Halloween Costumes For Your Dog

It is impossible to ignore the fact that pet product marketers have latched onto another moneymaker for themselves—Halloween costumes for the dogs. The pet stores are loaded with really neat outfits, but the fact is that they are a commercial venture targeted to humans, not for the enjoyment of the dogs. (Estimates indicate that more than 70 million dollars will be spent on Halloween costumes for companion animals.) According to Veterinary Pet Insurance Company, emergency critical care and toxicology calls to the Pet Poison Helpline increase by 12 percent during the week of Halloween, making it one of the center’s busiest time of year. One major reason for the calls is ingestion of costume parts, and VPI documents that the average cost for treatment is more than a thousand dollars. Dress-up is usually a major mess-up from a dog’s perspective. Most pets prefer their “birthday suits” , and are not excited about wearing a costume, and most, however cute they may be, are uncomfortable, annoying, and potentially dangerous! As adorable as they are, it is easier than you might think for him to get tangled up, or become frantic, while all dressed up. My advice is to FORGET DOG COSTUMES, but I realize that many caregivers will not heed my advice… many of you have already bought your dog’s Halloween outfit… so all I can do is to admonish you to please make sure that the costume is safe, comfortable, and doesn’t restrict his movement, vision, hearing or ability to breathe.

  • Make sure any costume isn’t a tight fit. Tightness around your dog’s neck, paws, legs and torso, or tight elastics can pinch his body and cause a great deal of discomfort. The costume should not constrict the animal’s movement, or his hearing, and should not impede his ability to bark or breathe. Many of the costumes that I looked at would hinder a dog’s vision which could be very dangerous.
  • Most costumes are made of cheap, scratchy material to which your dog could have an adverse reaction to it. If you notice him scratching while trying on the costume, remove it. An allergic reaction could cause an itchy rash, and possible infection.
  • Check to make sure there are no small or dangling accessories that she might chew off and swallow. Buttons, ribbons and tassels could cause intestinal blockage or choking if swallowed.
  • Some elaborate Halloween costumes can cause your dog to overheat. Depending on the outfit, the temperature, and your dog’s coat, it is easier than you think for him to overheat while all dressed up.
  • Be sure to try on costumes before the big night. Place it on the floor, and let your dog sniff and examine the costume. After he examines it, drape part of the costume over his back…repeat this several times before you actually put the garment on him. Take it off and put it back on several times. If your dog seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal anxiety, please don’t force him to wear the costume. A festive bandana would make for a happier dog!

Marianne at ASPCA says, “Dogs have beautiful coats of their own, giving them individuality. Man-made coast should be put on animals for protection, when needed, not for the amusement of people. Animals are neither interested or laugh about such nonsense Perhaps we should be more concerned about their feelings, rather than our enjoyment. It is our responsibility to make sure our dog’s Halloween doesn’t turn into a nightmare!


Enjoy spooky music, chocolate treats and scary movies?

For most of us, Halloween is a festive time with spooky jack-o-lanterns, kids in costumes, and plenty of candy, and money conscious marketing experts are promoting the idea of putting the dogs in costume, and millions of Americans are following their suggestions. All the pet catalogs and pet departments are featuring a grand variety of costumes, and many of them are really cute…hard to resist, but the fact is that they are commercial ventures targeted to gullible humans, not for the enjoyment of the dogs. Do you really believe that your dog will enjoy wearing cheaply made, ill-fitting, sometimes dangerous clothing? 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 love us and have a deep desire to please…they will do almost anything to gain their humans’ approval, but who benefits from dressing them in costumes? Dogs are dogs, and most of them dislike the confinement of costumes, and dress up is usually a major mess-up for the animals. We encourage you to reconsider before you rush out and spend big bucks (or even little bucks) on that cute costume.

Now for another fact: I realize that many pet parents are going to ignore my suggestion, (some have already purchased the outfit), and so here are a few tips:

  •  Think safety, not cuteness…the costume should not restrict the animal’s movement, vision, or his hearing, and should not impede his ability to breathe or bark. I browsed through some really cute costumes in several pet departments, and almost all of them had small, dangling, or easily chewed-off pieces that the dog could choke on. Buttons, tassels, and ribbons can cause serious intestinal blockage, and poorly fitted outfits can get twisted or caught on external objects.
  • Does your dog have sensitive skin? The synthetic materials found in most of the costumes, besides being uncomfortable, can generate allergic reactions, which will result in an evening of uncomfortable scratching and skin irritations, even with non-allergic dogs.
  • Don’t wait until the BIG NIGHT to try on all costumes…you need to have several dress rehearsals, and if your pet seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, pay attention. If he starts to lick or chew at himself or the costume, it is likely that he is stressed. Sure he looks cute, but forcing him to do something that he does not want to do can result in bad behaviors and future conflicts. Is the “cuteness” worth the price? Wouldn’t he honestly be happier going “au natural”? And if you can’t resist parading her in a costume, never leave her alone. Ridiculously cute can quickly become downright dangerous.

It really is fun browsing through the catalogs and pet departments to see all the unique costumes, but ask yourself what your real motivation is…will your dog be happier with or without a costume? My advice is FORGET THE COSTUME! Your dog will appreciate a decision to settle for a festive collar or a cute bandanna.

Your dog has one aim in life—to bestow his heart… and he asks for little in return.

He may well be the most memorable friend in life,

one who loves you even when you aren’t very lovable.

Without a choice, without a voice,

your dog depends on his humans to make the best decisions for him.

—J.R. Ackerley


Countdown to Halloween!

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.