Dressed For the Occasion: Pets Participate in Halloween -- or Not
Once upon a long time ago, Halloween was peopled by pint-size ghosts and goblins, pirates and fairies.
Given what’s happened to the holiday, even Elvira, that comely Coors witch created in 1987, seems positively old (big black pointy) hat.
Pets already have seat belts, day care, carpeted stepping stools, pool floats, therapists and play dates. Halloween costumes were inevitable.
Because even in tough times people provide for their pets: at least $50 billion in 2011, reports American Pet Products Association. Costumes at the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade in Manhattan, in its 22nd outing, are always spectacular.
These extras appeal to owners, says accredited pet trainer and canine good citizen evaluator Sarah Salisbury, of PetSmart in Aberdeen.
Costume selection is off the charts at PetSmart and other outlets — from a sweet pair of butterfly wings to a serious Superman rig. Slipping a team T-shirt over Rover’s head and paws is as passé as the name Rover.
But buying a pet costume may be easier than convincing the pup to wear it.
“Some dogs are hams; they’re fine with it. Others aren’t,” Salisbury says.
She offers these suggestions:
n Start with a body costume. Dogs have less of a problem, especially those accustomed to coats or sweaters.
n Give the dog a chance to get used to the costume before Halloween. Put it on for a while, then take it off.
n If the dog isn’t comfortable, he won’t move, stand with his head low or roll on the ground. Walking with his tail high means he accepts the costume.
n When all else fails, try treats. Some are Halloween-themed.
n Don’t leave costumes around for dogs to chew on. Many have sequins and small parts, which can be swallowed.
n On the big night, keep your dog confined in a room or his crate. Kids in costumes may frighten an animal.
n Keep candy away from dogs.
No two cats react the same. A mild-mannered cat may tolerate a costume long enough for a photo.
Take Angus, a docile orange tabby adopted by Mary Novitsky, and dressed as a bumblebee. Angus is harness- and leash-trained, which helps. But his reaction to the costume, Novitsky says, was, “You’re kidding me.”
“He became more and more incredulous, like ‘I’m not moving until you take this off,’” she says.
If your dog absolutely refuses to cooperate, try decorating his leash or collar. Kids enjoy making dog biscuits from a pet-specific recipe, especially dough that can be rolled out and shaped with a pumpkin cookie cutter.
The ASPCA advises keeping wires and cords connecting Halloween decorations out of chewing reach. A frisky dog or curious kitten can knock over jack-o’-lanterns lit by candles, causing a fire. Don’t take your dog trick-or-treating, and make sure he doesn’t dart outside when the door is opened. A dog or cat’s collar should always include an ID tag with address and phone number.
Holiday excitement stresses all but the most laid-back pets. Provide the reassurance and affection necessary to withstand a potentially harrowing Halloween experience.
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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