Dog in halloween costume

How to Teach Your Dog to Wear a Halloween Costume

Does your dog freeze, shut down or completely lose it over wearing, God forbid, a festive Halloween bandanna? In this post, we’ll go over how to teach your dog to wear a Halloween costume or other clothes.

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a dog who could care less if you plop him into, say, one of those big spider costumes?

Most dogs are somewhere in the middle, of course, so I thought I’d share a few tips for how to teach your dog to wear a Halloween costume (or your food-motivated cat). This is assuming you are one of those people who enjoy humiliating their pets.

My models today are Ace the rufferee and Beamer the bee.

Teach your dog to wear a Halloween costume

The treats I used in these photos were called Pup-Peronis and Milk-Bones. But if you really want to motivate bribe your pets, today I typically use a high-valued treat called Zuke’s minis. Cheese or pieces of real meat would also work!

For more tips, see our post on Halloween safety and pets.

5 tips to teach your dog to wear a Halloween costume

If you are a clicker trainer, a clicker works great for helping a pup make positive associations with a costume, dog sweater or even a harness. This marks the exact moment your dog does the right behavior, followed by a treat. A clicker is certainly not necessary but might help speed up the process.

Remember, dogs and cats generally feel uncomfortable wearing clothes. They already have fur coats and wearing something over them can make them feel vulnerable.

Teach your cat to wear a halloween costume

My own dog trembles (as though frightened) when I put his winter vest on him. He doesn’t act this way, however, while wearing a Halloween costume because I’ve made positive associations with the costume. Go figure.

1. Let the dog sniff the Halloween costume without wearing it.

If the costume is brand new, your dog will probably be curious. Praise him for approaching or sniffing the costume, and give him a treat.

The “rufferee” costume was brand new, so Ace was interested in it. I rewarded him with treats just for checking it out. The Zuke’s minis are perfect for this type of training. They have a strong jerky scent and are soft and breakable. I also use them for bribing my dog to cooperate during a bath or nail trim.

If your dog generally freaks out over wearing a coat, sweater or costume, repeat the above step several times over several days.

2. Set the costume over your dog and reward.

Don’t put the costume fully on your dog. Just gently drape it over his back. If he accepts this, tell him what a good boy he is and give a treat!

Repeat several times. Make this FUN and GOOFY so your dog is secretly making fun of you.

Dog Hallween costume and treats

3. Put the main part of the costume on your dog.

Give a treat each time you put a paw through an arm hole and when you pull the costume fully over your dog’s body.

Then, give even more treats when the costume is fully on. What a good boy!

Take the costume off your dog right away, and if he is not stressed out, repeat.

4. Repeat the above step, keeping the costume on longer.

Try for 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, until it’s no big deal.

But come on, what dog wants to wear a costume all day or for more than an hour, really?

You might try heading out for a walk with the costume on or playing with a toy. Do something fun to get your dog to forget about wearing the costume.

Dog Rufferee costume (2)

5. Teach your dog to wear other pieces of the Halloween costume.

If the costume has a head piece or boots or anything else like that, repeat the above steps with each piece of the costume.

Most dogs don’t like having something over their head or on their feet, for obvious reasons, but if you introduce the pieces slowly your dog might learn to tolerate it for a day just to humor you.

Such a good sport!

Again, some dogs really could care less about costumes while others will not have it!

Beamer and Ace

The key is to slowly introduce your pet to his costume a few days or weeks before you plan to “force” him to wear it.

Is putting clothes on a dog cruel?

No, it’s not cruel to put clothes or a costume on a pet. It might be a bit ridiculous sometimes, and it’s definitely a way we “humanize” animals. We need to be aware of what we’re doing, and that it might make them a bit uncomfortable.

If your dog is especially stressed out from a certain sweater or costume, or if she’s going to rip it up and try to eat it, then it’s not worth dressing her up.

Do dogs like wearing costumes?

I would say most dogs and cats do not like wearing costumes or clothes. But a lot depends on the individual dog or cat. Some don’t really care either way. Some just put up with it because they love us. Others might actually enjoy feeling warmer in a sweater or vest! Others associate fun and treats with the clothes. And others really, really hate wearing anything. It all depends!

Does your dog like wearing a costume?

Let us know in the comments!

*This post contains affiliate links.

Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.

Related posts:

Dog treats made with pumpkin! (Puppy Leaks blog)

43 thoughts on “How to Teach Your Dog to Wear a Halloween Costume”

  1. I gave my pups a break this year from dressing up for Halloween but have some great ideas for costumes next year

  2. Those ideas are great but Pebbles kinda lets me dress her up without a fuss. I would love to win this treat package for her. We would continue to work on potty training with her with them.

  3. I would love to be entered to win this great prize pack. I would still work on the stay command with Kado. It works unless there is a squirrel or cat around.

  4. My Rat Terriers love to just stand still after I put on their costumes. Then the barking never ends when the door bell starts ringing with all the Trick or Treater’s!

  5. Would love to win this package, will train the new puppies with them to help on basic commands, help in potty training, and even a few tricks once they get the basics down 🙂

  6. I just got a dog from the shelter about 2 months back. This is our first Halloween and I’m excited. I’m gonna try the tips above and have fun! Thanks!

  7. my dogs are pretty well behaved, so I use treats to teach new tricks. We have sit, down, shake, and jump down, but I would love to get a roll over or speak.

