I have a new dog, and I can’t wait to dress him up for Halloween. Is it wrong to want to take my dog trick-or-treating with the kids and show him off to the neighborhood?
In a year that has upended so many of the cultural traditions we hold dear, it’s no wonder countless pet parents are eagerly anticipating a holiday where they and their dogs can dimension-hop and be someone else for a day. And how cute would your pup look dressed up in a Halloween costume? But should you take your dog trick-or-treating?
Well, the answer is, “it depends.” We all like to think our dogs are the most adorable creatures on the planet (and they are), but not everyone you encounter may think the same as you do. And then, of course, there’s the whole matter of staying safe during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control is urging against traditions such as door-to-door trick-or-treating, large indoor gatherings and haunted-house tours, so it’s up to each of us to find an appropriate and safe way to embrace the spirt of the holiday. If you plan on taking your dog trick-or-treating with you this year, know that venturing out with ghouls, ghosts, Goldens and Greyhounds (or any other breed for that matter) will require particular attention to good manners and keeping safety top of mind.
For starters, you need to be honest with yourself about whether your pup is a prime candidate for All Hallows’ Eve activities, whatever that may look like this year. Will your Labradoodle or Peke be mightily tugging at their leashes the whole time? Will they ignore your pleas to heel? Will they tucker out and expect to be carried? Will they bark ferociously at every Baby Yoda and Mulan they see? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” for your sake and that of others, you may want to reconsider.
The next thing to ask yourself is whether you and your dog can follow CDC guidelines for staying safe. Eight months into the pandemic, maintaining six feet of separation from those who are not members of your immediate household should not feel unfamiliar. Keep your dogs on a leash at all times when outside, and avoid the temptation to let them come into close contact with others. If strangers approach nearer than you think is prudent, keep things light by saying something along the lines of: “Bailey and I are social distancing, but even from here, it’s so great to see you and your wonderful costume!” And of course, make sure you mask-up for those instances when physical separation from other humans is not possible.
Should you decide to take your dog along trick-or-treating, you might want to reconsider the costume part of the equation. Yes, I know you have dreams of you and your Schipperke outfitted as Jon Snow and Rhaegal while you saunter proudly through your cul de sac. But if your dog detests the encumbrance of clothing, don’t force the issue. The less physically comfortable dogs are, the more uneasy they are.
Can’t part with the idea of a doggy costume photo opp? Do an Insta-worthy photo shoot before heading out, or even well before October 31. This is the strategy employed by actress and budding pet photographer Maureen Chandler Reid. Her Bichon Frise, Harvee, will be showcased on social media in a variety of costumes this year—from Beetlejuice to mob boss—taken in sessions of no more than 15 minutes at a pop, all done in the weeks leading up to the holiday. The very self-aware pup “doesn’t care much for costumes but he tolerates them,” the Yonkers, New York-based thespian says. By Halloween, however, he’s been there, done that with the multiple ensembles. Instead, Chandler Reid puts the 3-year-old in a Halloween shirt or sweater so he remains cozy while keeping in the spirit.
If you decide trick-or-treating is not a good idea for your dog, that doesn’t mean you and your pooch can’t still enjoy the spooky season. While homo sapiens are being encouraged to keep their distance from one another, dogs needn’t necessarily do the same. Take a page out of New Yorker dog mom Cecilia Moreno’s book. She’s thinking of arranging a small outdoor gathering for her two King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, Annie and Jessie, and their friends, with plenty of treats on hand, of course.
This may in fact be the best solution of all. By convening the pets in a secure outdoor area such as a dog run, the humans can safely distance in character, the dogs can cavort with their BFFs and best of all, if anyone says “boo,” it won’t be because of your manners.