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Dog Gone Problems: Should you dress your dog up for Halloween?

Dog Gone Problems: Should you dress your dog up for Halloween?

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Dog for 10/28/20

Julie Seidl's dog, Hank, in his cowboy outfit.

Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at dogbehaviorquestions@gmail.com.

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David Codr (mug)

David Codr is an Omaha dog behaviorist. You can reach him at his website, doggoneproblems.com.

Dog Gone Problems,

With everything that is going on in the world, this may seem like a silly question. We wanted to dress our dog up for Halloween and have heard conflicting reports regarding if you should or shouldn’t dress your dog up in a costume for Halloween. Your thoughts?

Annabelle

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Hi Annabelle,

When it comes to dressing up a dog for Halloween, what I say is far less important than what your dog says. If you dress your dog up and he or she acts differently, just stands there motionless or starts tearing at the costume to take it off, it's a safe bet your dog isn’t as into dressing up as much as you are.

Constriction is usually not a desired sensation for dogs. Many people who are unaware of this give their dogs hugs often, not realizing that when their dog turns his or her head to the side and licks its lips, what he or she is saying is, "I'm not having any fun."

Part of your dogs response will be related to the costume itself. If you are simply having your dog wear a shirt or small accessory, that’s going to be very different than something super elaborate. Costumes with dangling items, things that drag around, make noise or are constricting are not usually a good idea. Additionally, overly elaborate costumes can be difficult to put on. When you combine that with a dog feeling uneasy and a human who is frustrated that the costume or dog isn’t cooperating, it can be a recipe for disaster for the dog and the human.

This isn’t to say that all dogs dislike being dressed up. Some dogs can get dressed up and don't mind the costume. Some actually enjoy it, but I would surmise that the vast majority of dogs do not like wearing a costume. Also keep in mind dogs can tell if you are laughing at them, so don’t humiliate your dog with a demeaning costume — even if it's super cute.

The best way to proceed is to bring out the costume and hold it up for your dog to inspect. If it comes over to check it out, let it do so on its own and wait for it to move away before you try to put it on. But if it protests, tries to move away or looks miserable as you put it on, skip the costume and take your dog out for a nice walk instead. If you have a dog who is fearful or has anxiety in general, I wouldn’t even try to dress it up. It’s likely going to be too much for your furry friend.

Aside from the costume question, here are a 5 tips to help dogs have a good Halloween.

1. Get them some exercise a few times that day with a longer walk that is done around sunset. Draining a dog’s excess energy on a night when your home will be busy or have many door knocks can set your dog up for success.

2. Condition them to the sound of your doorbell or a knock at the door. Have someone at your door, but out of your dog’s sight. When they ring the door bell, give your dog a treat. Wait for it to settle down and repeat. Do this until your dog doesn’t get excited for the sound and instead looks at you for the treat. I'd recommend doing this three to four times a day three to five days before Halloween.

3. Secure any candy. Chocolate is toxic to dogs, and so is xylitol, an artificial sweetener in many candies. It's easy to leave the candy in places the dog can get to and many emergency vet clinics get visits on Halloween for dogs who got into the candy. So put it where Fido can't get it and don’t share with your four-legged friend.

4. Be careful of humans in costume, even yourself. Many dogs get stressed out when their humans don costumes, so don’t be surprised if your dog doesn’t like you getting dressed up either.

5. If Halloween is too much for your dog, give it a safe place to hang out away from the action with a new bone, bully stick, cow kneecap or some other chew item.

Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.

David

Submit your pet questions to David Codr by emailing a photo of your dog and question to dogbehaviorquestions@gmail.com. Visit doggoneproblems.com for more from David.


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