Halloween Pet Costumes: How to Dress Dogs in Costumes
Do you enjoy dressing up the house—and yourself—for the holidays? If you want to include Halloween pet costumes, start now to get them used to the notion. Most of the costumes don’t fit Bravo-Dawg, and I’ve not yet tried Shadow-Pup. I’ll share pictures if/when that happens.
Meanwhile, be sure to keep pets safe over Halloween, though. Dogs and cats aren’t always fans of wearing Halloween costumes, but with these tips, you can help pets accept the notion.
What About Dog Fur Dye for Pet Halloween Costumes?
This topic came up recently on a Facebook post and garnered some strong opinions. Today, professional pet groomers have available safe ways to “spiff up” your pet with dog fur dye for fun, temporary festive looks. The DIY method, also available, gets mixed reviews. Food coloring probably is the safest option, but there also are temporary or semipermanent rinses, chalk pencils, markers, and more. The lighter the fur, the better the effect of color. These don’t use the harsh chemicals found in human hair coloring and dyes (DON’T USE THOSE ON PETS!). Just remember coloring the fur may mean Fluffy must grow out and shed before returning to her former furry glory.
Dogs (and cats) usually don’t care one way or another how they look. Many dogs appear to enjoy the attention they get after a fresh grooming, so that advantage may way in your choice of Halloween fun.
Halloween Pet Costumes
Some pets enjoy dressing up, particularly the small dogs already used to wearing coats and sweaters in cool weather. There are many pet costumes available from pet products stores, from fancy to plain. If your outgoing, confident pet is willing, you can have great fun with costumes. But if your pets don’t care for dress up, don’t press it. Many pets may bite over Halloween out of fear of change.
Even reluctant pets may be persuaded to wear a fancy collar or bandana or painted toenails. There are “jester” collars for cats complete with bells on each point. You can also purchase the Soft Paws nail protectors for cats or dogs in Halloween orange and black–a fashion statement that also keeps clawing furniture or doors under control. Just remember to supervise costumed pets at all times to make sure they don’t get tangled up, or chew off and swallow a dangly part of the costume.
Not all pets enjoy wearing costumes. Cats generally are not good candidates. Karma-Kat isn’t a fan of his halter-jacket, although he has never objected to his collar and tags. I think that’s one reason cats cultivate their Halloween mystique, so we’ll leave them alone! Still, it can be helpful for you to know how to teach “costume acceptance” because the same tricks apply if someday your cat or dog needs to wear a bandage, for example.
Why Dogs & Cats Hate Halloween Costumes
Staring at a pet can be off-putting because in cat/dog language, a stare is a challenge—so costumes that invite admiring glances could cause problems. Just pointing a camera at a pet may turn her into a shrinking violet who looks scared or embarrassed. You know your pet best, so don’t force the issue if he’s a homebody and prefers to go au natural. Most pets prefer staying home or even retreating to a hiding spot when the doorbell repeatedly announces goblins.
Reserve the fancy capes, antlers and such for more willing dogs. Some of the more creative costumes include added on “arms” carrying a fireman’s hose, for example. Bravo was one of the most easy-going dogs I’ve ever known. Now Shadow has inherited his lion wig-and-mane (stay tuned for pictures on the blog!). I suspect, like most dogs he’ll need to be supervised or he’ll try to eat the costume.
Princess costumes, Star Wars characters, chicken outfits, ‘hot dog bun’ getups, and Shrek costumes are available. But even these tolerant dogs and cats need a gradual introduction to the notion. If you want your pet to tolerate a Halloween costume this year, start now so he’ll be ready by the holiday.
Fit pet costumes the same as for children—make sure the costume doesn’t restrict movement, vision, hearing or ability to breathe. Be sure to measure your pet’s girth around the neck, chest and waist and look for specifics on the costume sizing for an accurate fit.
How to Dress Dogs in Costumes
Start by simply letting your dog sniff and examine the costume. Set it out on the floor, point it out to him, and offer some tasty treats when he sniffs it. Do this for the first half a day. After he associates the costume with treats, drape part of the costume over his back for 10 seconds. Again, praise and treat him for calm behavior. Increase the amount of time it’s left on his back, giving him a treat and praise each time. Repeat this for at least two days.
The third day, put the costume on for the first time. Let him roll around, sniff, and explore how it feels to move, all the while encouraging him with treats and praise. Take it off after a minute, and put away the treats. Put the costume back on half a dozen times, leaving it on a bit longer each time, and offering plenty of treats and praise. Encourage him to walk around while wearing it, so he knows that it doesn’t restrict movement. When you take the costume off, the treats should go away.
Continue practicing wearing the costume for longer and longer periods of time. Enlist a friend to help, so that once the costume goes on, your friend offers the treats. This helps him know that even strangers are willing to feed a costume-wearing pooch.
Human Halloween Costumes & Pets
It’s also a good idea for you to wear your costume around your dog or cat ahead of time—if you plan to dress up. Cats and dogs identify friendly people not only by scent but also by appearance, the way they walk and the sound of their voices. It doesn’t take much to turn humans into monsters in the eyes of your pets–just a hat does it for some. Make sure your pets know it’s you under that cape or mask. Learn more about Halloween pet safety here.
Have fun this Halloween, but be safe, so that all involved have a great howl-iday celebration. What about YOUR cats and dogs. Do you dress them up for Halloween? Do tell!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!