I love watching What Not To Wear (American Version) when the people attempt to justify horrible raggedy clothes and ugly oversized sweatshirts by saying, "I have to have to have something to walk the dog in". As if that were ANY excuse.
Oh, sure I hear you. Because maybe you think I have a little itty bitty dog for whom a walk is a stroll to the cafe for a croissant (more about those walks later). Well, this is one area of fashion I feel fairly secure in writing about because I have some Hard Core Walkers when it comes to my two dogs. See, my 10-year old Boxer, Jed, is a little slower now that he is a mature gentleman, but he is an active senior. Walks are a must for large dogs, regardless of local. And just opening up your backdoor to let your dog run around is nice, but it ain't a walk. Most dogs love walks. New sights, new smells, new people and dogs. It's info overload and they adore it. So I have a big dog and I have a small dog. Well, the little guy 24 pounds and a tad "portly" so walks are good to keep off excess weight. And just because a dog is small doesn't mean they don't enjoy and need walks. Ok, so you probably have your dogs outfitted for their walks (collar, leash, gentle leader if your dog pulls), but what about you? Those natty sweats will NOT do.
First off the best and most important piece of equipment is a good pair of shoes. If you can afford it, get a pair that are JUST for dog walking. It will take about 2 walks before your dog notices those shoes mean a walk. I only recommend a pair just for dog walking because that way they will last longer. I prefer sneakers myself, but sandals, vans, chucks or whatever is most comfortable for you is best. Something that won't rub or blister. I think Payless is a good resource for these shoes because you can get a comfy pair of sneakers for about $25 so you will never swear at your dog because you got mud all over your $90 Nikes. Style is good here, but comfort is the most important part. Fortunately, lots of sneakers come in cute and comfy styles now.
Most of the rest is weather and season dependent, but that by no means you have to dress ugly. I like cool rainy day walks because I have a great red raincoat from Old Navy I love. Fall days are nice because I can layer a t-shirt, my orange chenille hoodie and a khaki trench coat (with some jeans) and feel warm and pulled together. A hot day...well, that was a trick question. You might not want to walk your beloved pooch in the sun on a 90 degree day. But if it's going to happen, or your dog likes it even, keep practicality in mind. Dress lightly, in layers. And if it's warm, the smartest thing you can carry, both for your dog and yourself, is water. I cannot stress that enough.
Ok, spring day, city street or country lane. How about a pair of khakis and a light green sweater over a cream colored t-shirt? Cooler? Make the bottom layer a turtleneck. Cooler still? Add a suede coat over it all. Unless you are walking waist deep in muck, this should manage to be both practical and comfortable. It's rare I get the upper half of myself dirty from dog walking. The lower half should be jeans, khakis or some weather-appropriate pants that wash easily and are fairly presentable.
Winter is slightly different, but think of it as a sport and like any winter sport (and I bet you have read 20 articles over the years about dressing for outdoor activities), layering is key.
Regardless of season, I think a good resource for dog walking couture is almost any fitness magazine like Shape, Walking or Self, which also reviews active wear. They have tested the outfits and usually recommend clothes that are attractive and practical. You could possibly splurge on an athletic outfit and wear that as your dog walking staple.
I would also like to emphasize here that there are more than one kind of dog walk. There are the kind which are strictly to exercise the pup (and possibly yourself) and then there are the dog walks where you want to be seen. Walks through town down to the coffee shop where you and Fido can sit outside and enjoy the weather. These are dog walks, but also social events, where simple exercise isn't the main focus. Or maybe you want to walk Max up to the chi-chi dog shop and buy him a bone or a pair of Doggles. Then you are going out to walk around and be seen. To show off your little bundle of love and fur. For these occasions you may feel like dressing up a tad more. Currently my favorite outfit dog this more social kind of dog walking is jeans, black flats, a grey t-shirt and my black, woven poncho. I feel pulled together and presentable, but it's still a casual outfit. You don't look like you are trying too hard. Warning: Don't necessarily wear the nicer outfits to the dog park when your dog is running around with his buddies. Just because your dog doesn't jump on people doesn't mean his muddier peer group are as well trained. I had a beautiful lab run up and lean against me last time, coating one leg in mud and water. And they were nice grey work pants I was wearing, but they were also washable, so I wasn't too bothered. For those wear-the-dogs-out type walks, I usually go with a more athletic, active wear look (or mixed with jeans if the weather is cool). It's practical, easy to wash and it's not going to get dirty something I might later wear out to see friends socially.
Let's talk about the doggie couture a little more. Nothing beats a good leather collar, just like nothing beats a quality leather handbag. And of course you have a wide variety to select from. You are limited only by practicality and your budget. If money were no object, I assure you I would be walking Brodie, my small black/brown dog, in a cafe-au-lait colored alligator collar from Lynne Ellen Designs. However, that's a bit pricey for my budget, even without the matching leash. Slightly cheaper but still designer are the selection of dog collars from Coach. Or cheaper still, plain leather collars at the pet supply shop. If the plain is too unadorned, look around on the internet. I have seen a leather collar, embossed to look like lizard, for less than $20. You can still get some cheap fashion from the wide variety of Nylon collars out there. Solid colors and pattern for every taste.
Just a side note, unless your dog is very well mannered or very small and easy to control, walking in a skirt and high heels can be quite a challenge. The best solution to that dilemma is a fashionable pair of flats or sneakers you can pull on for the walk and then change back into your heels when necessary.
So next time Rover looks from the leash to you and back again, don't grab something atrocious JUST because it's dog walking. Think instead that it's a chance to dress for something that is fun and good for all parties included. If you are single just consider you might want to dress a little less like a slob,in case you meet someone you are attracted to at the dog park . Cause those old sweats are not going to make you look like potential date material, whereas a smart dog-friendly outfit might be just the thing.
Oh! Last point - pockets are good, since you can care clean-up bags and dog treats.
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