Pet owners love including their furry friends in all aspects of their lives, but sometimes it can be difficult. Halloween, in particular, can be tricky for pet owners. Common occurrences that define the holiday, such as scary masks and loud, sudden noises, can scare animals, making it tricky to include them in the festivities at all – but that doesn’t have to be the case. With the right planning, man’s best friend can be man’s best Halloween companion, too.
We created this guide to help dog lovers include their canine pals in their Halloween fun. The guide covers everything you need to know to maximize the fun you have with your dog, from choosing the perfect costume to keeping your dog – and everyone else – safe.
Costume Express would also like to give a special thanks to Angela Speed, the vice president of communications at the Wisconsin Humane Society, for sharing her expertise with us.
In This Post:
- Costume or No Costume?
- Keeping Your Pet – And Everyone Else – Safe
- How to Celebrate with Your Furry Friend
Costume or No Costume?
Costumes and Halloween go together like any number of clichés. From contests to trick-or-treating, your costume is the essential element of any Halloween plans. There are plenty of adorable costumes for your pet, too, but you’ll need to take extra care when choosing one. Not all dogs will appreciate being stuffed into a costume, and some costumes might even be dangerous to the dog. Dressing up may be a big part of the holiday, but nothing should be more important than your dog’s comfort and safety.
Wisconsin Humane Society
Deciding if a Costume Is Right for Your Dog
While some people discourage pet costumes completely, Angela Speed acknowledges that “dressing up your pet in a costume can be really fun, and the photos are priceless.” However, she also cautions pet owners to make sure their dog enjoys the costume. If it clearly dislikes being dressed up, don’t force it to. As Speed put it, “you know your dog best.”
How can you tell if your dog would be comfortable in a costume? Try finding a piece of clothing around the house that closely replicates how a costume would fit. If your dog seems to be comfortable wearing that, then it is likely that an actual costume will work just fine.
It is also important to note that different dogs will be able to tolerate different types of costumes. For example, if your dog seems bothered by having his back and abdomen covered, go with a costume that only covers up the top of the head or the collar area. If even that seems uncomfortable, most dogs can handle wearing Halloween-themed collars or bandanas.
Preparing Your Dog for the Costume
If you decide your dog is ready to don a costume for Halloween, your next step is the dress rehearsal. We recommend giving your dog a chance to get used to the costume by dressing him up for a few hours at a time before Halloween. If your dog seems okay with the costume in the house, consider taking him for a walk while he has the costume on. Then, try putting him through the paces – test anything that the costume might need to hold up against on Halloween. This will also help you make sure the costume doesn’t obstruct anything when it’s potty time.
In particular, make sure that the costume doesn’t restrict your pet’s movement, hearing, or vision. Even if you don’t notice anything wrong with the costume, never leave your pet unsupervised while he’s dressed up. With enough squirming, the costume could shift, leading to discomfort for your dog.
These dress rehearsals are also a great time to make sure that the costume doesn’t have any small parts, especially if they’re at risk of falling off. Your dog might accidentally swallow these parts, leading to all sorts of issues.
Finding the Perfect Costume
Now, for the fun part: picking the most adorable costume for your dog. Whether you’re making it yourself or buying a premade costume, your options are virtually limitless. From current trends, like Minions, or classic standbys, like Batman, there are plenty of human-like costumes your furry friend can wear. But dogs also have some unique costumes of their own, like this adorable lion costume or this tarantula outfit.
If you’re planning a theme for your family’s costumes, we’re big fans of including your dog in the mix, especially if there are animal-like characters that can be included, like this creative Bantha Rider option for Star Wars-themed costumes.
Keeping Your Pet – And Everyone Else – Safe
There’s no doubt that everyone wants to have fun on Halloween, but safety is still important. Halloween is known for its spooky atmosphere and unexpected surprises, which can throw off your dog’s typical routine. That’s why it’s important to make use of proper safety precautions – otherwise, this ghoulish day of spooky fun can quickly take a frightful turn for you and your pet.
There are a number of things you can do in the weeks leading up to Halloween that will help make the holiday less stressful and dangerous for your dog.
Wisconsin Humane Society
Decorations and Candy
Many of the risks come from things that you can directly control, like decorations. Lighted jack-o’-lanterns and candles are a great way to set a spooky tone for your party or trick-or-treaters, but they can also be a hazard for curious, playful, or just flat-out clumsy puppies. Not only does this put your dog at risk for burns, but it could start a fire. Even electrical pumpkins and other corded decorations can be dangerous. When decorating your house, keep all electrical cords and wires out of your pet’s reach.
If you’re partial to Halloween candy – and who isn’t? – you’ll also want to make sure to keep that out of reach of your furry friend. This is especially true for candy that contains chocolate, xylitol, or raisins, which can be toxic to dogs. According to the Wisconsin Humane Society, the Pet Poison Helpline receives about 12% more calls during the week of Halloween, making it the call center’s busiest time of year.
It’s not just the candy itself that’s harmful to pets, either. Dogs often eat wrappers and lollipop sticks, which can lead to digestive issues. The Pet Poison Helpline suggests watching for signs, including a loss of appetite or potty-time problems. If your dog has any of these symptoms, contact a veterinarian immediately.
