Dog Costumes: Disguise or Distress?Liz Mallia
Halloween is coming, and in many countries that means it’s time for pumpkins, trick-or-treat, and lots and lots of costumes! We love our dogs and want to include them in our lives. It seems like a great idea to include your dog in the holiday fun, and dressing them up to join in the festivities. But will your dog actually enjoy wearing a costume?
Good, Bad, or Neutral?
Some people love dressing up their dogs, others abhor it. Whether you think it’s undignified or a bit of harmless fun is not the most important question. That question should be: is it all right for your dog?
The Good: There can be some benefits to accustoming a dog to wearing clothing or a costume. Accidents happen, and your dog may need to wear bandages or an Elizabethan collar after an injury or operation. If they’re used to wearing a costume, then this won’t be so different. It can also be useful if your dog is sensitive to the cold. Accustoming your dog to wearing a warm dog coat or similar will help to keep your dog warm on walks.
The Bad: Costumes and clothes are not for all dogs. Some dogs loathe the feeling of constriction, pressure or extra weight that some clothing creates. They may tolerate it, but they do not enjoy it. Dogs cannot tell you verbally if they feel itchy, hot, or even scared of their costume, and it’s not fair to force them into it if they clearly dislike it. Even the most tolerant dogs may seem visibly more comfortable once out of their frilly tutu or baggy sweater.
Some costumes can be downright uncomfortable or even dangerous for dogs. Your dog may overheat in a costume, or hurt themselves on more elaborate costumes that impair their vision (for example, costumes with hoods). A dog with impaired vision may panic and hurt themselves in an attempt to get out of the costume.
The Neutral: Although some people claim that their dogs truly enjoy being dressed up, it’s hard to actually know what our dogs feel about the whole thing. Dogs love to please their humans, and many will tolerate the strange experience of being dressed up because of all the positive attention they get. Your dog would probably have as much fun going for a run in the park or learning an interesting new trick.
Staying safe in costume
It is possible to put together a safe, comfortable costume for you dog. The costume should be inedible, comfortable, not too tight and not too loose. The costume should not impair your dog’s eyesight, and shouldn’t be so loose that they’ll trip over it. A costume that allows natural movement is best, so if it has sleeves these should be loose enough to allow your dog to move (sleeveless is usually best). Avoid hoods or headpieces: they get in the way of your dog’s eyes, and may cover their nose and make breathing difficult. They also feel strange and can make your dog nervous.
It’s best to buy or make the costume a few weeks before the event. Try the costume on your dog so they can get used to it. Don’t leave it on for too long. If your dog obviously hates it, then it’s best not to force them to wear it anymore.
Keep it simple
The easiest way to put your dog in costume is to accessorise. You can clip a bowtie or tie a scarf on to your dog’s collar, or buy a patterned dog coat that matches your costume. These simple accessories are so light and comfortable that most dogs will hardly notice them. Specific dyes for dog fur are available, though always follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions and NEVER use human hair dye on a dog. Whatever you decide to do with your dog this Halloween, stay safe and make sure your dog is happy and comfortable. Your dog doesn’t need to join you at a costume party to enjoy himself!