Most would agree that the pandemic has few upsides, with the exception of one notable group: dogs.
In fact, if we had to wager a guess, we’d say they’re loving it. After all, their people are home. All day. There’s more petting, playing, walking and treats than ever. What a howl!
It’s these up-close-and-personal-with-your-dog months that may have led to a burgeoning trend. Pet owners are dressing like their dogs, or conversely, dogs are starting to dress like their people.
“If you told me five years ago I’d be dressing up like my dog, I’d have thought you were crazy,” says Laura Burkart, 40, who with her partner, Donal Sheridan, 44, of Queens, regularly dresses up in matching outfits with Hendrik, her Brussels Griffon. “I haven’t been spending any money on my own clothes this year. I’m not buying anything and I don’t have kids, so I’m spending my disposable income on things you would normally buy for a kid. He’s an extension of me and it’s a way to show we’re a family,” says Burkart, who believes that Hendrik, who has his own Instagram account (@Hendrik_Von_Griffon) loves to get dressed up.
Getting all matchy-matchy with your pooch is nothing new for Mercedes Gonzalez Mayo, 23, a fashion influencer from Smithtown. Her Instagram account, @styleitwithtrix (Trix being her chihuahua) with its 271,000 followers focuses on matching her own high-style with her pup’s.
But now, with a new addition to her family, Theo, a five-month-old golden retriever, she’s taken it a step further by designing her own faux-fur topped dog beanies, sold at @styledbytrix. Matching human beanies will follow in February and at some point, she hopes to expand into a full-on dog-and-people clothing line.
“I’m just a proud dog mom over here,” she says. “I’ve always shared dog fashion with women’s fashion and I knew somewhere down the line I wanted to make a dog collection.”
Her reasoning? “One is the practicality of keeping your dog warm, and two, there’s the reality of people wanting to see posts on Instagram. I’m obsessed with adorable dogs and their photos.”
‘IT MAKES THEM HAPPY’
She’s not alone. Even big-name retailers like Target have gotten in on the trend, selling matching pup and human puffer jackets and pajama sets.
“Everybody is obsessing over their dogs these days,” says Cassie Cole, 51, the owner of dog clothing and accessory brand Fab Dog. Cole, who grew up in the Five Towns and is currently quarantining in Remsenburg, says “sales have increased significantly. In April, when people were flipping out because of COVID, they were ordering loads of toys and clothes for their dogs, because it made them happy.” Cole says she began selling matching pajama sets years ago and today, continues to sell PJs, along with T-shirts with funny expressions such as, “Dog Hair Don’t Care.”
Amusement may be at the heart of the trend when there hasn’t been that much to amuse, says Gina Davis, 32, who owns Dog Threads, a Minnesota-based human/dog clothing company where business has “snowballed” during the pandemic.
“Now that we’re spending so much time with our dogs, there’s a lightheartedness and fun to dressing alike,” she says. Davis notes Long Island is a hot market for the company’s dog and human wardrobe options — from summery Hawaiian shirts to cozy ski sweaters. Davis and her husband, Scott, were a hit on an episode of “Shark Tank,” a little more than a year ago for their matching clothing line.
One of Davis’ customers is Arden O’Connor, 42, who has been quarantining with her folks in Southampton since last May with her three Poochons, Mango, Kiwi and Guava. She purchased matching sweaters for a Christmas card photo but plans for her crew to wear them all year long.
“I actually love my sweater and the dogs do get cold so they need them.” But bottom line, she says, “The reason I started doing it is because I thought it would make people smile and they do.”
Burkart, too, says that during dark times, a little dog and family matching can bring on happy moments. “People laugh as soon as they notice us. I don’t know if they’re laughing with us or at us, but either way, they get a kick out of it.”
Don’t dress to stress
It may all sound like a lot of fun, but take note, owners. For some canines, dressing up is definitely anything but a day in the park. “If an owner wants to dress their dog that’s generally fine,” says Rachael Rudman, kennel manager of the North Shore Animal League America. But, it’s important, “to read your dog’s body language … If it looks like they’re stressing out don’t do it.”
For smaller dogs, an extra layer may be a necessity, says Rudman. “They are typically OK with being dressed up with no qualms. They tend to be a little more fragile than larger dogs and a little more vulnerable to the world.”
Rudman adds a checklist of sorts: “Make sure the garment is not too tight or loose; inspect to see that you’re clipping the leash to the right place to avoid it ripping off; watch for tripping hazards if a garment is too long.”