It’s the time of year to teach puppies to wear Halloween costumes. Not all pets enjoy wearing costumes, so don’t force the issue if Junior-Dog throws a hissy fit. But in most cases, even reluctant puppies can learn to accept a few modest festive accessories.
Some dogs actually seem to enjoy dressing up, particularly the puppies and small dogs already used to wearing coats and sweaters in cool weather. Some of the more creative costumes include added on “arms” that look like the dog carries a fireman’s hose, for example. Princess costumes, Star Wars characters, chicken outfits, ‘hot dog bun’ get-ups, and Shrek costumes are available.
There are many commercially made pet costumes available from pet products stores, from fancy to plain. You can also find instructions for making homemade puppy Halloween costumes and if you’re very creative, you can make up your own. As long as your outgoing, confident puppy is willing, you can have great fun with costumes.
If he’s happy and wants to do so, you may be able to take him trick-or-treating with you. Meeting lots of people that look differently can be very helpful for socialization but you don't want to overwhelm your youngster. Most pets prefer staying home and it can be safer to confine them when the doorbell repeatedly announces goblins. But even tolerant pets should be gradually introduced to the notion. If you want your puppy to tolerate a Halloween costume this year, start early so he’ll be ready by the holiday.
7 Steps to Wearing Halloween Costume
- Pet costumes should be fitted the same as for children. Make sure the costume doesn’t restrict movement, vision, hearing or ability to breathe. If your pet will accompany you at night, make sure there is reflective material in his collar or “cape.” And please supervise pets in costume at ALL times so he doesn't get hung up on furniture or other obstacles.
- Start by simply letting your pup sniff and examine the costume. Set it out on the floor, point it out to him, and offer some tasty treats when he sniffs it. You can pair the sound of a clicker with his good behavior to tell him you like how well he's doing. Do this for the first half a day.
- After he associates the costume with treats, drape part of the costume over his back for 10 seconds. Again praise and treat him for calm behavior. Increase the amount of time it’s left on his back, giving him a treat and praise each time. Repeat this for at least two days.
- On the third day, put the costume on your puppy for the first time. Let him roll around, sniff, and explore how it feels to move, all the while encouraging him with treats and praise. Take it off after a minute, and put away the treats.
- Put the costume back on half a dozen times that same day, leaving it on a bit longer each time, and offering plenty of treats and praise. Encourage him to walk around on leash while wearing it, so he knows that it doesn’t restrict movement, since he’ll need to be on leash if he goes trick-or-treating with you. When you take the costume off, the treats should go away.
- Continue putting on the costume for longer and longer periods of time. Enlist a friend to help, so that once the costume goes on, your friend offers the treats. This helps the puppy know that even strangers are willing to feed a costume-wearing pooch.
- It’s also a good idea for you to wear your own costume around your pet ahead of time—if you plan to dress up. Pets identify friendly people not only by scent, but also by appearance, the way they walk and the sound of their voices. Talk to your puppy to make sure he knows it’s you under that cape or mask.
For all pets, whether they’ll go with you or not, make sure they stay safe this Halloween and avoid the dangers of the holiday. You want to make sure that all involved have a great howl-iday celebration.