What you think of as a cute costume can be a source of confusion for your dog. It’s important to start slowly when you’re introducing your dog to wearing new items, such as a sweater, body wrap or headgear. Here are some ideas to try if your dog seems resistant to wearing costumes.
Providing food and verbal rewards is critical to getting a dog accustomed to any costume piece. If you need to put something over or on their head, get down on the floor with them and have them sit. Familiarize them with the item, and praise them when they sniff or mouth it. Once they’re comfortable with the item, try to put it at least partly on, preferably from the front and underneath. Reaching over the head of your dog with an unfamiliar object could startle them. Every costume piece on the dog equals a treat and loads of praise.
Don’t Make Them Angry
Your dog knows when they’re in trouble. If you raise your voice or get frustrated as you try to get them into the costume, they can move from shame to confusion to anger quickly. Be advised that all dogs can bite, especially if they feel threatened. Putting headgear on a dog with very sensitive ears could enrage your dog. In addition, avoid anything that will bobble around on their heads. Dogs descend from hunting animals, and many of them still have strong sight or hound instincts. Anything that bounces in and out of their field of vision can cause panic and may make them snappy.
Fit and Function
Try to find a costume that fits snugly but doesn’t rub and cause discomfort at the leg joints. A close, but not snug, fit across the chest is key. If the costume is too loose, your dog can trip or snap their foot in the body of the costume and panic or get hurt. Of course, the dog needs to be able to relieve themselves. Also, take great care to make sure that the dog is not overheating. Check them for drooling and for red skin on their tummy. Be sure to monitor them for a lot of panting. Finally, be aware that many fabrics contain glitter and other itchy elements. If they’re scratching, take it off.
Your dog loves to engage with you and wants to please you. You can get many breeds into a costume with some patience and time. For Halloween, start getting your dog used to the costume in the summer. If you want your dog to wear a Santa suit, start in September.