On Oct. 31 of last year, the doorbell rang, and I opened my door to the most adorable little trick-or-treater you ever saw. She was covered with shaggy hair, had pointy little fangs and her eyes shone at me with a yellowish cast. Ooo, so spooky!
Plus, she was wearing a costume.
Yes, that’s right. A pet owner was making the neighborhood rounds with her tiny terrier. Obviously, the owner didn’t want candy (chocolate in particular can be dangerous to dogs and can’t be much good for other pets, either) . She just wanted a chance to show off Madison (yep, that was Pooch’s name) in all her decked-out glory: a shaggy little ballerina in a pet-size tutu.
A New Fad?
I’m not the first to experience this phenomenon. Readers have emailed us to let us know that they’ve had similar experiences among their neighbors. And a few have asked how to dress up their own beloved furbabies – and whether they should.
There are a few things to consider, so let’s take a closer look at whether or not your li’l guy or gal is a candidate for getting in on the Halloween fun.
- Is your pet easily distressed by strangers? If so, even if you decide to dress her up, taking her door-to-door may not be a good idea. However, if she’s fine with passing people she doesn’t know on the street, taking her out on the sidewalk on Halloween to show her off might be feasible.
- DON’T force items onto your pet’s body that she simply can not stand. If your pet refuses to wear that cute nurse cap, but will allow the little white dress, accept her boundaries on this issue. If you try to force things, you may begin to lose her trust.
- Observe your pet’s “silent signals” carefully. If Pooch is wagging his tail, but his eyes are wide and frightened or he’s trembling, he is trying to be nice in order to please you, but you are increasing his anxiety.
- If your pet tends to snap and you need to pull her back frequently on her leash, no matter how badly you want to take her out on Halloween night, please don’t. The strangeness of the odd colors and shapes of kids’ costumes, plus the excitement level and crowding factor, my set your pet off and cause something you’ll all regret, such as charging or biting.
- Small pets may tire more easily than larger or older/more mature ones. Take your little guy or gal in a pet carrier, comfortable carry-on or even a stroller.
Welcoming Pets to Your Door
If you know you’re going to have some furry trick-or-treaters this year, you may wish to have pet treats ready. You’ll be the hit of the neighborhood if you do!
Whether or not you give out treats (NEVER give ANY treat to a pet without asking the owner first and NEVER hand out chocolate or other candy to an animal), be cautious. Kitty might look adorable at your door, but the situation is strange to her, and you may frighten her if you descend on her with a loud “Oh, how cute!”
For dogs, extend your hand in a fist (not open fingers), coming near but not touching the nose and going slowly. This will allow the pup to sniff you, which will give him “information” about you so he’s less nervous.
Keep small children in the home back. Ask the owner whether the pet is good with children. If so, go SLOWLY and HOLD YOUR CHILD while bringing her within proximity to the animal. If you sense any anxiety at all in the pet, do not allow your child close enough to actually touch the pet. Children move more quickly than adults and are more unpredictable, which can make a pet anxious.
Fun Pet Costume Ideas
Now that we have the precautions down, are you ready for the fun part? Here are some awesome pet dress-up suggestions:
- An “opposite” costume. Dress your dog as a cat or your cat as a dog.
- “Ferocious” animals: tiny Pomeranians and cuddly kittens are bound to get a smile from one and all if they’re dressed up as bad-boy types such as lions or tigers.
- Try something seasonal, such as an elf, Cupid or a Thanksgiving turkey.
- Dress your pet the way your children are dressed so everyone “matches,” even Fido!
- Have your cat go as a celebrity you admire and who has/had an immediately identifiable look, such as Elvis.
- Superhero costumes are adorable on pets, especially small ones; however, this is a look that will get giggles no matter what the species and breed.
- Choose a favorite book or movie character (Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, a Star Wars or Star Trek character, Jack Sparrow, etc.).
- Have your pet be a sports character (football player, cheerleader, soccer champ).
- Go for humor, like the puppy taco shown.
- If your pup will allow makeup (see the Spuds MacKenzie image above), go for it – but make sure you use 100% non-toxic makeup that’s easily removable.
Be creative with this idea – but always within your pet’s comfort level. Dressing your pet up can be a fun and adorable way to add to the holiday. Have fun!