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Tip of the Month

10/24/2008 Have a Happy Halloween with your Hound!

It’s that spooky, haunted time of year again, and many proud dog owners desire to show off their pooches by dressing them up in adorable doggie costumes. Doggie Halloween costumes and canine couture have skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, and numerous dog owners have followed the trend. However, not all costumes are designed for comfort, and perturbed canines may blatantly show their disdain for wearing clothing. The key is to ensure that your pooch is comfortable and that his breathing and movement are not impaired by the clothing. Your dog trainer can help you with these steps.

To properly fit and accustom your canine to his costume, follow these steps:

• Purchase your pooch’s costume early so you can help him become used to wearing it over a period of two to four weeks.

• Bring your dog along with you when you purchase the costume (if possible). Stores may not allow you to try the costume on your dog, but you can at least estimate the size by holding it up to his body.

• When fitting a costume, check the hemlines around the neck, feet, and tail. If it feels tight, it’s most likely uncomfortable and potentially hazardous to his health.

• After purchasing the costume, take it home and begin getting your dog used to it at least several days before Halloween.

If you have an animal trainer, have him or her help you with the following steps during your training sessions:

1. Start by simply draping the costume over your dog’s back, and treat him lavishly for being a good sport.

2. Then, you can move on to putting the costume on loosely, and again, treating him generously for compliance.

3. Practice dog training by having your dog sit, lie down, and stay while wearing his costume to ensure that his movement is not impaired.

4. Once he seems comfortable with the costume, zip or Velcro it accordingly and allow him to wear it around the house for a short period of time each day or during private sessions (if your dog trainer recommends and allows it). Again, deliver cues like sit, lie down, and stay to ensure a proper fit. Treat him abundantly for his obedience.

• Make sure your canine is always supervised by you, a family member, or a dog obedience trainer when wearing his costume.

• If your dog attempts to remove the costume, or if he seems unhappy or uncomfortable even after you have followed all advice from this article and from your animal trainer for getting him used to wearing it, do not force him to wear it. Remove the costume and either attempt a simpler idea (such as adorning him with a festive Halloween bandana) or allow him to avoid a costume altogether. While some simple dog training will suffice for many dogs, other dogs simply will not put up with wearing a costume.

For safety’s sake, it is also a good idea to attach reflective patches to your dog’s costume so he is easy to see on Halloween night. Trick-or-treating with your canine can be fun (as long as he is friendly, non-aggressive to animals or people, and not afraid of costumed kids), but safety is a crucial factor. Consult your dog trainer for advice if needed. If you are not 100 sure that your pooch will enjoy being out and about on Halloween, keep him inside and have him help you greet trick-or-treaters. The children will surely be thrilled by your festively dressed canine.

Happy Halloween!

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