Dressing your dog up in a Halloween costume is super cute and a fun way to include the family pet in the holiday festivities. Unless, of course, you’re the dog. In that case, a Halloween costume may feel more like a strapped-on torture device designed to put your in your place.
According to Alexandra Horowitz, author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know,” your beloved pooch may put up with being tricked out as a hot dog or a superhero for Halloween, but he’s likely only doing it to make you happy.
In a column at The New Yorker, Horowitz explains why those Halloween costumes for dogs that we humans think are absolutely adorable can make your pet feel entirely uncomfortable.
Among wolves, one animal may “stand over” another: literally placing his body on top of and touching the other, as a scolding or a mild putting-in-one’s-place. To a dog, a costume, fitting tight around the dog’s midriff and back, might well reproduce that ancestral feeling. So the principal experience of wearing a costume would not be the experience of festivity; rather, the costume produces the discomfiting feeling that someone higher ranking is nearby.
In other words, a costume can make a dog feel like she’s being dominated. Horowitz goes on to describe exactly what my own dog did when I tried to dress her in a Halloween costume last year: She stood perfectly still, looking mighty uncomfortable for nearly twenty minutes until I finally caved and took off her pumpkin suit.
A feistier dog might have reacted with rolling, pawing and wiggling in order to free themselves from their predicament. Or, even more effective, an unhappily costumed dog might roll around in something disgusting so you have no choice but to remove the offending costume.
See? Now I feel bad for even trying to force my puppy to parade around like a pumpkin. What about you? Do you dress up your kids and your dog for Halloween? Is your dog okay with that?
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