MADISON, WI – The National Retail Federation estimated that 29 million pet owners dressed up their dogs and cats for Halloween last year. A costume on the right animal can be adorable. But for some animals, having foreign designs on their body is more of a trick than a treat. They might put up with it long enough for owners to snap some pictures if there is the promise of a treat. Others might relish the attention or put up with it because it makes their owner happy. Still, there are those that will have nothing to do with the holiday and will make no bones about it.
“If you try to put a costume on your dog and he or she reacts badly, don’t force it,” says Lis De Souza, owner of both Serenity Pet Salon & Spas in Madison. “Believe me; they will let you know if they’re willing to be dressed up or not.”
De Souza says that owners can try getting their dog used to wearing a costume over time. She suggests purchasing a lightweight, loose fitting costume several weeks before Halloween and putting a piece or two of it on the animal at a time.
“You may want to start with a small t-shirt,” she says. “Regardless, costumes should be very easy to get on and off. It should only take a few seconds to remove the bulk of a costume just in case something goes wrong.”
What could go wrong with a cute costume designed specifically for animals? De Souza says fit is an issue; you do not want any part of a costume to be too snug on your pet. Costumes should not restrict movement, hearing, eyesight, or the ability to breathe. Halloween costumes should also be lightweight so the animal does not overheat if it is wearing it for an extended period of time.
It is extremely important that your dog should not have its vision blocked. Halloween is already stimulating in ways that are not part of your pets’ everyday routine, so they need to be able to clearly see what’s going on around them. Hats, wigs, and other headgear can be very stressful.
“You also need to be aware of choking hazards,” says De Souza, “not only on your pet’s costume, but on yours, too. Anything that dangles, sparkles or protrudes should be construed as a potential choking hazard.” She stresses that parental supervision is needed full time when a pet is wearing a costume just in case something out of the ordinary should happen.
While some dogs are perfectly happy to dress up for Halloween, most are less than eager to be costumed for the holiday.
“For the unenthusiastic pet – of which there are many! – maybe try something simple like a bandana, bow tie, or a Scooby Doo dog tag,” says De Souza. “If a dog is used to wearing a collar, putting something loosely around its neck isn’t going to cause much reaction.”
Regardless if your pet is dressing as Batman or is simply riding out Halloween in nothing but its birthday suit, De Souza says owners should be vigilant about the “treats.”
“Trick or Treat candy should be kept safely away from pets,” she says. “You definitely don’t want your dog or cat to get into anything chocolate, especially dark chocolate. It can be lethal.”