Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy All Hallow's Eve!

When I started planning Bella's first Halloween photo-shoot, I had no idea how apparently controversial the topic of 'pets in costumes' was. But after reading comments on Facebook and blogs and forums that sometimes marked me as the devil incarnate for putting Bella in a hat, I thought I would weigh in on the issue from my perspective.

I did my first Christmas photo-shoot with Bella last year, and, to be honest, I had no idea how she would react to wearing a costume. But since I have spent the last 5 years teaching Bella to trust and to not be afraid of a whole host of things from wrapping paper and stairs to weave poles and teeter totters, I was pretty sure I could gain her cooperation without traumatizing her too severely by making her wearing a hat. (Antlers, to be precise.)

Armed with her most favorite treat in the whole world (home-made chicken jerky), we had a blast doing that photo-shoot and have done several others since. To be fair, we don't usually use props. But these shoots, in our world, are training and bonding opportunities. To Bella, it's 'play time'.

Would Bella rather not have to wear a silly prisoner outfit to get that chicken jerky out of my hand? Oh, undoubtedly. Just as I'm sure she'd rather not have to sit for her dinner. But coupling an activity with something she loves is the whole idea behind getting a dog over their fear.

So maybe I wasn't really abusing the dog after all by asking her to don a triceratops horn.

But here's the thing, not all dogs will like being put in costumes. If your dog doesn't, you have two choices: 1) don't do it or 2) work with them to make it a fun experience. And if you don't know whether or not your dog does, err on the side of caution and make it a training adventure.

To folks on both sides of the "Dress Your Pet" divide, I say, come on, let's just use some common sense.

Towards that end, here are a few good ground rules:
  1. Pay attention to your dog. If you see their body stiffen, their head turn away, or their tail tuck between their legs, stop what you're doing. The costume pictured below came with leggings with which Bella never got comfortable. I put them on her twice briefly and she froze. So they came off. Simple.
  2. Be careful not to constrict your dog's breathing or movements with the costume or clothing. The princess costume came with a little "dress" that was just a wee bit too small for Bella. So I let her play with it instead of wear it.
  3. Don't dress your dog up for the first time on Halloween night when all the sugar-crazed kiddies are swarming to your door. The night itself is full of mischief and mayhem, don't make it worse for your dog by putting them in a completely unknown situation. Test first, train, make good decisions and do right by your dog.
Now, for the record and for those who don't know her, Bella is just as likely to produce that teenage scowl she has so perfected whether dressed as a unicorn or hogging the bed.

The best part about trying to take pretty pictures of my dog is how grumpy she "appears" to be about the whole thing. If I was a better photographer, I'd have pictures of our play during these photo-shoots and not just pictures from when I beg her to just sit still for one second.

Remember, a couple of still photos doesn't really tell the whole story. Let's try to be gentle with each other, okay?

Finally, about that last 'costume change' I mentioned in our last post. This one goes out to all my "chicks". You know who you are and let me just say: you rock.

Happy Halloween!


  1. AMAZING. Tell Bella I said thanks and that I appreciate her putting up with that costume. :)

  2. I admit I enjoy seeing how others have costumed their pups, but Gizmo doesn't really enjoy it so I tend to let him be...Bella may look a little less than enthusiastic but she's certainly not being "abused"...some folks just need to lighten up Bella can be our new mascot

  3. A rainbow unicorn! I love the first pic. What a look. Happy Halloween Bella!

  4. Pamela | Something WaggingOctober 31, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    I'm not a fan of dressing dogs up, personally. Why? Because it disguises their natural good looks. :)

    But I think your rules are right on. Any activity that gives you a chance to have fun with your dog and doesn't make your dog too miserable is fine with me.

    BTW, we definitely need a Bella unicorn badge.

  5. Oh, but she makes an AMAZING unicorn!! What a sweet girl :) Happy Halloween!!

  6. I could not love it more. Awesomely terrific!!!

  7. Cool costume! Happy Halloween!

  8. Looks like you are safe

  9. Oh, you totally made my Halloween! I love this, and I can't believe you actually got one of those wigs! Now I want one!

  10. Walter is a super model when it comes to posing for pictures. Millie gets a bit nervous and always wants to get up and come over to me. I can see a lot of "fun" trying to create our Christmas card picture.

