I completely agree with what Nicholas Dodman says in this article about ‘positive’ punishment when working with our dogs: He asks us to “think of dog training as similar to training a child” (though I would replace the word ‘training’ with the word ‘teaching’!).
Dogs are as unique as the families they are a part of, so it is impossible to make a blanket statement about what is good for any dog in particular. That said, there are four things to consider in order to determine if dressing YOUR dog up for Halloween is in fact causing him or her stress and discomfort, or if he truly couldn’t care less and enjoys the attention!
1. Does your dog shy away from wearing clothing of any kind? If you don’t put clothing on your dog any other time of the year, it may be scary for your dog to now have a strangely-shaped object around his or her body. On the other hand, if your dog doesn’t seem to mind an occasional sweater and can move easily in it, then it may not be a big deal for him or her to wear a costume, too.
2. Is your dog quite shy or does he lack confidence around people and/or other dogs? If the answer is yes, your dog may not be comfortable with all of the extra attention he is receiving from wearing a costume. On the other hand, if your dog has an outgoing, positive, and friendly personality, they he or she may thrive on the added attention he or she will get!
3. Does your dog get hot really easily? One of my dogs, Tango, loves to wear sweaters and be wrapped up in anything that will keep her a few degrees warmer during the cold winter months. Sparky, on the other hand, instantly begins to pant if he has any extra blankets around him and prefers to lie on the cool floor. Knowing your dog and paying attention to their preferences will help you to determine whether or not your costume choice will cause your dog to overheat when indoors.
4. Do you know how to tell if your dog is feeling stressed? If your dog begins to pant excessively, it could be either a sign of over-heating as mentioned above, or it could be a sign that your dog is experiencing a great deal of stress. If your dog has his tail tucked between his legs, his pupils are enlarged, his ears are back, and/or if he begins to shake and possibly even whine a little, these are all your dog’s way of communicating to you that he is under a great deal of stress. Not only is this hard on your dog, but a stressed dog is a dangerous dog – especially with lots of little children and activity around.
Knowing your dog and truly paying attention to how he or she is feeling will help you to make a decision about whether you should dress your dog up for Halloween or not. It’s important to remember that the type of costume also plays a role. While Tango and Sparky have clearly communicated to me that they do NOT care for the often elaborate costumes I’ve found in pet stores, they certainly don’t mind a sparkly black and orange harness or a Halloween-themed shirt to get into the Halloween spirit!