I’m a huge lover of holidays. Really, I’m kinda a big kid about all those things, and I especially love finding ways to enjoy the holidays with our dogs. This past weekend, my partner and I attended the 15th Annual Great PUPkin contest here in Brooklyn. I’ve seen pictures online for the past few years but this was the first time we’d actually attended. There were dogs in all kinds of amazing costumes and it was fun to see how creative folks got! Here’s a few of my favorites that were really great costumes, and also that the dogs seemed to not be stressed by and enjoy as well. And to me, that’s one of the most important things about costumes. When dogs are incorporated into holiday plans, I want to make sure that they’re enjoying the festivities, not stressed out or uncomfortable in order for people to get a laugh.

Here are a few of my favorite costumes from this weekend:

Once we got home, we took our own dogs out to play in the park, still wearing their costumes from this year. My secret with costumes is to look for sales; the big pet shops like PetsMart tend to put the costumes on sale several days before Halloween, and I scored these two for just a couple dollars apiece. Mercury gets cold easily, so he’s very accustomed to (and actually enjoys) wearing clothes, which makes costumes a non-issue for him. I’ve not really spent much time adjusting Charlotte to costumes, but happened to find this fun little rider and it didn’t bother her one bit — I actually think it felt like a harness to her, something she’s very accustomed to wearing.

We went to the park in the afternoon; there were holiday festivities happening, and lots of kids in costumes. I was surprised at how excited everyone was (adults and kids alike) to see our dogs all dressed up, and the number of positive comments we got. We go to the park multiple times per week and there are usually at least a couple of people who are nervous or uncomfortable around our dogs. Not while they were all dressed up! Everyone thought that they were pretty precious; I know that part of that was that the dogs were happy and unfazed by their costumes.

Here are my training tips for getting your dog in the perfect costume this week.

1. The right fit

Find or make a costume that properly fits your dog and doesn’t restrict movement. Once you select a costume that you think is cute and funny and ensure it’s the right size, you’ll be on your way to a fun Halloween with your dog.

2. Touch

Teaching your dog to be comfortable with being touched all over their body is a great all-around part of training. It helps you to identify if there’s anything wrong, like a medical condition, or to help treat your dog if they are injured. Dogs who are familiar and comfortable with being touched are more likely to smoothly adjust to wearing costumes.

3. Treat for tricks

Have lots of high-value cookies on hand when you are starting to familiarize your dog with their costume. With a dog that is unfamiliar with dressing up, I like to start slow, treating (and clicking!) for any interest in the costumes, and then for allowing it to be put on.

4. Take it slow

Throwing a costume onto a dog who has never worn one will likely end up with you both being frustrated and stressed. Like anything else, you need to start slow. Use lots of treats and work up to Fido being able to keep the costume on all night long.

5. Safety

Make sure the costume you choose doesn’t restrict movement and doesn’t pose any danger towards your dog. At the costume contest this weekend the MC had to stop the festivities to tell a guardian that her dog’s leg was caught in the part of a costume! Yikes!

About the author: Sassafras Lowrey is a dog-obsessed author based in Brooklyn. She is the winner of the 2013 Berzon Emerging Writer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation, and the editor of two anthologies and one novel. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, and she assists with dog agility classes. She lives with her partner, two dogs of dramatically different sizes, and two bossy cats. She is always on the lookout for adventures with her canine pack. Learn more at her website.

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