Here are a few things we might not think about in the hustle and excitement of the festivities.
–People dressed in costumes, especially masks, can be scary to many pets. If you’re planning on taking your pet with you while you’re in a costume, do several practice runs the week before so he or she can get used to it. Ease them in slowly, and give lots of treats! If your costume is very different from how you normally look, let your pet sniff it while it’s on the floor. Don one portion at a time, give treats, and take it off.
–Costumes on pets are a lot of fun – but make sure your pet is having fun too! Features like flashing lights and noises can be scary and distracting. Large stuffed portions are bulky, can flop around, and make it hard to walk. Loose or dangling edges that are cosmetically appealing can sometimes be downright delicious, yet not intended for consumption, if you know what I mean! Make sure the costume is comfortable. I’ve seen several with thick velcro or elastic straps that are downright sharp!
–If you host a party or trick-or-treaters, consider confining your pet to a “safe room” with their bed and favorite toys. If they want to come out and socialize later, it’s important to keep tabs on snacks they may eat, or doors they may exit. Remember, a lot of people in costumes can be frightening, so your best bet might be to let your dog or cat sit this one out. It’s not worth the stress or worse, your pet bolting out the open door!
–Most importantly, follow your pet’s cues. If you choose to participate in a costume contest or other social activities and your dog is scared and unwilling, do not force the issue. Crowded places with silly looking people can be a lot to handle, and even a well socialized dog can find it un-nerving. Remember, the point is to have fun!
How to SLOWLY acclimate your dog or cat to a costume?
First, start with something simple, like a cape or sweater style without hats, shoes, or flailing parts. Let your dog smell the costume and get used to it being around. Then put it on, give treats, say how amazing he or she is, and promptly take it off. For cats, go for an even simpler style, like a cape, that involves less touching of the feet (ie avoid sleeves). Several hours later again, put costume on, treats and praise, then removal. Slowly work up to having it on, walking a few feet, then being rewarded. If your pet suffers from “costume paralysis” (refusing to move while wearing a costume) then he or she is very stressed. Costume needs to come off right away! Some dogs can wear costumes and love it. Some dogs or cats never really accept them. No worries. If you try and it’s not for your pet, remember, again, this is meant to be fun! Accept that your pet is not a costume wearer and move on.
Web-DVM guest blogger Dr. Karen Louis is a practicing small animal veterinarian. See more of her articles at her blog at VetChick.com