Getting your dog the wrong costume can be worse than having no costume at all.
Even if they live through the horror of the awful costume you’ve stuffed them into, your relationship may never be the same.
So, the question is, how do you choose a costume for your dog?
Whether you are looking to buy a dog costume for Halloween, Christmas, or any other fun occasion, there are a few things you may want to consider before you start picking it out. This list below will help you narrow down your options and avoid the hazards of an ill-chosen costume for your pooch.
How Do I Know If a Costume is Right for My Dog?
Just like people, our dogs have all sorts of personalities.
Some are more outgoing and attention-loving, and others are more on the shy side. There are many dogs that take to costumes right away while others are more unsure about it and my try to communicate that they would rather not be wearing one. It’s important to take the time to evaluate how your pet feels about the costume by paying attention to the body cues they give you.
If your dog displays any of these signs you may want to reconsider their costume or try to help them slowly adapt to wearing a costume:
- Excessive panting
- Refusing to move
- Constant pawing and clawing at the costume
- Hiding and refusing to come out
If your dog has a hard time adjusting to the costume you can try some of the tips in the next section.
How to Train Your Dog to Wear a Costume
It’s not uncommon for dogs to dislike the feeling of being constrained by a costume or other types of clothing. The good news is that it’s possible to train them to become more comfortable and even enjoy wearing costumes. The trick is to reward them for positive behavior while they are wearing the new outfit. Here are few ways to get started:
- Start As Early As Possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get your dog accustomed to wearing a costume. If you begin dressing them up at an earlier age, clothing and accessories will feel like a normal part of life. If you happen to have an older dog it’s not impossible to train them but you will probably have to be patient and go about things more slowly.
- Work Your Way Up. Rather than trying to immediately dress your dog up in a full costume, start with small accessories like hats, booties, etc. The first time you put your dog in a costume, try to keep it short. A few minutes are a good starting point and you can gradually increase the time as they become more comfortable.
- Use Positive Reinforcement. Creating a positive association with wearing a costume is one of the most effective ways to make it an enjoyable experience. Reward your dog with attention, praise and the occasional treat when they sniff the costume, lie on top of it and eventually wear it. With patience and positive associations, your dog will not only learn to tolerate their costume but may even begin to have fun with the experience.
During this process, it’s best to keep your dog at home or in another familiar territory. Too many new things at once may overwhelm them and will make it difficult to get them to adjust to their costume. The following section will outline how to get started with your dog’s outfit measurements.
How to Take Your Dog’s Measurements
While certain breeds of dogs are better suited to different costumes, it is always a good idea to take your dog’s measurements to make sure you’re getting the right size.
The main item you’ll need is flexible measuring tape. You can improvise with a ribbon or some string along with a measuring stick but the flexible measuring tape will be simpler to use and also more accurate.
The parts of your pet that you’ll need to measure will depend on the type of costume you want to dress them up in. If it includes a hat or head piece then you’ll have to take head measurements in addition to body measurements. As you get started, keep in mind that the measurements listed on the product page are the size of the actual costume and do not need to match the size of your pet.
For a good fit, you’ll want the costume measurements to be about an inch larger than your pet’s measurements. This will leave some room for their fur and comfortable movement. If your pet is especially fluffy or rolly you may want to leave another inch or so to better accommodate them. Here’s a basic sizing chart to help you get started (Note * this chart is only meant to provide an estimate. Actual sizes can vary greatly depending on the costume manufacturer):
Start with the chest measurements, since they are the most important and then continue with other areas like the neck, head, legs, etc. As you’re selecting a costume for your pet and you aren’t quite sure about the size it’s always better to go bigger than smaller. Costumes that are too small are a safety hazard and will make the costume wearing experience difficult for your pet. If a costume is a little too big you can always have it adjusted or use accessories to keep it in place.
Before you purchase a costume for your dog, you may want to go over the following list of questions to help you determine if it’s going to be a good fit.
1) Will My Dog Be Comfortable?
While you might be able to deal with the annoyance of a costume that is too tight, or poorly made, your dog should not have to suffer through a costume causes them pain or any other form of discomfort.
Make sure that you choose a costume that is appropriate for the size and breed of your dog and made out of materials that work for the current season. It’s not just about comfort, it’s also about safety.
2) Is the Dog Costume Going to Be Safe?
Anyone who cares about their dog would hate to accidentally harm them with a bad costume choice. It’s important to stay away from choking hazards, items that can get wrapped too tightly around their neck, or costume pieces that cover your dog’s mouth and nose.
One of the best ways to determine if a costume is safe is to have your dog wear it for a short period while you closely watch them and make sure that everything fits the way it’s supposed to.
3) How Often Does My Dog Wear Costumes?
If your dog never really wears costumes or other types of costumes, then it can be a good idea to give them a chance to get used to them before the costume event.
Get a few inexpensive items in your dog’s size and use them to train them to be comfortable with the experience. This may also give some ideas about the types of costumes they will tolerate best.
4) How Active Is My Dog?
What will your dog be doing while they are wearing their new costume? If you have a mellow pooch that is likely to lounge or do some light walking then your costume options for them are a little broader than for a dog that cannot hold still.
Make sure that openings around the neck, legs, and tail are wide enough to allow them to move comfortably and that any velcro or elastic on the costume won’t be pulling on their skin or fur.
5) What is the Costume Made Out Of?
If you want the dog costume to last for more than a single use, it’s important to consider the material that it’s constructed from and the quality of the costume. Poorly made costumes that are produced with cheap fabric or plastics are not only more likely to fall apart easily, they can also be less comfortable for your dog.
Check to see what type of fabric and chemicals are used for the costume to avoid anything that your pet might be allergic to. Itching, scratching, sneezing or other odd behavior from your dog can be a sign that it’s time for the costume to come off.
6) What Size Should I Get?
This is one of the most important considerations for your pet’s costume. If you get them a costume that is too small it is guaranteed to be uncomfortable and could even restrict breathing and movement. A costume that is too large could also become a hazard if your dog gets tangled in it or trips over the long material.
When you’re looking for sizes take advantage of sizing charts and recommendations for different breeds. If you want to order your dog’s costume online then you may want to have them try on some similar items in a local costume store.
7) What Will This Experience Be Like For My Dog?
While there are many reasons to buy a costume for your dog, the ultimate goal should be to find something that will also be fun for your dog. If your dog is in pain, has difficulty breathing, gets panicky or even feels humiliated in the costume you’ve picked for them, they will not associate costumes with pleasant feelings.
Check out our recent post, 13 Dogs That Absolutely Hate Their Halloween Costumes, for ideas of what you might want to avoid.
Additional Dog Costume Considerations
A dog costume often falls into the same category as a toy — which makes supervision important. Even if your dog is exceptionally comfortable with their costume and is being well behaved, they should not be allowed to run loose and be out of your sight for too long. Keep your dog in a contained area when you are indoors and on a leash if you are venturing outside.
When it comes to choosing a costume for your dog, pair your judgment with the points above you should be set for a fun time for the both of you. If you have any other tips for selecting a dog costume we’d love to hear about them in the comments below!