Fashion has gone to the dogs, with dog models all across the country strutting their stuff on the runway, often for charity events. While the buzz for these events can be as electric as that for human fashion shows, the signs of success somewhat differ. After a recent Fashion Institute of Technology dog fashion show in New York, for example, FIT’s Cheryl Fein deadpanned, “No one barked, peed, jumped, growled or otherwise misbehaved.”

Dr. Katy J. Nelson, an emergency veterinarian, knows how important good manners are for fashion model dogs. Nelson works as an emergency veterinarian in Virginia, but she also volunteers for a charity event called Fashion for Paws, in Washington, D.C. This annual show, proclaimed “The No. 1 Fashion Event of the Year” by Washington Life magazine, benefits the Washington Humane Society and other organizations.

Recently, Nelson and other human models walked the runway with dogs dressed in the latest fashions. Below, she shares how to dress up your own dog so that it can one day show off its moves on a runway for a good cause.

Spring 2010 Dog Fashion Trends
Dog fashion usually mirrors human trends, with such designers as Ralph Lauren featuring clothing for dogs in their product lines. Popular looks for dogs include:

  • Plaids
  • Leather bomber jackets and leather in general
  • Military green camouflage
  • Ruffles
  • Bright colors
  • Organic materials
  • Knit “turtleback” sweaters
  • Workout looks, such as hoodie sweatshirts

When fitting your dog, the measurements you need are the circumference around the widest part of the chest, around the neck and then the distance from the back of the head down to the base of the tail. Remember, canine clothing isn’t just for looks. Many dogs, particularly smaller breeds, often need the extra warmth and protection for outings.

Could Your Pet Be a Dog Fashion Model?
Nelson warns that there will be loud noise, music blaring, many other dogs, and women in expensive clothing, so the pressure is on when the doggie models hit the runway. As such, “a dog that is shy, nervous or slightly aggressive would not be put on the runway,” says Nelson. Model dogs ideally possess these four qualities:

1. They are well-trained and do not hesitate to follow basic commands.

2. They are very comfortable on a leash.

3. The dogs are very willing to please.

4. “It’s all about personalities,” Nelson believes.

“There is no way to train a dog to be a model,” says Nelson. “They’ve just got to be ready to rock the outfit, prance their way down and back, and ‘smile’ like a pro.” Unlike rail-thin human models, large and small dogs are both runway worthy. In fact, some of the pudgiest pups get the biggest applause if their winning personalities shine through.  

Dog Fashion for Charity
Many dog fashion shows benefit animal charities or are held for other good causes. Last year, Fashion for Paws raised over $250,000, with the money still coming in through All the dog models either belong to the fundraising models who are not compensated but are sponsored by supporters, or the dog models are adoptable canines from the Washington Humane Society.

“The adoptable dogs at the Washington Humane Society that grace the runway are thrilled to be there in the hopes that they may smile the right way at the right person and find a forever home,” says Nelson. “They’re there to find someone to love them.”

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