Happy January! If you are feeling a bit of the doldrums after the holidays, what better way to pick up your spirits than to participate in National Dress Up Your Pet Day today, January 14, 2013! It’s hard to beat the cuteness factor of a furry friend dressed up in an adorable costume. (Think mini-Dachshund in a hot dog outfit if you don’t believe me!)
National Dress Up Your Pet Day was founded in 2009 by Celebrity Pet Lifestyle Expert and Animal Behaviorist Colleen Paige, and sponsored by the Animal Miracle Network as a fun way to celebrate our beloved pets and to support the pet fashion community. The founders caution that the day is not intended to be “…a day to disrespect our pets with uncomfortable, vulgar and/or seasonally inappropriate costumes for the sake of a laugh or photo shoot…” and to “keep your pet’s comfort level in mind when involving him/her in this fun novelty day.” We completely agree. Your pet’s safety and comfort should be the main consideration of any outfit and a costume needs to let a pet be a pet. By following these tips to dress up your pet, the two of you can have a great time together.
Fun costumes should be simple and not limit the dog or cat’s ability to move or use their natural senses. This, according to the National Humane Society, which acknowledges the fact that people love to dress up their pets, but which also lists several precautions that should be followed when choosing a costume for your best friend.
First, take it slow. Give your pet a chance to get used to the costume by buying it in advance and introducing it to your pet with lots of praise and reinforcement, so that wearing the costume is fun for them, too. If they learn that wearing the costume earns them lots of treats, they will look forward to wearing it.
Costumes for dogs can easily be found online, or you may have a costume left over from Halloween—the market for pet costumes and accessories grows every year. Options run the gamut, including a bumblebee, a harem outfit, or even an Indiana Jones get-up. For pets who won’t tolerate full costumes, you could choose a partial costume, like a “rider” (where a toy character, such as a cowboy, appears to be riding the dog). Never put a mask on a pet—obscuring their vision is a recipe for trouble. If you are looking for a costume for a cat, you might choose one designed specifically for that species, or one that fits a small dog. Of course, a lot depends on the cat’s cooperation—which, as any cat lover will tell you, is never a given.
Here are some further tips for choosing the best costume for your special pet:
- Check for loose ends and parts of the costume. Make sure there are no loose parts on the costume that your pet can eat. Objects such as loose fabric or buttons can become lodged in the intestines, causing an obstruction. Loose parts can also cause your pet to trip or become tangled in the costume, resulting in fear, anxiety, and a future dislike of costume-wearing.
- Make sure the costume is not too tight. You should be able to get two or three fingers between your pet and any fabric or tie that goes around your pet, especially around the neck. Costumes that are too tight can restrict movement and breathing, and tight elastics can get lost in the pet’s hair, potentially causing owners to overlook them and leading to swelling and pain in the area of the elastic.
- Do not pick a costume that is too heavy. Your pet could overheat if the costume weighs too much. A heavy costume will exhaust your pet, as well. Take special care to frequently check his level of comfort—excessive panting or falling behind you (if you are on a walk) should signal you to remove the costume.
- Don’t forget the leash. Just because your pet is in a costume does not mean they should not be secured to a leash at all times when out on a walk. You don’t want them running loose and into ongoing traffic just for the sake of cuteness.
- Make sure your pet’s ID tag is still visible. Should your pet get away from you while wearing the costume, be sure that you have not removed the ID tag or collar for the sake of the costume. You will want your pet returned to you safely, and an ID tag and collar are essential for this to take place.
- Listen to your pet. If your pet doesn’t like their costume, they will let you know by trying to take the costume off or by barking excessively. Costumes may be cute, but they can also be irritating to a pet that does not want to be in one.
- Never leave your pet alone in a costume. While you are gone, your dog or cat could entangle themselves on furniture, or if outside, in trees, in shrubbery, or on fences. Or they could chew up their costume, ingesting part of it, causing abdominal problems.
Following these simple safety precautions should ensure a safe and happy dress up your pet day for you and your furry companion.