In about two weeks, it will be Trick or Treat Night, a fun time for the human kids, but it can be a scary experience for your animal companion, and although scary is good to your human kids, your dog probably doesn’t understand the difference between “good” scary and “threatening” scary.  As much as you want to include your pets in your own celebration, look at Halloween from your pet’s point of view. There are some very sudden changes in a normally sane household— odd clothing, loud music, and alteration in schedules, and wild excitement. The front door opens and closes a lot and there are unusual sounds, with noisy, costumed strangers appearing…many dogs will feel threatened and may even try to protect you from these intruders, or they may try to decide to just run out and follow the group. Frankly, when it’s Trick or Treat time, most pets prefer a quiet room and a favorite toy. We urge you to NOT plan to include your dog in the festivities, and we really encourage you to NOT rush out and buy a costume for her to wear.

Stores and catalogs are filled with absolutely the cutest pet costumes you could imagine, to make your pooch look spectacular,  and you are probably tempted to spend a few bucks on one, but if you are honest, you will probably admit that your dog would be more comfortable ”au natural”  than she would be wearing a costume. The fact is that if you dress up your dog, it is for humans’ enjoyment, not for the dogs. Dogs are dogs, and most of them dislike the confinement of costumes, and dress-up usually becomes a major mess-up for the animals.

I realize that many pet caregivers are not going to take my advice… some of you have probably already spent more than a few bucks on a super outfit, so here are a few tips:

  • Safety is a major concern when choosing a costume for your dog. It should not restrict his movement, hearing, or vision, and should not hinder his ability to breathe, (almost no costumes that I have seen pass those requirements, and poorly fitting costumes can get twisted or caught on external objects, leading to injuries.)
  • Avoid costumes with dangling or small pieces that could be chewed off. If ingested, buttons, ribbons and tassels could cause serious intestinal blockage.
  • Many dogs have sensitive skin, and even those with heavy coats can have allergic reactions to the synthetic materials found in most costumes. If your dog tries to chew or lick at himself when you put a costume on him, he is likely either stressed or allergic to something in the costume, which will result in an evening of uncomfortable scratching and skin irritations.
  • Don’t wait until the BIG NIGHT to try on the costume.  Schedule several dress rehearsals, and if she seems distressed, pay attention.  Sure she is cute, but is forcing her to do something that she does not want to do really that important to you?

Dogs are dogs, and Halloween is a fright night for most of them anyway, without the added stress of an uncomfortable costume. Unless your dog is HONESTLY one of the few that enjoy “dress up,” my advice is FORGET THE COSTUMES, and if you have already purchased a costume, why not exchange it for a cute bandana or decorative collar. Your dog will be happier and everyone will have a more enjoyable holiday.