Should I Dress My Pet for Halloween?

Just like people, some pets like to dress up in clothing and hats.  Most animals prefer you don't anthropomorphize them by making them wear human outfits. 

You should only put a costume on your pet if they are comfortable with the idea. Out of respect for your pets' feelings and well-being, it's key you honor their wishes whether or not you agree with them.

As much as I want to dress up my dog Bodhi in a Halloween costume, he wants nothing to do with hats and human outfits. He becomes stressed and anxious when I try to outfit him. The most he's willing to tolerate are accouterments that go around his neck like bandanas, necklaces, and bows.

My Spirit dog, Kobe Bear loved wearing hats and necklaces. He happily wore them for hours.

My Spirit Dog, Kobe Bear loved wearing costumes.
Not my Bodhi! He clearly tells me that costumes aren't his thing by throwing hats off his head or sitting down when I put a vest on him. He also starts licking his lips and yawning, which tells me he's feeling stress.

Whether I like or not, I respect Bodhi's wishes, and I refrain from dressing him up. Wearing human outfits is not his thing. The last thing I want to do is stress him out or make him uncomfortable. So I have let go of my desire to put costumes and hats on him.

Even if your pet doesn't mind wearing outfits, be mindful of stress signals that your pet might be giving you like yawning, lip licking, turning their back to you, or avoiding eye contact. Some pets will run away and hide if they're not on board with your playing dress-up with them.

If your animal exhibits any of these "stress signals," take the outfit off immediately as it's not fair to your pet to keep them dressed.

Many pets tolerate wearing clothing to make their people happy. That's why it's key to keep a lookout for signs of stress or anxiety when your pet is wearing a costume.

If your pet doesn't like wearing a costume that covers his head and body, a better alternative might be a bandana or bow. Or nothing at all.

If your animal companion enjoys dressing up like Kobe Bear did, please keep the following in mind to make sure you and your animal family have a safe and enjoyable time:

  • If your pet is acting impatient, annoyed, uncomfortable, or unhappy wearing a costume, she is trying to tell you that wearing an outfit is not her cup of tea. (Learn more about Stress in Pets)
  • Costumes must provide freedom of movement for your pet's comfort and safety.  When choosing a pet costume, make sure it doesn't impair your pet's hearing, sight, or the ability to breathe, bark, eat, drink, or eliminate.  
  • Your pet's head and neck should be able to move freely in their outfit. If your pet is wearing a hat, double-check that isn't too big and doesn't cover her eyes.
  • Avoid potential Choking Hazards on costumes like bow ties, ribbons, hanging beads, or pieces that might fall off, along with other loose items that might cause choking if swallowed. Always watch for these kinds of objects and any other potential choking hazards on your pet's costumes.
  • Allow pets to get used to wearing their costumes before going trick or treating on Halloween.
  • Avoid itchy, uncomfortable, or restrictive materials. 
  • Choose a brightly colored costume so you can be seen at night, especially if you plan to take your pet Trick or Treating. Attaching a blinking light and using reflective material will increase their visibility.  If you use glow sticks and jewelry, keep in mind that they can be toxic to your pet if ingested. 
  • NEVER force your animal to wear clothing because most animals don't understand what human clothes are and why they need to wear them.
  • If if you really need to put an outfit on an animal and your animal hates wearing costumes, a better choice might be dressing up a stuffed animal.

It's essential your animals feel comfortable and safe wearing their Halloween costume. Otherwise, it's not worth upsetting them by making them do something that scares them.

Have a fun and safe Howl-o-ween!


Linda said…
Thank you for this sensitive article. I have found that pit bulls can often be hams and clowns, and love to dress up, but at the same time, through their energy, strength, and enthusiasm, the costumes rarely have a long lifespan.

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