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Learning the Hard Way – The Essentials of Halloween Dog Costume Design

Many dog ​​clubs and animal organizations sponsor activities throughout the year where you and your pooch can bond. This is especially true on Halloween, when you and your dog will have the opportunity to participate in costume contests, parades, and other events to show off your creativity. Our local Humane Society, for example, has a “Scream Party,” while our dog club has its annual “Fun Fair.” Other organizations hold dog parades. The best part about all these events is that you can show off your dog in costume!

Even if you’re staying home this year and waiting for people to come over, consider having your costumed dog walk you through the door. Or, if you’ve trained him to open the door to greet visitors — even better! If this is the case, your dog should also be trained not to jump on visitors when they arrive. A well-dressed dog greeter can have the neighborhood kids running away before they get their candy if he jumps them.

Before I became a dog owner, I thought it was silly, unfair, and maybe a little inhumane to dress up dogs for Halloween. Since those days, I became a dog owner and now I realize that dogs love to participate in all activities (except a trip to the vet). Participating in Halloween festivities together with your beloved furry friend is another opportunity for you to cherish your time together.


Over the years, I’ve learned a few lessons about dressing up dogs for Halloween. Every year around Halloween, I would work feverishly trying to create the perfect dog costume. Spending hours sewing pieces of old-fashioned mop, I tried to make my terrier into an instant Komondor (aka Hungarian Sheepdog). For a day, I wanted her to feel like one of those amazing dogs with a Rasta hairstyle. When people spotted him, they exclaimed, “Hey, it’s a dog in a dog suit!” But, I really thought, it’s a dog in folk costume!

As I proudly walked down the street with him in his Komondor uniform, he decided to shake until his costume was dragged between us. From a distance, I thought he might get by looking like a scavenger. But to my dismay, he didn’t. As the crowds watched, he just looked like a dog dragging a huge mop down the street — how embarrassing!

This is when I learned the first two basic rules of dog costumes:

1. Keep the suit light.

2. Keep the suit simple.

The next year, I had a puppy to dress up. Making an adorable light suit was my only goal. Since the puppy loved to carry things in his mouth, I covered a stick in leather for him to bite on and carry. Then, I tried to put a panty on her. She screamed frantically, jumped and flailed, and consequently refused to let me near her with underwear in hand.

This is when I learned the third basic rule of dog costumes:

3. Always give your dog a trial run before you assume he will wear any costume you choose. Or, better yet, have your dog wear the costume at home before Halloween so he can get used to it. Don’t learn the hard way.

The following year, I made plans to take my older dog to the Halloween dog parade again. Because I had learned from experience, I chose to make a suit that was simple, easy to make and lightweight. My dog ​​was going to be “a walking billboard!” I glued two rectangular pieces of foam core together with material in the center and was going to put it over my dog’s top. This time, however, I was determined to be smart about it by letting him get used to it beforehand — following my third rule.

It worked great as he walked around the house and the billboard outfit got some great laughs from friends and family. I was happy that things would go better than the previous two years. As the parade started, we marched together and suddenly he did the unexpected, as if he had been planning it all along. He bent and the billboard became an inflexible tent. He was able to walk right out of it, which drew extra laughs from the crowd, but meant immediate disqualification from the competition.

This is when I learned the fourth cardinal rule of dog costumes:

4. Expect the unexpected, even when you think you’ve thought of everything!

The next year, I tied a large helium balloon around the dog’s midsection and put a small light blanket over it. The blanket had a small box with two tiny stuffed animals. I had ribbons around the bottom of the balloon that I taped to the box. The costume was adorable, or so I thought. It was a hot air balloon ride outfit. The balloon must have been more exciting to the other dogs because as soon as the other dogs saw it, they started running away from their owners chasing the shiny red balloon. Luckily I had a pair of scissors and cut the cord. Up, up, up he went. Bailey and I were free, and so was our balloon. And once again we were kicked out of the parade, as had become tradition.

This is when I learned the fifth and sixth essential rules of dog costumes:

5. Be prepared. Before you go to any gathering, think about what you need to bring with you in case something needs to be fixed quickly or if something goes wrong.

6. Bring your camera and have plenty of film. I wish I had taken a picture of my dog ​​in his balloon outfit before I cut the cord. Also check your camera batteries. And, ask a friend to take some photos of you and your dog together — you’ll enjoy them later.

Last year, though, I took the easy way out. I bought a Superman costume from a costume shop. Most clothing stores now carry such paraphernalia. The suit was lightweight, which was a plus. I decided to just use the cape and keep the other parts of the costume as a spare. So once again we went to our annual dog club “Fun Fair” and one of the activities featured was a Halloween dog parade with a prize for “Best Costume”.

My dog ​​was dressed on arrival. I tied the cape under his chin and that was it. The kids shouted, “He’s a super dog!” The adults responded by shouting “Not original!” Someone came up to me and asked, “What happened? We expected you to at least innovate.” Feeling guilty, I sat there and didn’t get any awards. But, it was the first time my “Super Dog” participated in his first Halloween parade. He looked great to me and I was so proud of him. Then towards the end of the evening we were invited along with several other ‘Super Dogs’ in the same attire for a photo shoot.

Copyright © 2008 Melanie Light

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