Should You Get Your Pet a Halloween Costume?

I’m sure by this time, everyone is eagerly waiting for Halloween this Friday. The kids have costumes ready to wear (and perhaps you do, too!), the house is decorated and candy is ready to be handed out to other little ghouls, ghosts, superheroes and princesses.

With all of the excitement of the holiday, it’s tempting to get our pets in on the fun of dressing up as well. However, many wonder about the pet’s safety and health when in costume.

So, should you get a costume for your pet? Well, it depends.

The golden rule is that your pet MUST feel comfortable and happy in the costume. If they are trying to wiggle their way out, scratch at uncomfortable velcro or look humiliated, it’s just not meant to be.

We’ve all seen photos of cats and dogs wearing Halloween costumes and, I must admit, they are pretty fun to see. But we have also seen photos of pets that appear to be pouting in their costume. This is the emotion you want to avoid with your pet.

It may help to familiarize your pet with the costume about a week before they plan to wear it. Let your pet sniff the costume and see how they react to it laying on the ground. If they are fine being around the costume, you can attempt to put it on your pet for short periods of time at first. Reward your pet with treats and positive verbal communication so that they can associate the costume with good emotions. (Have you ever complimented a dog? They love it!) Every day keep putting on the costume for a longer period of time: start with five seconds, then maybe 10 seconds, then 30 seconds, etc. until they have no problems wearing the costume for longer periods of time.

should-i-get-my-pet-a-costume2But how do we know if our pets are happy in a costume? While they can’t explain to us how they feel like children do, we can observe their body language to determine if they are comfortable. When they’re at ease, ears will be relaxed and in a neutral position and their jaw will be loose. They should also feel free to move around as they usually do. If your pet sits or stands in one place and doesn’t want to come on command or is holding their gaze toward the floor, that’s an indicator of humiliation and you should take the costume off right away.

There may be types of costumes that your pet will feel more comfortable wearing than others. For example, a superhero cape can fasten like a collar and may feel better than a full pet onesie with a hood or hat. Whatever costume best suits your pet (pun intended), there are some general safety guidelines you should follow:

  • Your pet should have free range of motion in their head, neck, legs and tail and it should not constrain them in any way.
  • You should be able to fit at least two fingers between your pet and the costume when the costume is on. Otherwise it could be too tight.
  • The costume should not limit your pet’s ability to see. Make sure no hoods or hats fall in front of your pet’s face.
  • Check that any closure such as Velcro is not rubbing against your pet’s skin in an irritating manner.
  • Make sure your pet stays hydrated and doesn’t overheat. A costume that covers most of their fur will warm up quickly. If they become too warm or are panting profusely, take off the costume.
  • If your pet plans to join you for trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, have them leashed at all times and make them wear a bright piece of clothing so they can be easily spotted in the dark.

Some pets may think a costume is too foreign and will be spooked right away or when putting on the costume. Some pets are just plain stubborn, and that’s okay! Please always respect your pet and never make them do something they don’t want to. If a pet feels anxious about the costume, do not force them into it. They will develop negative feelings toward the costume and perhaps even to you. And nobody wants that!

By being mindful of your pet, they will be able to enjoy the holiday with the rest of the family, with or without a costume!

Does your pet like wearing costumes? What do they plan to be?

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