K9 Corner 0922

September 22, 2004

Two of my friends are designing and sewing costumes for their dogs for Halloween.

This brings back memories of a really entertaining dog obedience fun match held in Cincinnati back in the '70s. This match was called the Halloween Howler and the half-time entertainment was a costume class.

One of the 4-H members, who came with me, exhibited her miniature schnauzer in the "look-alike" class. The dog wore a pink elephant's costume complete with a swinging trunk and tree-shaped legs, and the youngster wore a pink outfit.

They won first place, but they had competition because I remember dogs dressed as witches and pirates, and I took pictures of a miniature pinscher dressed as a clown. This little dog was able to walk on his/her hind legs and dance around in a circle like a human.


The costume covered the dog from ruffled neck to ruffles around each paw and was in the clown colors of bright yellow with quarter-sized red polka-dots.

The October issue of Dog Fancy has a short article by (author) September Morn titled "Costume your Dog Safely."

Morn is concerned about the comfort and safety of dog costumes and writes, "There should be nothing that obstructs (the dog's) vision or causes her to trip and nothing so tight it hampers circulation or normal movement."

That brings to mind the miniature schnauzer/pink elephant.

I was intrigued that the little dog heeled quietly beside her owner in such a completely enclosing costume. I asked the mother how they did it and found out that it was an all summer project.

First the mother and daughter fashioned a "frame" of pipe cleaners (are they obsolete now?) and the dog was taught to wear the frame while being encouraged and rewarded.

The head had a frame so the eye holes would stay in place and there was a frame for the trunk so it would be round but swing as well. Each leg was encased in a pipe cleaner frame of three vertical pieces with two horizontal rings attached.

After the dog learned to ignore the frame the pink batiste (very light weight cloth) was sewn to the frame and the dog practiced moving each day for a few minutes.

Morn suggests letting the dog see and sniff the costume and be rewarded with treats first.

Then, Morn says, drape the costume over the dog's back several days in a row before putting it on. Any head gear should be introduced slowly too.

A very important point Morn makes is that humans dressed in costumes are frightening to most dogs and the animal should be taught at home what to expect and rewarded for good behavior during the training period.

The family members should dress up in front of the dog and immediately remove the costume and reward the dog.

One simple tool could be draping a sheet over your head or putting on a mask that covers the eyes. Make the experience fun for the dog as well as the handler.


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