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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 pooch can bond. This is especially true at Halloween, when you and your dog will have an opportunity to take part in costume contests, parades, and other events to show off your creativity. Our local Humane Society, for example, has a “Howling Party,” while our dog club has its annual “Fun Fair.” Other organizations put on dog parades. The best part about all of these events is that you are able to show your dog off in costume!
Even if you are staying home this year and waiting on trick-or-treaters to come by, consider having your costumed dog go with you to the door. Or, if you have 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-costumed dog greeter might have neighborhood children running away before they get their candy should he jump upon them.
Before I became a dog owner, I thought it was silly, unfair, and perhaps a bit inhumane to dress dogs up for Halloween. Since those days, I have become a dog owner and now realize dogs love to participate in all activities (except a trip to the veterinarian). Participating together in Halloween festivities with your favorite furry friend is another opportunity for you to cherish your time together.
WORDS OF WISDOM ABOUT DOG COSTUMES:
Over the years, I have learned a few lessons about dressing dogs up for Halloween. Every year when Halloween approached, I would work feverishly trying to create the perfect dog costume. Spending hours sewing together parts of old-fashioned mops, I attempted to make my terrier into an instant Komondor (a.k.a. Hungarian Sheepdog). For a day, I wanted him to feel like one of those amazing dogs with a Rasta-style hairdo. When people spotted him, they would exclaim, “Hey it’s a dog in a dog costume!” But, I really thought, It’s a dog in a people costume!
As I walked proudly down the street with him in his Komondor costume, he decided to shake until his costume des mops dragged along between us. From a distance, I thought he might get by looking like a street cleaner. But to my despair, he didn’t. As crowds watched, he simply looked like a dog dragging a huge mop down the street — how embarrassing!
This is when I learned the first two essential rules for dog costumes:
1. Keep the costume light.
2. Keep the costume simple.
The next year, I had a puppy to dress up. Constructing an adorable lightweight costume was my only goal. Since the puppy loved carrying objects in her mouth, I covered a stick in leather for her to bite and carry. Then, I attempted to put a pair of panties on her. She frantically yelped, bounced, and wiggled them off, and consequently refused to let me near her with the undergarments in hand.
This is when I learned the third essential rule of dog costumes:
3. Always give your dog a trial run before assuming she will wear any costume you muster. Or, better yet, have your dog wear the costume around the house before Halloween so that she will 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. Since I had learned from experience, I chose to fashion a costume that was simple, easy to make, and lightweight. My dog was going to be “a walking billboard!” I glued two rectangular pieces of foam core together with material in the center and was going to lay it over the top of my dog. This time, however, I was determined to be smart about it by letting him get used to it beforehand — following my own third rule.
It worked out great as he paced around the house and the billboard costume got some great laughs from friends and family members. I was happy that things would turn out better than the two years previous. As the parade began, we marched along together and he suddenly did the unexpected, as if he were planning it all along. He crouched down and the billboard became a non-flexible tent. He was able to walk right out of it, which got additional laughs from the crowd, but meant an immediate disqualification from the contest.
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 dog’s mid-section and put a small lightweight blanket over him. The blanket had a little box sitting on it with two tiny stuffed animals. I had ribbons around the bottom of the balloon that I attached to the box. The costume was adorable, or so I believed. It was a balloon-ride costume. The bobbing balloon must have been more exciting to the other dogs because as soon as the other dogs got sight of him, they started pulling away from their owners in hot pursuit of the shiny red balloon. Fortunately, I had a pair of scissors and cut the string. Up, up, up it went. Bailey and I were free, but so was our balloon. And once 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 any gathering, think about what you should bring along In case something needs a quick fixing or if something goes wrong.
6. Bring your camera and have plenty of film. I wished I had gotten a picture of my dog in his balloon costume before I snipped the string. Check your camera batteries too. And, have a friend take some photos of you and your dog together — you’ll enjoy them later.
Last year, however, I took the easy way out. I purchased a Superman costume from a costume shop. Most costume shops 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 back up. So, once again, we were off to our annual dog club “Fun Fair,” and one of the featured activities was a Halloween dog parade with an award for “Best Costume”.
My dog was dressed upon arrival. I tied the cape under his chin and that was it. Kids shouted, “It’s Super Dog!” Adults responded by shouting “Not original!” Someone walked up to me and asked, “What happened? We expected you, at least, to be original.” Feeling guilty, I sat there not taking home any awards. But, it was the first time my “Super Dog” participated in his very first Halloween parade. To me, he looked great and I was so proud of him. Then towards the end of the night, we were called over, along with several other “Super Dogs” with the same attire, for a photo shoot.
Copyright © 2008 Melanie Light
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