Olive and Mochi are pugs with a passion for fashion. No wonder Halloween is their favorite time of year. They've been dressed up as geisha girls, surfer girls and even pieces of sushi over the years. They may not understand the tradition, but "pugs understand positive energy," explains dog owner, partner and costume designer Lisa Woodruff of Huntington Beach, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles.
Ten years ago, it was hard to find a Halloween costume for a cat, dog or duck. Today they are everywhere, from the dollar stores to Beverly Hills boutiques. Offline or on, there are costumes galore.
A little bling or properly draped scrap of fabric can transform your pet into almost any animal, character or celebrity, says Steve Major with All the Same Wild and Tame, an animal sanctuary that sells pet accessories in Sherman Oaks, northwest of Los Angeles.
The most popular ready-made pet costumes so far this year are Superdog, bee, jockey rider, hot dog, pirate, devil, prisoner, Yoda, cowboy rider, Batman and groom, according to public relations manager Lori Samsoucie of buyseasons.com, the largest online costume retailer in the country, based in Wisconsin.
But the most unusual, most creative costumes — the ones that will win contests — are designed in the imaginations of pet owners, Woodruff says.
To get your dogs in the mood, "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan suggests a pre-dressing trick. "Walk the dog, get him tired so when you put the outfit on, he is relaxed," he says.
If a dog relates getting dressed with fun, it will work. The more you laugh while getting the dog dressed, the more they will clown around, he says.
Without the fun, some dogs will seize up or slip into a corner and just cower in a daze.
Costume safety tips
• A costume should not constrict an animal's movement or hearing, or impede its ability to breathe, bark or meow.
• Try costumes on a pet before the big event. Go without dressing up if your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior.
• Inspect your pet's costume and make sure it doesn't have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that an animal could choke on.
• Poorly fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.
• To teach an animal to enjoy wearing a costume, get it used to it a little at a time, associating the fitting of the costume with the animal's favorite things, like a delicious treat.
• Pets should always be supervised while wearing a costume. Remove it if the animal won't have your full attention.
• A pet should always wear an identification tag. Your pet could dash out the door when you least expect it and his tag could be his ticket home.
Source: Katherine Miller, Ph.D., assistant science adviser and project manager for ASPCA national programs