Dogs and Halloween

Even people who don’t usually dress up their dogs will often go all out on Halloween costumes. It’s the “anything goes” time of year for clothes and costumes, for both dog and man (or woman). You can be anything or anyone in a costume, and so can your dog.  And how often can you go out dressed as Dorothy and with a real “lion” by your side? Or as Superman accompanied by a canine Wonder Woman?

COSTUMES:

You’ll need to check the return policy at individual stores, but for the most part pet costumes aren’t returnable so before you order you will need to measure your dog carefully, following the guidelines provided by the store.

If possible, try the costume on your dog before Halloween to make sure it fits right and your dog is comfortable with it. If everything’s good, awesome. But if they are not accustomed to dressing up or it just won’t work for whatever reason, you’ll have time to get something else, even if it’s a simple bandana, or you could get some Halloween-appropriate material and make your own. (But as always, don’t force your dog to wear a costume just because you spent money on one – they didn’t ask you to do it.)

But what if Fido’s cool with it but the fit isn’t quite right? A little loose here, a tad too snug there.

Again, pet costumes are usually nonrefundable so don’t hesitate to adapt to fit. Armholes or neck too small? Make them a little bigger. If  there is some sort of edging, carefully remove it with a seam ripper, cut the holes bigger, and sew it back on, hiding the resulting gap under the arms or neck. Alternatively, use some fusible webbing, which in my opinion is one of the best inventions in sewing history.  Otherwise just cut the opening a little bigger and hand sew a little hem. Velcro (another amazing invention) could be used to either expand the outfit or make it snugger. Cut the underside a little or all the way from front to back, however much you need to, and sew on some Velcro to hold the two sides together. It doesn’t have to be picture perfect when it’s under the belly. Be creative and do what you need to. After all, how many Halloweens will you and your BFF have?!

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer or just can’t see splurging on a costume that may be worn only a time or two, make your own. Of course you can get as creative as you like, but for quick, simple, and easy, paint a skeleton on the back of a dark color baby onesie or children’s T-shirt, and for added visibility and overall creepiness use reflective or glow in the dark pain if possible.

You will need to take some precautions with Halloween costumes, as with all clothes. Make sure the costume doesn’t restrict movement, compromise hearing or sight, ability to bark or (a no-brainer) breathe. Make sure there are no bits and pieces they might bite or try to eat, and no loose strings or trailing ribbons that might trip up little paws or get caught on things.

SAFETY:

There is a more serious side to Halloween celebrations with your dog. Do you know how many pets (cats as well as dogs) are lost or run away on Halloween? Me neither, not exactly, but it’s enough to make this holiday #2 on that sad list, July 4th being #1. Most people don’t want to be a statistic, and it’s your responsibility to make sure your dog isn’t either. So for your pup, Halloween is about safety as much as costumes.

TREATS:

No people treats! Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, and sugar free candy containing xylitol are toxic, even deadly, to dogs and other pets, and small pieces of candy could easily choke your dog, so keep the treat bowl well out of reach. For more information on foods that you should never give your pets, see this list from the ASPCA. If you think your dog has ingested something toxic, call your vet or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 immediately.

GOING OUT:

If you’re taking your dog along trick-or-treating, there are a few things you can do for added safety.

Even if you sometimes walk your dog without a leash (which is a big no-no anyway) you most definitely need  to use one when going out on Halloween. It may be dark, there will likely be more activity and commotion going on than they are accustomed to, and dogs can easily become excited and/or disoriented in a situation that they rarely encounter.

Even on a leash, the unexpected can happen, owners can get distracted, and dogs can get away so make sure they have proper identification. Your pet should have name and rabies tags on at all times, but if for some reason you can’t find yours you can easily make something just for the evening. Print or hand write your dog’s name, your name, address, and phone number on a small piece of paper, cover it well with tape, punch or poke a hole in it, and attach it to your dog’s collar or harness. It’s not ideal, or something to use for permanent ID, but will work for a last minute fix. Microchipping and metal or plastic printed ID tags are best of course, but for a busy, sometimes confusing situation like Halloween, anything is better than nothing!

Don’t take your dog right up to the doors where the kids are trick-or-treating. Your neighbors may have their own dogs “helping” to give out the candy and this is definitely not the time to get acquainted with them!

I much prefer a harness to a collar, and a lot of costumes as well as regular clothes have them built in. Win win!

STAYING IN:

Your dog may be laid back or social, but Halloween can be a stressful time no matter what their personality. Does your dog get excited when you have visitors? Protective? Anxious? Whatever the ring of a doorbell or knock on the door signals to your dog, Halloween trick-or-treaters will send that signal to your dog over and over again, with no release for that energy. Not to mention the chanting of “trick or treat!” and every time the door is opened is an opportunity to dart out and see what all the excitement is about.

Shy or social butterfly, it’s probably best to keep your dog in another room or in their crate until the trick-or-treaters are done for the evening.

If your dog is prone to anxiety, this is a good time to invest in a calming jacket such as a Thundershirt. It could be the best “costume” you ever buy your best friend.

Watch out for cords that can be tripped over, potentially bringing decorations crashing down, and please put those candles where they can’t be knocked over.

If you are staying in but still want to put your pup in a costume, use this as an opportunity to get some photos to show off on social media, as a keepsake, or maybe to use in cards for next Halloween.

However you celebrate this spooky holiday, have fun and stay safe!

1 thought on “Dogs and Halloween”

  1. Thank you for this very good article because although trick-or-treating with your dog, and dressing him or her up seems like a totally fun time, there are safety issues to be considered and you have covered them all.
    If you know your friends and neighbors that you’re taking your dog to visit on Halloween, you can make sure they have Doggie Treats available! Do you have any recipes for canine treats?

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