One of the joys of being a dog mom is putting your sweet boo in adorable clothes and accessories. But you can’t expect dog costumes to be immediately popular with the wearer—which is why we asked Hallmark’s Union Hill Photo Studio Stylist and expert dog rescuer Nicole C. to share her tips for choosing, making, and photographing your best friends.
HOW TO CHOOSE A COSTUME FOR YOUR PET
Every fall, I get sucked into the aisle of pet costumes at Target. I must sound like a maniac, laughing to myself about the possibility of my squirrel-chasing dog dressed as a squirrel, or my long, short dog dressed as a hot dog.
I’ve dressed my dogs as everything from pumpkins (cute felted hat with simple orange t-shirt) to princesses (doll or child’s tutu, felt tiara, and an elastic string of giant pearls). There are so many options out there that will look great on camera and still be comfortable for your pet.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing your pet’s costume:
- Pre-made is your pal. Buying outfits already fitted and tested on pets is the easiest solution if you want to dress your doggo in a full-body costume.
- Make it—mindfully. If handmade costumes are your jam, think of ideas that use soft materials and don’t make a lot of noise. While paper crafting is cute, the sound and stiffness will most definitely freak your pet out and the costume won’t be as durable. Felt is a great option, as you don’t even have to be an accomplished seamstress— hot glue can hold it all together.
- Consider mobility and vision. When brainstorming costumes, think of things that don’t limit your pet’s mobility or obstruct their vision. If putting hats or wigs on your animal is in the plan, consider cutting ear holes—dogs hate to have their ears covered. Just the ear width and the space between the ears. Use Velcro on wide elastic to make an adjustable band.
- Respect your pet! If your pet isn’t into costumes, don’t torture yourself or your fur kid. Maybe get a festive holiday-themed collar and paint on Halloween icons (like 2D glow-in-the-dark googly eyes!) with an attachment like a bow tie. Buy Halloween-themed fabric for a festive and easy bandana.
- Safety first. NEVER leave your pet unattended while they’re wearing a costume. A cape, hat, or elastic costume piece can get caught on something and harm your pet. Costumes are for special events or photography purposes only. Please make sure your babies are safe and happy.
HOW TO GET YOUR PET COMFY IN A COSTUME
Sometimes dogs and cats don’t like to wear things on their body or head. As a photo stylist who often has to costume and wrangle pets for photo shoots, I’ve learned a few tricks for getting animals to wear outfits.
- Exposure therapy: Try the costume on, repeatedly, for very short amounts of time.
- Praise: Always give your furry friend lots of high-value treats while they’re wearing the costume. (Try small pieces of hot dog, real chicken—something more exciting than the typical store-bought treat.) They begin to associate the costume with treats they really love. Verbal praise also goes a long way. For example, praise your pet every time they wear a hat without trying to paw it off. Rewarding your pet while the costume is still on will be the quickest way to earn their trust and not overwhelm them.
- Patience: Be patient with your baby. Don’t get frustrated or negatively correct them if they just can’t stand it. Like all training, repeated positive reinforcement will eventually work. You just may need to practice for short amounts of time daily for a few weeks.
HOW TO FILL YOUR IG WITH AWESOME PHOTOS
After your pet gets used to the costume, they’ll be ready for the spotlight. Taking photos for your IG or other social media is a must if you’ve gone through all the trouble of getting your good dog to dress up.
- Teamwork: Doing it by yourself is next to impossible (unless you have a perfectly trained pet) so enlist the help of your partner or friends. One person should stay close to the animal to keep in place, adjust costumes, and reward the animal with treats. One person operates the camera. You can even grab a third to get their attention with a squeaker or toy. Remember to reward your baby with praise and treats when they sit, stay, and look at the camera.
- Background and lighting: Think about a simple background, so the costume really shines. Posing your pet close to a non-direct natural light source is always best. Taking photos outside in open shade is a great option, especially with the fall leaves changing (if you’re lucky enough to live in the Midwest, like me).
- More patience. Just be aware that sometimes getting your pet’s attention with all the outside distractions can be tricky. Sometimes, giving them something to sit on, like an old crate or a haystack surrounded by pumpkins, will help keep them in place.
- Once again, safety first. Keep a leash on your animal if you’re not in a contained area. Make sure Halloween candy is off the floor and away from your pet’s reach: Things like chocolate and gum can be deadly to dogs.
If you’d like to make your dogs some special yet healthy treats, here’s a great recipe for pumpkin dog cookies.
Nicole’s Favorite Dog Treat Recipe
- 1 cup natural peanut butter (Choose a brand without sugar.)
- 2 cups pumpkin puree (It’s good for digestion. Make sure it’s pure pumpkin—not pie mix!)
- 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (Use rice flour for wheat-sensitive dogs)
- 2 tablespoons whole ground flaxseed (It’s full of omega 3s, which are good for dogs’ hearts, coats, and joints.)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix pumpkin puree and peanut butter (we used a stand mixer).
- Add flaxseed.
- Slowly add flour. The dough should be a firm consistency, easily rolled into balls, and not sticky.
- Divide dough into three balls.
- One at a time, roll out each ball to about 1/2 inch thick on a lightly floured surface.
- Cut cookies into your shape of choice and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
- Check to make sure the cookies aren’t too soft to hold their shape. Bake a little longer if they’re too soft.
- Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container. Refrigerate for two weeks or freeze for three months.
Hope you and your pets have a very Happy HOWL-OWEEN! And clearly we want to see ALL THE PICS of your pets in costume. Just tag us at Think.Make.Share on Instagram.