Treats, spooky music, and weird costumes will make Halloween lots of fun—for humans! However, this haunted holiday is usually a time of fear and anxiety for your companion animals. Pet catalogs and pet departments are featuring a grand variety of dog costumes, and many of them are really cute, but the fact is that they are commercial ventures targeted to humans, not for the enjoyment of the dogs. Halloween dog costumes have become big business these days, and you may be tempted to spend a few bucks on one, but if you are honest, you will probably admit that your dog would be more comfortable in her “birthday suit” than wearing a costume. Our dogs have a tremendous desire to please their people, and will do almost anything for their humans’ approval, but who benefits from dressing them in costumes? The fact is that if you dress up your dog, it is for human’s enjoyment, not the dogs.

Dogs are dogs, and most of them dislike the confinement of costumes, and dress- up often becomes a major mess-up for the animals. However, I realize that many pet caregivers are going to dress up their pets anyway, so here are a few tips:

  • Safety is the primary concern when choosing a costume. It should not restrict the animal’s movement, hearing, or vision, and should not impede his ability to breathe. (Most of the costumes that I looked at in a local store would hinder an animal’s vision which could be very dangerous.)
  • Avoid costumes with small, dangling, or easily chewed-off pieces that your animal could choke on. If ingested, buttons, ribbons, and tassels can cause serious intestinal blockage, and poorly fitting costumes can get twisted or caught on external objects, which can lead to injury.
  • Some dogs have sensitive skin. Even those with heavy coats can have allergic reactions to the synthetic materials found in most costumes. If your dog starts to lick or chew at himself when you put a costume on him, it is likely that he is stressed or allergic to something in the costume, and the result will be 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 your pet seems distressed, pay attention. Even if she looks really cute, forcing her to do something that she does not want to do can result in bad behaviors and future conflicts.
  • Never leave your dog unattended while she’s wearing a costume. She might decide to chew her way out of it, or get caught on something and panic.
  • It is fun to browse through the pet department and see all the unique costumes, but BEFORE you buy, ask yourself: Will my dog be happier with or without a costume? Will it be possible to monitor his reactions while he is costumed? Dogs are dogs, and Halloween is a fright night for them anyway, without the added stress of an uncomfortable costume.
  • DO NOT leave your pet outdoors. We are opposed to caregivers ever leaving their dog outdoors for extended periods of time, but it is especially dangerous on this holiday. There are many stories of pranksters who have teased, stolen, injured, or even killed pets, and veterinarians see a big rise in injuries caused at this time.
  • Be sure your dog wears proper ID just in case she does manage to slip away from you. The chances of recovering a dog without identification are very slim.
  • While it may seem cute to dress up your dog, this activity can be stressful and potentially dangerous. Please don’t force your dog to wear a costume.
  • It is usually unwise to take your pet trick-or-treating. Noisy, rowdy, costumed trick-or-treaters will frighten or intimidate even the most sociable dog. A dog’s hearing is extremely sensitive, and noise anxiety can be a serious problem. It will also be difficult for the children to keep a watchful eye on the pet. LEAVE HIM HOME!
  • Keep all the treats out of reach of your pets. That bowlful of candy for the trick-or-treaters can be dangerous for animals. Chocolate, raisins, and grapes are all poisonous to dogs, and tin foil and cellophane candy wrappers can be hazardous if ingested. Keep any unattended alcoholic drinks out of reach from your pets.
  • Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are not necessarily toxic, but they can produce gastrointestinal upset if swallowed. Intestinal blockage may occur if large pieces are eaten. If you suspect that your dog has ingested a potentially dangerous substance, call your veterinarian at once.
  • Decorative carved pumpkins are usually an integral part of the festivities, but be especially careful if you choose to put candles in them. Lighted jack-0-lanterns and candles can quickly singe or set fire to your pet’s hair, and, if knocked over, could cause a fire. It’s best to keep your pets away from all the decorations, because even streamers of colored paper, fake spider webs, and other popular decorations can be dangerous. Since most dogs are fascinated by cords and wires, be sure to keep any cords from electric decorations out of reach.
  • Take time to visit with your children about the importance of showing respect toward animals. Encourage them to be alert to someone harassing, or pulling pranks on dogs or cats on Halloween (or any time!) and to report to you if they see anyone teasing or antagonizing an animal. A child who is abusive to animals needs professional help.

Have fun, but remember that your dog is depending on you to keep him safe from the ghouls and zombies on this holiday Be aware of how your companion reacts to what is going on, and pay attention to ensure that the festivities are fun for both two-legs and four-legs.

My advice is to FORGET the costumes, and settle for a cute bandana or festive collar. Your dog will thank you, and everyone will have a more enjoyable holiday. MAKE SURE YOUR HOWL-OWEEN IS A SAFE ONE Humans understand that the rowdy, scary-looking ghouls and goblins who ring your doorbell on Halloween are just the neighborhood children, but your dog doesn’t. This night of fun is a FRIGHT NIGHT for most of our companion animals. Even the happiest, mellow, four-legged fellow may be spooked by all the kids in strange garb, causing him to dart out when you open the door for trick-or-treaters. We suggest that you keep the dog in a separate room, away from all the noisy confusion. Turn on a radio or the television, and give her a few favorite toys. By using a few common sense tips, you can protect your pet on Halloween.

Have a safe & Happy Halloween!