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Should you dress up your pets for Halloween?

By Mary Daly
October 15, 2018, 4:53:39 PM EDT

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It seems like every little Dachshund was made to wear a hot dog costume on Halloween. But is it really such a good idea to dress up our pets? They may look adorable, but those costumes could have some frightening consequences. Here’s what the animal experts have to say about keeping pets safe and dressing them up for Halloween.

Halloween pet safety

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Halloween is the spookiest of holidays, but it can be genuinely scary for your pet. So it’s important to take precautions to keep pets safe from Halloween hazards.

The tricks

The eerie decorations, creepy costumes and rambunctious trick-or-treaters are likely too alarming for many pets. “Before the trick-or-treating starts, put your pets in a quiet room where they will be safe from all the Halloween activity,” the Humane Society of the United States recommends. “… Masks and costumes change how people look and smell to a pet, so even familiar people may become frightening.” Make sure pets are wearing a collar with current ID tags in case they manage to slip outside in all the commotion.

Likewise, monitor pets around Halloween decorations. Some of the scarier decorations might cause your pet to panic, while others might have unsafe parts. The glow sticks and candles people often put in jack-o-lanterns are especially dangerous to pets.

The treats

Candy is everywhere on Halloween, and it could have some terrible repercussions for your pet. “Chocolate in all forms — especially dark or baking chocolate — can be very dangerous for cats and dogs, and sugar-free candies containing the sugar substitute xylitol can cause serious problems in pets,” according to the ASPCA.

Keep the candy bowl out of your pet’s reach, and monitor any children with candy, as well. Plus, be on the lookout for dropped candy around your neighborhood on Halloween and in the days after, as pets can easily scoop it up when they’re outside. If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center right away.
The experts weigh in on pet costumes

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Halloween costumes really can up the adorable factor of our pets. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a pug dressed as a pumpkin or a cat wearing a witch’s hat? But we have to respect the animals’ boundaries. And most pets are much happier spending Halloween in their birthday suits.

The ASPCA, HSUS and Best Friends Animal Society do not recommend dressing your pet in a costume unless you’re positive they’re completely comfortable. “If you do dress up your pet for Halloween, make sure the costume does not limit his or her movement, sight or ability to breathe, bark or meow,” the ASPCA says. “Check the costume carefully for small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that could present a choking hazard.”

Best Friends suggests slowly introducing the costume to your pet. Allow it to air out, and lay it on the floor for your pet to investigate. Praise them if they’re interested. If you have other pets who aren’t dressing up, put them in another location, as seeing an animal in costume might cause them to become fearful or aggressive. Then, dress your pet slowly, praising them every step of the way.

Most importantly, know when to throw in the towel. “If your pet demonstrates fear, stress, and/or defensive behavior during the process, your pet may not be comfortable dressing up. Be respectful to your pet,” Best Friends says. Immediately remove a costume if your pet becomes uncomfortable. “Signs of discomfort include folded down ears, eyes rolling back or looking sideways, a tucked tail and hunching over,” according to HSUS.

How to take a ‘spooktacular’ pet photo

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If you find a costume your pet is completely relaxed in, you’ll certainly want to snap some pictures. And Best Friends has a few helpful tips on taking “frighteningly good” shots.

First, comfort is key. If your pet isn’t comfortable in the costume, it’ll show in the photo — and it’s not fair to the animal. So give them a chance to acclimate to what they’re wearing, and make adjustments if necessary. (Sometimes, a simple Halloween collar or bandana is all you need to document the holiday.)

Then, it’s time to set the scene. If you have Halloween decorations that aren’t too scary for your pet, consider taking photos in front of them. And despite the dark and spooky holiday vibe, you’ll still want good lighting. “The best light for photography is the soft light between bright sunlight and dark shadows,” according to Best Friends. Avoid using your camera flash, as it tends to make pet eyes glow — unless you actually want them to look a bit demonic for these photos.

Furthermore, don’t overthink posing your pet. As long as you can make them focus on the camera, you’ll likely get a great photo that showcases their costume. Plus, make sure you get your photos done early before your pet decides dress-up time is over. And in the spirit of Halloween, spoil them with a few treats for humoring you with their tricks.

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