A few words on dogs and costumes, plus a big Happy Halloween from the Puppity Family!

Happy Halloween! Our little dogs in costume are ready for trick or treaters and spooky fun, and we hope yours are, too.  We’ll tell you how to make sure they can have fun in costume while you have fun taking their pictures and showing them off.  (We’d love to see what your dogs are wearing for the holiday!)

This year, Fruit Bat, Elsa, and Ada Luna are a dragon, Sister of Dragons, and a cow respectively. (Ada is a BIG fan of cows and all they make. Let’s join her in a big MOOO! of respect for cows!)

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All animals, even humans, have to get used to clothing. Just ask any toddler who ditches their diaper for a dash out the front door.

If you only dress your dog once or twice a year, it’s important to break the process down into its simplest steps and look at it from the dog’s point of view to avoid spending an otherwise happy holiday having a dog bite seen to.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

First: is the garment going to go over the dog’s head?

  • the garment will obstruct vision at least briefly. Nobody takes well to a surprise blindfold.
  • It can get stuck on the ears, and that hurts!
  • Boops and dragging over a sensitive nose can hurt too
  • a dog will often automatically try to bite or paw it off and will not understand why it’s humans are restraining it

Second: does the costume really fit?

  • Any issues the dog has pulling something over its head will magnify if that’s followed by getting its arms stuck and becoming trapped in something that doesn’t fit.
  • Take time to measure from armpit to armpit, over the shoulders, around the arms, around the chest, and around the neck on your dog and the costume before you even try it on the dog. If the measurements are off, it’s not worth the dog’s trauma. (But don’t worry! We’ll show you an easy solution!)
  • Are the seams smooth? Dog skin chafes easily especially under the arms. Bleeding is not out of the question, and healing can take a while. It’s better to check out the possibility than it is to discover wounds at the end of the night.

Third: does the costume obstruct vision, balance, or movement?

  • It may be cute, but a dog who can’t move freely is a stressed dog, and a stressed dog is an unreliable dog. An unreliable dog can quickly become a dangerous dog.

So you’ve picked a costume that goes around the dog, doesn’t interfere with vision or mobility, and made sure it fits.

What else can you do?

  • Do a couple of trial runs in a calm environment with lots of treats and praise before the big day.
  • Keep the area quiet while dressing the dog. Laughter doesn’t always sound like happy stable humans when you’re a dog.
  • Give the dog time to adjust to the costume before going out or inviting guests in.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of discomfort and take the costume off before discomfort becomes injury or pain.  (Get those photos early on while there’s still treats.)
  • Consider a back up costume like a bandanna or bow tie in case it’s just a bad night for your dog to be dressed to the nines.

And remember, practice makes perfect. The more used to clothing your dog becomes, the easier it is for everyone.

Fruit Bat sees one of us holding a dress and comes running. She’ll even demand we put it on her if she’s already dressed. That’s because she likes being warm and associates clothing with going out.

If your dog doesn’t, don’t despair.

An outfit that goes over the head is easy to modify into a pull on with some no-sew fabric glue, scissors, safety pins or Velcro, and a little patience.

  • If possible, go up a size in the costume.
  • Cut the costume along the center line of the back. This will let you help your dog step into it and minimize the manipulation of its legs.
  • Fold and stitch or glue the raw edges of the cut so that the raw edge is inside the costume.
  • If you have Velcro, glue or stitch the rough side on the edge that will face away from the dog so that if it slips, it won’t scratch or pull fur.
  • Attach the soft side of the Velcro on the edge that will be facing the dog.
  • Make sure your dog’s nails are trimmed and smooth so they won’t snag, and put the costume on the floor under the dog.
  • Ease each paw into the costume and then pull it up and around the dog, giving treats via assistant if needed.
  • Press the Velcro edges together or safety pin the edges together.
  • Give the dog a good rub, praise, treats, and an extra check to be sure nothing is caught awkwardly on the costume.

And, most importantly, if even that is too much for the dog, please consider just a bandanna or bow tie.  A happy dog is worth way more than a cute holiday photo. Remember, there’s always next year and plenty of time between now and then to get your dog to associate clothing and costumes with good things and fun times

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