Trick-or-Treaters and Door Dashing
Another mainstay of Halloween is trick-or-treaters. Most of us love hearing the doorbell ring and opening the door to find a range of creative, wild costumes. Unfortunately, most dogs do not feel the same way. All this noise and festive chaos can make your pet feel more anxious than normal, leading to unpredictable behavior. Speed recommends keeping your pet in a separate room with his favorite toys and calming noises, like the television or a radio. This can help reduce the stress your dog feels.
If you don’t keep your dog in a separate room, keep in mind that animals can also be scared by the costumes. Scared pets can act unpredictably, meaning even the friendliest or shy dogs can become aggressive. For this reason, Speed suggests staying outside on your porch to hand out candy, rather than opening the door every single time. This will help prevent your dog from barking at or reacting aggressively toward trick-or-treaters.
Another thing to prepare for is what the Wisconsin Humane Society calls “door dashing.” Frequently opening your door gives your pet an opportunity to escape and get lost. “More dogs become lost during Halloween just because of the opening and closing of the door to give candy out to trick-or-treaters,” Speed warned. “It’s a time of year when we hear of more dogs coming into shelters nationally.”
You can also take your dog for a long walk earlier in the day to let them burn off any extra energy they might have. This can help prevent the urge for them to dash out.
Always Have Identification
The Wisconsin Humane Society playfully suggests, “For Halloween and the other 364 days a year: always make sure your pet has proper identification.” Whether your dog is in costume or not, and regardless of if you keep him in the house or take him outside, always make sure your pet has an up-to-date ID tag. If your dog does become lost, this will help you reunite with them. Speed also recommends having your dog microchipped, since this is one of the first steps a shelter will take when a new dog is brought in. Since the microchip is registered to the owner, they can contact you immediately.
Obviously, the goal is to have as much fun as possible with your dog, but a lost puppy or a scared child can bring an abrupt end to the festivities – and that’s not fun for anyone.
How to Celebrate with Your Furry Friend
Halloween is full of fun activities for parents and kids to enjoy, whether it’s trick-or-treating, parties, or anything in between. Many pet owners want to include their dogs in these festivities, but they’re not sure how they can. Thankfully, there are plenty of fun ways to get them involved!
Wisconsin Humane Society
With a little planning, you can easily adapt some of your favorite party activities so that you can include your puppy.
Everyone loves costume contests, and dogs are no exception. Have your guests dress their dogs in costumes and then let them strut their stuff for everyone. Whether or not the winner gets a prize, everyone wins at a canine costume contest!
Bobbing for apples, another common Halloween party activity, can also be adapted for man’s best friend. If you choose to go this route, just be sure to only use apple slices. Apple cores are easy to choke on and apple seeds contain cyanide, which are toxic for dogs. For an added treat, you can also substitute hot dogs instead of apples. Either way, dogs will enjoy this friendly competition.
The Wisconsin Humane Society also does a “bone dig” for dogs, which they’ve had a lot of success with. Setting something up like this will likely require some more effort, but it could provide plenty of entertainment if you’re planning to have a lot of dogs at the party.
If your dog is wearing a costume, we’re sure you’ll want to take plenty of adorable pictures so you can save the memories forever. We’ve got some tips to help you take amazing pictures, even if you’re not an expert photographer.
First, understand that getting a great picture will require a great deal of practice. Pets are just like children – they don’t like to stay still, especially for photographs. You can use treats to get your pup’s attention and reward them in between shots.
We also recommend using natural sunlight and a neutral background for the best results. Artificial light isn’t as bright as it seems, which means your pictures will often be darker than you expected.
Finally, no matter how glamorous your pooch may be, please avoid using flash photography. Bright lights are incredibly unpleasant for animals.
For many kids, the best part about trick-or-treating is coming home with a bucketful of candy. While you can’t give your dog the exact same experience, you can still give him a special treat that fits with the Halloween spirit. There are plenty of yummy Halloween recipes that you can use to prepare some homemade snacks. We’ve seen peanut butter treats, applesauce biscuits, and so many more. You can even treat them to some pumpkin-themed snacks – just like everyone else!
Once you’ve got a plate full of mouth-watering snacks for your pup, you’ll still want to be careful with them. Just like kids and candy, pets and treats can be difficult to separate. Pay close attention to how much your pet is eating and make sure you don’t substitute your pet’s routine meal for the day with these homemade snacks.
For the most part, Speed recommends not taking your dog trick-or-treating. There are too many things that might rile up or frighten your pet, which could lead to unpredictable and undesirable behavior. However, if you are completely sure your dog can handle it, it’s important to follow any relevant local laws and ordinances. In particular, Speed strongly encourages everyone to have their pet on a leash at all times.
Involving your four-legged friend in your family’s Halloween traditions can be tons of fun, as long as you consider your pet’s safety first and foremost. You know your pet best, so you’ll have to decide what is and isn’t appropriate for your situation, but there are still plenty of options that are suitable for any dog.
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