What’s better than getting dressed up for Halloween? For some people, it’s dressing up their dog — or if they’re really brave, their cat. It’s hard not to smile when you see a dog dressed up like a bumble bee, or a cat in a sailor hat. However, while it might be a big laugh for you and your family, your dog or cat might not be having that much fun.
Is it okay to dress your pet up at Halloween? What about trick or treating or answering the door? As always, it really depends on the temperament of your animal and how they react to different stimuli.
As far as dressing them up? “It is okay, but everyone has to know their own pet and it doesn't mean that every animal likes it,” says Dr. Mark Verdino, Animal League America's Vice President and Chief of Veterinary Staff.
Verdino says it’s important to consider your pet and how they respond to dressing up. “Some animals do better than others. So for example, small little dogs that have been wearing sweaters and coats and things like that their whole life, putting your costume on them, they won't really know the difference,” the doctor explains. “But a dog that's really never been wearing clothing of any kind, trying to dress them up can be a little bit of a challenge and it makes them very uncomfortable. So, you just have to kind of gauge your animal and know whether or not they're going to be agitated by it.”
One thing to keep in mind is the animals comfort. As Verdino notes, “Some of these things aren't exactly designed to be comfortable. They're designed to give their owners pleasure more than the dog.”
How can you do that? First, consider your pet and how they respond to wearing a new harness or collar. Maybe do a test run to see if you can even get something on them. Do they freak out?
According to Verdino, watch for “Reluctance to move and fighting the application. Costume paralysis, I can put the costume on and they literally just stood there, they freeze.”
That is not a happy animal. Also many dogs and most cats don’t like things restricting their movement or on their heads. Verdino notes forcing something onto your pet can result in them biting you.
“If you end up hurting your dog or tweaking a leg, trying to jam it through a sleeve, they may redirect that, no, necessarily fault of their own,” he said. “There's not because they're aggressive but because something's bothering them. But that's their only way of communicating at that point.”
What are your options for pet Halloween costumes?
If you know your dog or cat don’t mind wearing cute little outfits, by all means, dress them up for the holiday. However, if you think it might be an issue, try a simple shirt or collar without a lot of loose or dangly pieces and see how they respond.
You can find cute Halloween collars for cats and dogs on Chewy, including Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel collars, for your super-pet. They also offer cute kerchiefs with sayings like “I love my mummy!” for pets that won’t tolerate a full costume. Or, try this Stranger Things demogorgon collar from Etsy.
If your pet wouldn’t mind a full costume, you can dress them up as Baby Shark with a shark costume from Amazon, or if you want to match with your pet, try a couples costume as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry – throw on a trench coat and put a little red wig on Fido!
Stave off the scaries!
Beyond costumes, Halloween can be tricky for skittish animals. When the kids come knocking at the door, all the yelling and scary noises can scare dogs and cats. Of course there is a flight risk with dogs with doors opening and closing – and also other risks.
“It's not only the flight risk of the dog, but it's also the safety of the people coming into the house. You certainly don't want an agitated dog dog bolting at the front door where small children are,” warns Verdino, “Especially if it's a larger dog.”
Fortunately, this is an easy issue to avoid. “If you have trick-or-treaters, if you know your dog gets agitated with sounds and doorbells and things like that, talk to your veterinarian. There are things that can be prescribed to help. Or you can put them in a quiet place – for example the basement with the TV on.”
Remember: Candy’s no treat.
And before the kids come running in to dump candy all over the floor, have a talk with them about keeping it away from the dog, cautions Verdino.
“There is no good pet friendly candy. Some are are not particularly toxic, but they're not good for them either,” he said. “Some candies are toxic, so particularly sugar-free candies that contain Xylitol are very toxic. And candies that have nuts, like macadamia nuts, are toxic. Everyone probably is aware of the whole chocolate thing...I just say don't even chance it.”
Again, the solution to this is simple. “Put the dog in a separate room so they don't end up running in there and scooping stuff up,” he said.
Just like you would with your kids at Halloween, have fun, but use common sense and keep the night running smoothly – not scary!