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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 dog can bond. This is especially true at Halloween, when you and your dog will have the opportunity to participate 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 organize dog parades. The best part about all these events is that you are able to show off your dog in costume!
Even if you stay home this year and wait for the trick-or-treaters to come by, consider bringing your costumed dog 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-dressed dog greeting can make the neighborhood kids run away before they get their candy if he were to jump on them.
Before I became a dog owner, I thought it was stupid, unfair and maybe a little inhumane to dress up dogs for Halloween. Since those days I have become a dog owner and now realize that dogs love to participate in all activities (except a trip to the vet). Joining Halloween festivities with your favorite furry friend is another opportunity for you to cherish your time together.
WORDS OF WISDOM ABOUT DOGS:
Over the years I’ve learned a few lessons about dressing up dogs for Halloween. Every year, as Halloween approached, I worked frantically to create the perfect dog costume. I spent hours sewing parts of old-fashioned mops together, and I tried to turn my terrier into an instant Komondor (aka Hungarian Sheepdog). For a day, I wanted him to feel like one of those awesome dogs with a Rasta-style haircut. When people saw him, they would exclaim, “Hey, that’s a dog in a dog costume!” But I really thought it was a dog in folk costume!
As I proudly walked down the street with him in his Komondor costume, he decided to shake until his costume des pugs dragged between us. From a distance I thought he might get it by looking like a street cleaner. But to my dismay, he didn’t. As the crowds watched, he simply looked like a dog dragging a huge mop down the street – how embarrassing!
This is where I learned the first two essential rules of 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 to carry objects in its mouth, I covered a stick in leather so it could bite and carry. Then I tried to put a pair of panties on her. She screamed frantically, jumped and wiggled them off, refusing to let me approach her with her underwear in hand.
This is where I learned the third essential rule of dog costumes:
3. Always give your dog a test ride before assuming she will wear a costume you pattern. Or better yet, have your dog wear the costume around the house before Halloween so she’ll 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. Having learned from experience, I chose to make a costume that was simple, easy to make and light. My dog was supposed to be “a walking billboard!” I glued two rectangular pieces of foam core together with material in the middle and had 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 well as he walked around the house and the billboard costume got some good laughs from friends and family members. I was happy that things would go better than the previous two years. When the parade began, we marched together and he suddenly did the unexpected, as if he had been planning it all along. He crouched down and the board became an inflexible tent. He was able to walk right out of it, which drew further laughs from the audience, but meant an immediate disqualification from the competition.
This is where 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 midsection and placed a small lightweight blanket over him. The blanket had a small box sitting on it with two small stuffed animals. I had ribbon around the bottom of the balloon that I attached to the box. The costume was adorable, or so I thought. It was a balloon costume. That tipping balloon must have been more exciting to the other dogs, because as soon as the other dogs spotted him, they started pulling away from their owners in hot pursuit of the shiny red balloon. Luckily I had scissors and cut the cord. 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 where I learned the fifth and sixth essential rules of dog costumes:
5. Be prepared. Before you go to a gathering, think about what you need to bring in case something needs to be fixed quickly or if something goes wrong.
6. Bring your camera and get lots of film. I wish I had gotten a picture of my dog in his balloon costume before I cut the leash. Also check your camera’s batteries. And get a friend to take some pictures of you and your dog together – you’ll enjoy them later.
Last year, however, I took the easy way out. I bought a Superman costume from a costume shop. Most costume shops now carry such accessories. The costume was light which was a plus. I decided I would just use the cape and keep the other parts of the costume as a backup. Then again we were off to our annual dog club “Fun Fair” and one of the featured activities was a Halloween dog parade with a “Best Costume” award.
My dog was dressed on arrival. I tied the cape under his chin and that was it. Children shouted: “That’s a super dog!” Adults responded by shouting “Not original!” Someone walked up to me and asked, “What happened? At least we expected you to be original.” Feeling guilty, I sat there and didn’t take home any awards. But it was the first time my “Super Dog” participated in his very first Halloween parade. To me he looked amazing and I was so proud of him. So towards the end of the night we, along with several other “Super Dogs” wearing the same attire, were called to a photo shoot.
Copyright © 2008 Melanie Light
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