  8. Allison Hoffman

    My dogs like the TREAT part of Halloween better than the dressing up part! I would use these treats to continue trying to teach my Malamute a new trick ive been trying to teach him. He isn’t patient enough yet!

  9. I have a high energy 4 year old German Shepherd and use lots of treats for short training sessions any time we can fit it in. Treats are so necessary for a dog with ADHD!

  10. We don’t dress the dogs up bc I’m done after having to dress the kids up 😉 but my husband said he wants to dress the puppy Scarlett (pit) up as a boxer. We will see how that goes. His nickname for her is P90X and we joke about her being a “tough” pit who shadow boxes to get ready for “fights” (tug of war over her stuffed squeaky bunny)

  11. Moo has several costumes (thanks, after-Halloween clearance!) so she can be a seal, a bumblebee, a pirate, a pumpkin… She doesn’t mind dressing up, but Minnow (the cat) is another story… she flops over and won’t walk, but loves to take naps ON the costumes, though. I have a great picture of her in the taco costume so she can be a tacocat palindrome. 🙂

  12. My little baby girl is a 5# Maltese and she makes a boo-tiful witch.
    My big baby girl is a long hair German Shepperd and she makes a very intimidating witch.
    I think those treats would work really well in helping to convince them both to keep their witch hats on!

  13. I would use the treats to teach my 3 large dogs to walk better on a leash. My wife, children, and myself would reward their good behavior – staying close to us, healing, and looking at us . This type of positive reinforcement will help our dogs to associate a walk with the type of behavior we want. This in turn will keep our dogs safe.

  14. I’d.like.to teach my younger baby,Louie, how to work with an agility course. She’s so smart and has a keen sense, her steady eye contact coupled with a treat reward would help ensure her success. Thanks for your newsletters, love them!

  15. “So your dog is secretly making fun of you.” HAH!
    My dog goes completely bananas over that Puperoni stuff. We’d love to win some! The first time we brought some home, we didn’t put the bag up high enough and he just came and sat in front of me with the whole bag in his mouth like, “Mom, will you open this for me?”
    Then one of my housemates made the mistake of leaving a piece in his pants and we were in the living room and suddenly my tiny 12-pound terrier comes awkwardly clambering down the stairs with a grown man’s pants in his mouth. He dragged them over to us like, “Hey, you jerks with the opposable thumbs! Turn out the pockets!”
    PS I love the pictures you’ve been posting lately, especially the one of Beamer in the bee costume. Did you get a new camera?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Haha! I had to laugh at all those stories! Beamer has also tried to eat the pockets of my jeans and a couple of jackets due to treats being left in them. Oops. And I’m glad you like the pics! No new camera. I barely know how to use the one we have!

  16. Ooh, my dog wants in on this contest! We are working hard to train him to LAY down. It sounds ridiculous – my dog is 4. He can sit and do all sorts of other things but laying is a real struggle! These treats would certainly motivate him… 😉

  17. Great tips! I know dog boots are not a costume but it’s the same concept. Rather than let Maya and Pierson stand there frozen while I laughed at how pathetic they looked, I quickly snapped on their leashes and took them outside. There was a few moments of the funny walk with the boots on, but I didn’t stop to laugh at them or take pictures. I kept walking. They were so excited about getting to go for a walk that they quickly forgot they were wearing boots. Their reward was the walk. I didn’t need treats. After a few days of putting on the boots for walks, they’d get excited whenever I pulled out the boots.

  18. wonderful subject. i dress my girls up and make their costumes every yr. this yr the oldest is not participating, too much for her at her age, 14 and with some back issues. i always take my own water and am very careful abt any treats they give at the events. i test drive the costumes b4 we go to events and make sure they can walk, stand and play with them and dont hinder them in anyway. i take them off as soon as the contests is over. we have over 15 different outfits and usually do themes, for both the girls and me dressed as well. i carry poop bags, water, my own treats, etc. with me as well. i really dont have to reward them to put on the costumes they are used to them by now…been doing it for yrs. i just make sure they can manuever in them. my middle child does not like them, she does not like to wear coats either. but she tolerates them.

  19. I dressed our dogs up for Halloween using milkbones as their treats. I swear they play dumb so they get more treats. It’s like one says to the other, ” the longer this takes, the more treats we get, so play dumb.” And then when they have that aha moment they wink at each other. I’m not kidding.

  20. We need a continuous supply of treats because we foster. So, I would use the treats for obedience training and agility training.

  21. I want in on the contest!
    We use treats for training, and successful trips to the bathroom outside!
    Scooby is on Twitter as @scoobythecorgi
    And Instagram as @scooby_the_corgi 🙂

  22. Great tips and fantastic photos. And Ace as Rufferee, that is very clever and so cute. He looks indifferent though… Beamer probably loves putting on a costume if it means a chance for some treats, right? And sign me up. Would love to be entered in the contest.

  23. I have a about 5 acres fenced for my huskies and there are times they just want to stay out and play, especially if I have a doctor appointment. Then milk bones are a great treat to get them inside.

  24. I would use them to help my baby’s learn to high five and shake. My pit has both down pretty well but my Amstaff is slowly learning how to cbalance himselfbecause he is so top heavy.

  25. I am trying to train my just adopted great pyr to live inside–he was an outdoor only dog when I brought him from SC to MA. He is wary, and I have been trying yummy treats each time. He’s not a big lover of treats! Also nocturnal and wants to bark at night! Love some tips and irresistible treats for training! Linda Day

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