  11. haha I have 'dogs wearing hats' down pat now, Barbie and Bender both wear birthday hats, reiindeer horns, and Easter I need to get some bunny rabbit ears (nothing more undignified than a Greyhound dressed as a Rabbit!!)

  12. Great unicorn! If a dog doesn't mind wearing a costume or hat, why not? Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but if the pet is okay with it, we say do it. I wear hats all the time, and occasionally a bit more.

  13. Amaze times a million. That 2nd pic is perfection. Def a BAU.

    You know, Desmond used to let us do whatever we wanted to him, pretty much. But ever since we got him the Roadie harness for the car, which he really did not like, he has been all, get the freak off me, you freaks. Hence, last year's Christmas ensemble was just a lame collar with bells. Boooooo! Elf costume forever!

  14. Hi Leslie; I personally wouldn't dress up a pet, but, what you say is good advice and Bella does look very cute here. :-)

  15. Thanks Debbie. I'm not suggesting anyone who doesn't want to put their pet in a costume should feel pressured to do so. But there were some really harsh remarks made about people who do that I felt I wanted to address. Life is short. We need to laugh a little.

  16. Aww, poor Des. Maybe now that you are all home again, he'll start to feel better. He's had a rough haul - as have you all.

  17. I have the boots and tail too if you want 'em. ;)

  18. Bella makes a beautiful unicorn princess, reminds me of "My Pretty Pony" (Puppy)!

    Maggie and Duke would love to shred the wig, they would have a blast. :)

  19. Jan K, Wag N Woof PetsNovember 1, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    Cute! I don't dress up my dogs, but Halloween isn't my favorite holiday anyway. They don't even like having harnesses put on. But if it was important to me I would follow your guidelines and maybe give it a try to make it more enjoyable. I've read some of those comments out there that you're talking about, and I never understand why people feel free to push their opinions on others so forcefully. It is your dog, and as long as you are not abusing her then it's not really anyone else's business whether you dress her up or not. I don't dress mine up, but I enjoy seeing the others! And I've seen some that may not look thrilled, but never any that were panicking or anything like that.

  20. I'm not into the costume thing with my own dogs, but I don't think it is mean or cruel, if the dog isn't horrified of course. Love the idea of using it as another training session, and I know when we first got Medi she wouldn't wear anything, she even froze and would not move the first time we put a cone on her (for her first surgery).

    But she was always so cold...

    Now she readily wears coats and jackets and shirts - and even the dreaded cone - so I can totally relate to this post.

    Oh, and the "hat" is freaken adorable. :-)

  21. The Unicorn is great!! My guy is a good sport and very tolerant and still wags his tail with or without a costume on.
    ~Rebecca & Teach

  22. Don't worry about what other people think. It's not just costumes that are hot button issues. Your choice of breed/where you get the dog/whether you vaccinate/what you feed/when your dog sees the vet/whether its spayed/whether its microchipped, even how tight and what kind of collar you use is all subject to being attacked by people who are safe behind the mask of the internet.

    In the end, its best to just ignore these people, because nothing you do will ever be right. Your dog looks perfectly happy. Enjoy!

    And by the way, please stop by our NaNo event and consider signing up to write a couple paragraphs. We could really use more people!

  23. Super cute pictures!!

  24. LOVE the costume

    Stop on by for a visit


  25. Oh I love it!! I love the look in that middle photo! If looks could kill.

  26. I love everything about this times about a million. Bella, you area magical unicorn - own it.

    I dress my dogs up ALL the time and IMHO, people who don't are missing an awesome training opportunity.

    I dress my dogs up in ridiculous things (hats, wings, glasses, shoes, and whatever else I can think of) not to make them uncomfortable, but to help them GET comfortable. I want them to know that when I put something on them, not only is everything going to be OK, but I want them to know that they need to LEAVE it on. No exceptions.

    This training allowed to to let Kolchak go cone-free when he broke his dew claw. I wrapped it in some yellow vet wrap to protect it. He left it alone, I didn't worry and it grew out fine (If he hadn't been taught not to fuss at clothes, he might have chewed it off and had to wear a cone or have surgery.)

  27. Thank you for weighing on on this, Jodi. You make an excellent point about learning to leave necessary health care items alone. That is an important life skill for a dog.

    For me, it was simply an opportunity to work with her. Bella LOVES to learn - it's crazy how excited she gets doing her 'tricks' - someday I'll have to video tape it. But any chance I have to teach Bella anything, work with her, and build her confidence and trust is all good to me.