Dogs and Halloween costumes

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Costumes can make dogs very stressed and uncomfortable, and it may be best not to dress them up at all. Dr David Tweedle, My Family Pet Vet and Clinical Director at Natures Vet in Somerset, explains…

“It’s approaching that time of year where you scroll through Facebook and Instagram and are treated to pictures of your friends’ pets all dressed up for Halloween.

This may look fun, and it probably is for the humans involved, but the important question to ask is: is the dog happy?

More often than you’d think, and even in the most confident, outgoing dogs, wearing a Halloween costume can cause distress. Especially when costumes restrict breathing, obstruct vision or impair movement – as many do.

Is a full costume necessary? 

If you’re adamant on making your dog look the part, a funky, spooky-themed collar or bandana will achieve this without making them uncomfortable. 

Some dogs will obviously be more frightened by costumes than others, but it’s not just the shy, timid dogs you need to watch out for. Even the most confident creatures can suffer if they’re suddenly made claustrophobic by a costume, if part of their vision is blocked or if they can’t move as naturally as normal.

BorrowMyDoggy Beagle in a Halloween neckerchief
Doggy member Niko

If you’re going to do it, do it right…

If there is a costume you’ve got your eye on, ask yourself the following before making your dog wear it:

  • Will it cover much of their face?
  • Is it too tight around their ribs or chest?
  • Will they be too warm wearing it? 
  • Are there any parts they could chew on and swallow?
  • Will they be able to see and turn their head properly?
  • Will they be in danger of tripping over it?

If the answer to each of these is NO, then you’re probably OK. Just make sure you keep an eye on your dog while they’re wearing it, and if they appear visibly distressed, remove the costume right away.

How to spot if a dog is uncomfortable in their costume?

If their demeanour changes, they’re probably uncomfortable. You’ll also be able to tell by their body language. Some dogs may even try to get out of their costume by biting or scratching at it. 

Remember: very few dogs like being dressed up. It’s unnatural and unless it’s protecting them from harsh weather conditions outside, it doesn’t achieve anything. The best you can hope for is your dog simply tolerating it.

One last thing to bear in mind…

Take your specific situation into account when deciding what to do for Halloween. If you’re having a children’s party, for example, is it really a great idea to have your dog in a costume that youngsters might grab at?

You know your dog better than anyone. What they like and what they don’t like, how they act when they’re happy and when they’re unhappy. Make sure Halloween is as fun for them as it is for you.”

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