In addition to pumpkin spice everything and home and lawn decorations that threaten to overtake Christmas, costuming pets is definitely on the rise. Instagram is flooded with adorable photos of everything from cats dressed as Cher to Chihuahuas sporting French berets and paint pallets.
For our first Halloween blog we thought is would be fun to show a smattering of the ways in which people adorn their four legged companions and offer hints and tips for making your pet the center of any Halloween celebration. Spoiler alert: If your pet doesn’t enjoy dressing up, don’t do it. But if you find a way to make the autumn holiday a fun and games event, go for it. You won’t be the only one on Instagram, but you might have the happiest pet if you do it right.
A lot of dogs already wear coats or sweaters, so most costumes are just a variation on that theme. Obviously, a reward based system produces the best result, but some costume pieces require more than a squishy delicious treat. Our dog Wolfgang was not keen to wear head band antlers for a holiday photo and no amount of tasty persuasion would induce him to put them on and keep them on. Our Christmas card that year was a hilarious photo of Wolfie staring at the headband antlers laying on the floor. Needless to say, he considered the antlers a form of torture and so we ceased and desisted with that gag. He did, however, allow small children to adorn his entire body with Christmas lights; a far more admirable pursuit. Good dog, Wolfie.
Maggie Thompson, who is an avid doggie costuming enthusiast, delights in dressing up her 4 year old, long coated Golden Retriever/Aussie mix, Blue. Because Blue doesn’t really need coats or sweaters to keep warm, Maggie does a lot of “luring into costumes with lots of praise and play in short sessions at first.” Subsequently, Maggie will take Blue for a walk as his costume reward. He’s worn raincoats on hikes to help keep him semi-dry and since that doesn’t bother him, going for a walk helps to normalize the costume.
Maggie suggests that for dogs who are less enthused about dressing up, short sessions with high rates of reinforcement are key. More importantly, Maggie suggests evaluating what the objection to the costume might be. Is it too tight? Does it smell funny? Is the dog’s (or cat’s) ability to see impaired? Finding costumes that are the least restrictive for movement will likely result in the highest rate of success. If you’re thinking about headwear of any kind, make sure it’s secure (head pieces tend to move a lot), not too tight and that your trick or treat pal can see.
Maggie acquires her favorite pet costumes from Chewy or her local pet supplier. Favorites include a costume she bought for Blue when he was a puppy. It was a green t-shirt with spikes that said, “Mommy’s little monster.” That gateway get-up lead to a shark, a pig, a dinosaur and a pumpkin. Maggie, who loved Halloween as a child, hasn’t dressed up for the occasion in recent years, so dressing Blue for the holiday makes it feel more festive. This year, she’ll leave her 8-month old puppy out of the costuming fun. He’s a more reserved boy and easily overwhelmed, so they will be observing unpredictable children hopped up on candy from a safe distance.
A casual request of my social media friends turned up a wide variety of delightful photos. A surprising number of cats are amenable to costuming, which I’m going to guess is the luck of the draw. A cat is likely to either tolerate bat wings or not. But persuading a cat to wear a cape is akin to teaching a trick, which of course is entirely doable. Marin Humane offers seminars on cat tricks if you’re in search of new adventures to have with your cat.
However you choose to celebrate Halloween, be sure to make the holiday safe for your four legged children and once that’s in the bag, make it fun! Enjoy!