Should People Dress Up Pets for Halloween?
Sure, it's cute, but have you thought about how they feel about it?
I think dressing up a pet who has been trained to accept wearing things using positive reinforcement (praise & positive associations) is acceptable for photo ops, as long as they're not showing any signs of stress or humiliation.
For animals, playing "dress up" is very unnatural and uncomfortable. We must take caution and look out for their mental and emotional well-being.
Dressing up certain animals with aggressive tendencies can exacerbate the problem, as stress causes these animals to snap.
Dressing up shy or fearful animals can make their anxiety worse.
Taking any dog out in public while wearing a costume can cause major communication problems. What I mean is, if your dressed-up dog comes in contact with another dog (costume or not), the dogs will have trouble reading each other's body language and intentions. This could lead to a fight or degradation of confidence. Please consider your pet's emotions when choosing to dress them up.
See this picture below; on the left we have a dog who has been asked to "wait" while his photo was taken. He looks happy, because he knows that wearing this "thing" will earn him praise or treats. In the middle, we have the same dog who is not pleased with wearing his "costume". On the right, we have a cat who is clearly not happy with her costume.
Could you identify the animals' emotions? I would say they were displaying them very clearly. Pay attention to your own pets' signals and see if you can create positive associations with the costume before you make them wear it. If you can't accomplish a neutral or positive response, then don't make your pet wear a costume!
So to summarize, pets should be conditioned to accept wearing costumes, and never forced.
Happy costume-wearing! (or not)
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