dogs just want to be fashionable.

Bongibault, who used to think putting clothes on dogs was ridiculous, has changed her mind. Her bulldog mix, Maybelline, constantly is adorned in jewelry and skirts, thanks to her 7-year-old daughter.

The trainer also has three pit bulls that don’t mind clothing.

“They love the extra attention they get,” Bongibault said. “People are more likely to approach a pit that’s wearing something than when they’re not.”

But the most obvious and practical reason to cover a creature that already wears a fur coat has to be the cold, especially at 6,000 feet and higher. After all, nights tend to get cold at altitude.

Julia Thomas, who lives in the Kissing Camels area, pointed at her Australian shepherd Clovis when asked if she uses doggy duds.

“Look at his fur,” she said of the dog’s thick crop of hair. “He does nothing in the summer but lay on the AC vents.

“But I’m all for dogs that wear clothes if they need them. Some dogs just aren’t built for this climate.”

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