On Derby day, the eternal question: Should dogs wear hats?

29 Apr.,2024


On Derby day, the eternal question: Should dogs wear hats?

On Kentucky Derby weekend, I think hats first, then horses.

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I went to the Derby one year and I worried about my hat the entire trip. Was it Derby worthy?


An even more critical question comes up at my house at  Derby time. It's that eternal question, "Should dogs wear hats?"


Or perhaps the real question is "do dogs like to wear hats?"

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Either way, these are concerns to many dog owners (and dogs).

One of my dog-friendly companions once mentioned that she admires the hats my golden retriever Junior wears in many of our blog posts. This unnamed friend asked me why I love to dress my dog in funny hats. She said she tried her best to get her dog to wear hats to watch sporting events like the Derby, but she wonders whether Rover (not his real name) enjoys this.


"He doesn’t keep them on very long and seems to be embarrassed when I take his photo. And its getting harder to catch him."

Dogs are perfect hat fashionistas. If you have the right canine. You don't want to go barking up the wrong tree on this one with your pet.

The Derby Hat

Being  responsible dog guardians, we first need to assess our dog’s fashion sense. I ask Junior to sport a variety of hats. Some secure more easily, are more dog comfortable, smell better because I wore them once when we ate barbecue, stay on longer and are more enjoyable for him to wear.

These four factors could be interelated.


For example, I thought Junior  looked adorable in my Kentucky Derby hat pictured below, but he got that bad boy off his head as soon as I put the motivational hot dog away. He opted in favor of a George Strait look pictured above. Although I did hear him remark under his breath that "at least she could have  removed the price tag."


Not all dogs are ready or willing to break out a bonnet. This is something you cannot rush and should not push. It is true that some dogs may never be ready to enjoy this delightful and amusing sport. If your dog is one of these, you should find alternative sources of amusement for both of you.

Ask yourself, “does the wearing of this hat have a real purpose?”

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Just being silly is a perfectly appropriate true purpose for any dog and once your dog understands this, your chasing days to get him to cooperate  may be over (at least on this issue).

As in all dog sports, inexperienced dogs need training and support. A dog must  enjoy the experience and feel jaunty and cool in the proposed hat. If your dog feels like he or she looks stylish in the hat, this helps tremendously.

A dog wearing a hat can be downright joyful experience, if both you and your canine can agree that it is the right hat, the right time, and the right place. Help your dog appreciate fashion and enjoy the hat trick , and he will join you in your appreciation of his fashion savvy.

Or not.


Let us know how it goes.

Jill Schilp has a background in psychiatric nursing. She is the Volunteer Coordinator for A New Leash on Life Therapy Dog Group and a member of The Dog Writers Association of America and the Association of Professional Humane Educators. She and her rescued dog Junior serve as a Pet Partners registered therapy dog team and Reading Education Assistance Dog team.

2: Domžale // Straw Hats Are Eternal

I’ve never looked good in a hat. While it would be a stretch to say that my head is too big, you could make an argument for it being too wide, but there is something about a hat and my head that don’t mix. It isn’t quite oil and water, although there is always a sense of two different worlds colliding in an awkward manner.

That doesn’t stop the hope, which, according to the theory, dies last. I strode towards the mass of straw hats, eager to meet the titfer of my dreams and finally embrace a future as a style icon. Hats considered, I lifted it from the table and placed it square on my head, turning to the mirror in equal measures hope and expectation. Hope dies last.

Domžale and the production of straw hats go way back, but my own relationship with this city of 12,000 people some 20km north of the capital is appreciably long in its own right. Not centuries old, but old enough to warrant a note. I was here in 2014, researching the Heart of Slovenia guide, waxing lyrical about straw hats and industry. The first live game of football I saw in Slovenia was here, a comfortable 1-0 win for the Ravbarji (Brigands) against Celje. My first book was printed here. 

Before heading to Domžale, I had sold the very last copy of ’An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery’, at least to my knowledge. There was a cheerful bit of symmetry in that the last copy was sold to an old friend from Slovenia, but that joy was curbed by the inconsistency of indigestion. Neither here nor there, what matters is the selling of the book and its subsequent extinction as an available commodity. 

What actually matters is that it was printed at a small family printers in Domžale, so I decided to pay them a visit as the sun beamed down on Slovenia 13th largest town (but one of its fastest-growing, still). The family in question didn’t speak much English back in 2017 so I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to say, but a cheerful face and a bit of nostalgia should always be embraced. I sauntered towards the house, a picture of patient optimism, a visage that soon devolved into confusion and sadness. The printers, the holy place where my first book was printed, was now a wedding cake shop. 

Nothing against wedding cakes, but I was aghast and distraught at this turn of events, despite the keen awareness that time cares not for such memories. I needed a pick me up, and what better way to sweep oneself into joy than by diving deep into the world of classy hats, straw hats no less.

I was in the right place, because Domžale was once an international epicentre for the production of straw hats. This in itself shouldn’t cause much of a surprise, everything is made somewhere after all, but this little town once shipped hats all over the globe, from Vienna to New York, even to Wales, although the convivial woman behind the counter wasn’t entirely sure how true that claim was.

What started on the outskirts of Florence soon thrust Domžale onto the world stage, as the wheat that had been grown in these parts for centuries soon became a source of protection from the sun and style, in equal measure. Things kicked off in the middle of the 19th century, when Germans of various origin headed south in search of love and economic comfort, with the latter being more desired than the former. The straw hat making industry soon blossomed, and the beginning of the 20th century saw some 25 factories in Domžale dedicated to the art alone. Trust me, 25 factories is a lot of factories. For extra stats-based wonder, the town was producing more than a million hats per year. 

Nothing is eternal, I have come to accept this, and the straw hat industry faced its own crisis in the years following World War I. The political landscape had changed forever, and the increasingly liberal world had made it legal to appear in public without a hat. Madness, madness! Still, straw hats had gone out of fashion, and one by one the factories of the town moved in different directions. Styles come and go, but industry is eternal.

Nothing is eternal.

I breezed through the Domžale Straw Hat Making Museum, less out of a lack of interest and more because of restricted time and the fact that, well, I had been there a couple of times already. Drumming information into oneself is important when revising for the increasingly superfluous world of exams, but over-egging the straw hat info leads to a hat covered in eggs.

But still, I dearly wish I looked good in hats. Not even good, I wish I looked better. Normal. Less like a man making fun of people who wear hats. I approached the selection of hats with all the intention in the world of getting over my fashion-based paranoia and picking up a hat to take home, comfortable in the knowledge that it wouldn’t fit in my case and would barely fit on my head, but the image in front of me shot down my hopes, a spectacular fall from grace, not unlike the fat of Domžale and its straw hat industry. Maybe fashion-based paranoia is eternal, after all. 

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