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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.
Dog treats made with pumpkin! (Puppy Leaks blog)