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Whether you’re hoping to enter a Halloween costume contest with your dog, dress him for a fun family photo, or just bring him along in costume while you trick-or-treat this Halloween, it’s important that you first make sure he’s comfortable—and happy—while dressed to impress!
So you’ve ordered the perfect costume for your pooch. You excitedly put it on him and stand back to marvel at his incredible cuteness- only to watch him suddenly start pulling the clothes off and ripping it apart as he dashes everywhere in near panic…
Well, we can’t blame you for feeling upset. Our dogs have become so integrated in our families that we have humanized them; treating them like one of our own children. We share our beds with them, they relax on the couch and watch TV with us, we even take them out to dinner! But because wearing costumes is not something that dogs are naturally accustomed to, don’t be surprised if your pooch seems uncomfortable at first.
Teaching your Dog to Wear Clothes
The key to training your pooch to wear a costume is treating him for positive behavior while he wears the new outfit. Dogs often dislike the constrained feeling that wearing costumes can cause. That’s why to help him enjoy wearing outfits, try the following:
· Start early. Because dogs are more likely to be tolerant of clothes if exposed early, try teaching your pooch while he’s young that wearing clothes is fun. Now, if your dog missed this early training when he was still a puppy, you can still train him by getting him accustomed to moving around your house with some clothes on. You can also try ordering that costume ahead of time.
· Start simple. When getting your dog accustomed to wearing clothes, start with simple, easy-to-wear items like bowties, a simple vest, or a comfortable headband—but not all at once. Start simple and work your way up to more elaborate costumes over time.
· Create positive association. Teach Fido to link pleasant experiences with the costume prior to wearing it by showing the outfit and rewarding him even just for looking at it. Once he starts sniffing the clothes, mark it as your cue to giving him treats and praises. After that, try putting the costume on for a couple of minutes. Reward him for staying calm by giving your pooch lots of treats and praises throughout the entire process.
· Continue on slowly. If all goes well, try increasing the time that Fido wears the costume for about five minutes. In the next few days or weeks, slowly increase the time that your pooch wears the costume until you successfully work up the two to three hours needed for the party or trick-or-treating. Just don’t forget to reward him each time he shows desired behavior. This way, your dog will gradually realize that wearing clothes means food and fun.
Eventually, with patience and positive reinforcement, your dog will not only tolerate wearing trendy costumes but may actually delight in the accolades and rewards he gets while wearing them.
Remember, don’t leave your pooch wearing his costume unsupervised. Your pup may pull his new outfit off, knock things over, eat it, get tangled, or choke. Always look after him while he’s still dressed up for the night.