Learning the Hard Way – The Essentials of Halloween Dog Costume Design

Many dog ​​clubs and animal organizations sponsor activities throughout the year where you and your dog can bond. This is especially true during Halloween, when you and your dog get the chance to participate in costume contests, pageants, and other events to show off your creativity. For example, our local Humane Society has a “Howling Party,” while our dog club has its annual “Fun Fair.” Other organizations organized dog parades. The best thing about all of these events is that you get to show off your dog in costume!

Even if you’re staying home this year and waiting for trick-or-treaters to come by, consider letting your costumed dog come with you to the door. Or, if you’ve trained him to open the door to greet guests, even better! If this is the case, your dog should also be trained not to jump on guests when they arrive. A well-dressed dog greeter can make kids run from the neighborhood before they get their treats if he jumps on them.

Before I became a dog owner, I thought it was silly, unfair, and maybe a little inhumane to dress up dogs for Halloween. Since then I have become a dog owner and now realize that dogs love to participate in all activities (except a trip to the vet). Participating in Halloween festivities together with your favorite furry friend is another chance to cherish your time together.


Over the years, I’ve learned a few lessons about how to dress up dogs for Halloween. Every year as Halloween approached, I worked feverishly to create the perfect dog costume. I spent hours sewing together sections of old-fashioned mops and trying to turn my terrier into an instant Komondor (aka Hungarian Sheepdog). For a day I wanted him to feel like one of those great dogs with a Rasta style haircut. When people saw him, they would exclaim, “Hey, it’s a dog in a dog costume!” But, I really thought, it’s a dog in a human costume!

As I proudly walked down the street with him in his Komondor costume, he decided to shake until his costume dragged between us. From a distance I thought he would look like a street sweeper. But to my despair, he didn’t. As the crowd watched, he just looked like a dog dragging a huge mop across the street — how embarrassing!

This is when I learned the first two essential dog costume rules:

1. Keep the costume light.

2. Keep the costume simple.

The following year I had a puppy to dress up. Building a cute lightweight costume was my only goal. Since the puppy loved to carry objects in her mouth, I covered a stick with leather for her to bite and carry. Then I tried to put some panties on her. She screamed frantically, bouncing and wobbling them off, and consequently refused to let me near her, undergarments in hand.

This is when I learned the third essential rule of dog costumes:

3. Always give your dog a test drive before assuming she will wear a costume you put on. Or, better yet, have your dog wear the costume around the house for Halloween so she can get used to it. Don’t learn the hard way.

The following year, I made plans to take my older dog to the Halloween dog parade again. Learning from experience, I chose to make a costume that was simple, easy to make, and lightweight. My dog ​​would become “a walking billboard”! I glued two rectangular pieces of foam core together with material in the middle and would lay it over my dog’s top. This time, however, I was determined to be smart about it by getting him used to it beforehand – following my own third rule.

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It worked great as he paced around the house and the billboard costume got a good laugh from friends and relatives. I was happy that things would go better than the two years before. When the parade started, we marched together and suddenly he did the unexpected, as if he had planned it all along. He crouched down and the billboard became an inflexible tent. He was able to walk right out, which earned extra laughter from the crowd, but meant an immediate disqualification from the match.

This is when I learned the fourth essential rule of dog costumes:

4. Expect the unexpected, even when you think you’ve thought of everything!

The following year I tied a large helium balloon around the midsection of the dog and placed a small lightweight blanket over him. On the blanket was a small box with two small stuffed animals. I had ribbons around the bottom of the balloon that I attached to the box. The costume was cute, or so I thought. It was a costume for a balloon ride. The bobbing balloon must have been more exciting for the other dogs because as soon as the other dogs caught sight of it, they began to pull away from their owners in pursuit of the shiny red balloon. Luckily I had a pair of scissors and cut the rope. Up, up, up it went. Bailey and I were free, but so was our balloon. And again we were disqualified from the parade, as had become a tradition.

This is when I learned the fifth and sixth essential rules of dog costumes:

5. Be prepared. Before you go to a meeting, think about what to bring with you in case something needs to be fixed quickly or something goes wrong.

6. Bring your camera and make sure you have enough film. I wish I had taken a picture of my dog ​​in his balloon costume before cutting the string. Also check your camera’s batteries. And have a friend take some photos of you and your dog together – you’ll enjoy them later.

Last year, however, I chose the easy route. I bought a Superman costume from a costume store. Most costume stores now carry such paraphernalia. The costume was lightweight which was a plus. I decided I would just use the cape and keep the other parts of the costume as backup. So we went to our annual “Fun Fair” dog club again, and one of the featured activities was a Halloween dog parade with a “Best Costume” award.

My dog ​​was dressed on arrival. I tied the cape under his chin and that was it. Kids yelled, “It’s Super Dog!” Adults responded by shouting “Not original!” Someone came up to me and asked, “What happened? At least we expected you to be original.” I felt guilty, I sat there and didn’t take any prizes home. But it was my “Super Dog”‘s first time taking part in its very first Halloween parade. To me he looked great and I was so proud of him. Towards the end of the evening, we, along with several other “Super Dogs” wearing the same clothes, were called for a photo shoot.

Copyright © 2008 Melanie Light