It is OK to dress your dog up for Halloween?
It is OK to dress your dog up for Halloween?
If you’re a fan of Halloween, slipping your dog into a cute, plump little pumpkin outfit may be enough to melt even the most ghoulish of hearts… If you’re planning on dressing your dog up this Halloween, or going trick or treating with them, there are some things we can do to ensure we keep our four-legged friends happy and safe.
Some dogs are used to wearing coats or clothes. Some dogs aren’t. Using a costume to cover up a dog’s natural coat can cause anxiety in our four-legged friends. If your dog reacts to wearing a costume much like how they react to thunder – that is, running and hiding – it’s a sure sign that they’re not enjoying dress-up as much as we might be. Paul Calhoun, DVM of Animal Medical Center in Hattiesburg in Mississippi says, “If your dog shows signs of irritation or discomfort, it’s best to remove the costume.” You can try it on again, to see if they get used to it, but if their eyes roll back, they’re looking to the side, they fold their ears, scratch at the costume or try to leg it, these are pretty clear signs that they’re really not keen.
If your dog is calm and well-balanced and/or was acclimatised to clothes as a puppy – and depending on your response to them in a costume – your dog will probably tolerate, or even be happy, to wear a costume! Equally, Travis Brorsen, Pet Expert & Trainer at Animal Planet advises that, “a dog that has never worn a costume before, but is highly motivated by praise, could do great in a costume if the owners praise the dog during the experience.”
Life is hectic, but if possible, try not to leave finding your doggy Halloween costume until 31 October. If you can, find one a few weeks before the big night so that your dog can try it on a few times to get used to it. Brorsen advises, “Before meal time, place one piece of the costume on your dog then offer the food. If your dog eats with it on, that’s a good sign the acclimatisation process is positive. You have now associated the costume with something of high value, something positive.” Carry out this process for just one or two minutes, praise them and then take their costume off. If your dog freezes, runs away or shows any other signs of distress, remove the costume and try again another time.
We all know that dogs are curious by nature and like to pick things up with their oh-so-wandering-mouths. Often we can monitor hidden dangers, but some aren’t so obvious, especially if they’re part of a fun costume. When dogs are distressed, they can start licking intensely which could cause them to ingest parts of their costume. “One of the biggest hazards can be strings or small materials that the dog could eat and cause an intestinal foreign body, which results in surgery,” warns Dr Calhoun. Importantly, any costume which restricts an animal’s ability to breathe, see, hear, eat, drink, move or walk must be avoided. Be wary of these hidden dangers for small children and other pets in your home too.
Dr Randal Patrolia, DVM at Animal Medical Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi says, “There are other ways to dress your dog for the occasion rather than putting them in costume.” The go-to costume for her dog, Guiness, for example, is a spray-on spooky skeleton look with non-toxic coloured hair spray made specifically for pets.
It’s getting hot in here…
Even in the coldest of climates, a costume in addition to doggy fur can be dangerous, especially as some materials retain heat longer than others. If your dog doesn’t come to you when they’re called or begins to pant or drool excessively, this could be an indication of heat stroke from heavy costume material. If this happens, the costume should be removed immediately. Learn what the signs of heatstroke are to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.
If your dog is anything like mine, she wants to eat everything I eat – from hummus to pizza and from carrots to chocolate!
Dogs rarely turn down food and so it is important to make sure all sweets and chocolate (and any other food that is dangerous or poisonous to your four-legged friend) remain out of reach for pets.
If you’re taking your dog out ‘trick or treating’ with you, ensure you take a torch so that you can see any dangerous foods your dog shouldn’t eat and keep your eyes on them when their noses are to the ground.
If any children wish to offer your dog food, kindly explain to them that doggies can’t eat sweets or chocolate because it gives them a tummy ache. If your dog likes kids, offer them the opportunity instead to let your dog smell their hands and be gently stroked by them.
They speak Dog, we speak Human. So, communication isn’t always that straight forward… A growl is a fairly obvious indication, but sometimes our pooches’ communication can be more subtle. Brorsen says that when we put clothes on our dogs, we are sometimes unknowingly preventing them from communicating which can cause them to become submissive or feel dominated. Socialisation with other dogs and people is another thing to consider if they’re in costume. “If it’s your dog’s first time being in costume, know that the discomfort could affect his or her socialisation,” says Dr Calhoun. This means that dress-up can feel more like a nightmare than a treat for some pooches. If a costume doesn’t work there are lots of alternatives such as a scarf or a bow tie which are similar to their collar.
Alternatively, I am rather partial to this idea for my dog, Poppy: