Dog gains confidence by wearing clothes

Pitbull mix from dogfighting bust is a bit shy, but wearing clothes helps her to feel more comfortable around new people and in new situations.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

It's hard to believe that adorable little Fiesta came from a dog-fighting bust in Texas. Unlike many dogs who are raised in such environments, Fiesta's fear and trust issues aren't severe. She is actually quite friendly and happy, even goofy at times. But she does get nervous, and she can be a little shy when meeting new people.

Fiesta the dog wearing a spotted pink dress and Alyssa having funA confidence booster for shy dog

Luckily, her caregivers have found an easy (and fun) way to boost her confidence. Because Fiesta is quite petite, and her pretty golden fur is a bit on the short side, they began putting sweatshirts on her during the cold winter months. Soon they discovered that when Fiesta wears clothing, it helps her to calm down and feel much more confident in new situations.

If this seems strange, consider the ThunderShirt, a snug-fitting shirt designed specifically to reduce a dog's anxiety. It delivers a gentle pressure that makes the dog (or cat) feel like he or she is being hugged. Fiesta herself loves to be held and carried, and clothing makes her feel secure. So, her sweatshirts served another important, practical purpose besides keeping her warm, and she began to accumulate a collection of them.

A canine pink polka dot dress

But then the weather got warm, as it will in a high-desert climate, and Fiesta couldn't wear her sweatshirts anymore. So what did her caregivers do? They got her a summer wardrobe, which includes her favorite article of clothing yet - a pink polka dot dress. Now she's a true fashionista with a clothes rack full of outfits hanging outside of her run in Deja's Lodge, the building in Dogtown where she lives.

Fiesta the shy dog in her spotted pink dress and Alyssa riding in a golf cartFiesta has Babesia, a tick-borne infection common in dogs who come from fighting situations, that can be transmitted to other dogs through bite wounds or blood. Unfortunately, though she really would like to play with her fellow Dogtown residents, she can't yet safely be in close physical contact or share her run with a dog who doesn't also have Babesia. Even though this is the case, now that Fiesta has gained confidence and is feeling a bit more Zen, she, in turn, has had a calming effect on the other dogs. Fiesta makes an excellent neighbor, providing a good buffer zone between dogs who might not normally get along. Even Yuma, who lives in the next run and is reactive with many other dogs, seems to love the little fashionista.

Of course, a pretty pink dress isn't a magic bullet, and Fiesta does still need to work on a few issues. Her caregivers will be helping her with basic training and with acclimating successfully to new places and experiences (sleepovers, for instance). But, as caregiver Erin Schmitz points out, working with Fiesta is fun, because everything is brand new to her. She's really a silly girl on the inside, and not at all the shy dog she sometimes seems like - at least not while she's strutting around in her summer attire.

To learn more about shy dogs, click here.

To adopt Fiesta or another one of our dogs, go to our Adopt a Pet section.

 Photos by Molly Wald