Boo! It's that time of year and perfect timing for week 44 of the Pet Photography 52 Week Challege and the theme "Boo". As a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge and Skills assessed (CPDT-KSA) at Camp Bow Wow Coppell as well as a Certified Professional Photographer, I thought this the opportunity perfectly marry my two passions in an informative post about dogs and Halloween costumes.
Anyone that's ever put a Halloween costume on their dog knows that keeping it on can be a real challenge. Dogs aren't used to wearing hats, or glasses, or apparel with sleeves - add some moving parts to that like dragon wings or bumble bee antennae and some can't get it off fast enough.
I love seeing a dog in a cute costume as much as the next person, but the dog trainer in me wants to the see the dog comfortable with it even more. The good news is that it's really easy to help your dog love - well, maybe not love, how about tolerate - his or her costume for the one day a year that we want to dress them up.
Follow these easy tips to help your furry friend feel comfortable dressing up.
Start early! Unpack the costume two to three weeks before Halloween and leave it in an area where your dog reach it so he can get used to it and it's smell (this will also help air out the costume of it's "new clothes smell" which might be overpowering to your dog's sensitive nose)
Desensitize and Counter Condition - this is a training method that exposes your dog to something at a low enough level that they can tolerate it and pairs it with something great to change how he feels about the experience. This is a commonly used technique for potentially aversive things like nail trims, grooming, teeth brushing etc. Anything that your pup might find less-than-fun. For a costume that would look like one-minute training sessions a couple of times a day where you put various parts of the costume on your dog for a few seconds and feed him treats while it's on and then remove them. Keep the sessions short, one to two minutes is perfect, and keep the treats high value and generous. Slowly increase the amount of time that the costume is on your dog.
Wearing a costume for a quick picture is one thing, expecting your dog to join you for trick or treating wearing it is another, so when your dog is comfortably tolerating the costume, it's time to start having him walk around in it as well. Keep reinforcing with treats and here too. Keep the sessions short, slowly building the time that your dog is wearing the costume.
If this is your pup's first Halloween, consider starting with something simple like a bowtie or headband and work your up to more embellished costumes over time.
Lastly, never leave your pup unsupervised while wearing a costume. If he decides to tear it off himself it could be a choking hazard or just a disaster waiting to happen as he tries to rid himself of it by running through your house with spider legs a-flailing :).
(cute picture of Nugget rocking his costume just because)
Tracy Allard of Penny Whistle Photography is a Certified Professional Photographer with the organization Professional Photographers of America; a designation held by fewer than 2,500 photographers nationwide and a hallmark of consistency, technical skill, artistry and professionalism. Tracy is also a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge and Skills Assessed and has been teaching both obedience classes as well as behavior modification at Camp Bow Wow Coppell for the past seven years.
Penny Whistle specializes in both on-location and studio photography providing pet, equine, family, couples & engagement and high school senior portraits as well as corporate headshots and commercial photography services in her studio located in historic downtown Carrollton as well as on location in Coppell, Grapevine, Southlake, Flower Mound and surrounding communities in Dallas – Fort Worth, Texas.