A dog behaviourist, who owns Ryecroft Meadow in Wrexham, has warned dog owners about dressing their furry friends up in Halloween costumes.

They ask for owners to think about the potential impact putting a dog in a costume can have on its behaviour.

While you may think your dog looks adorable when dressed up in its spookiest outfit, you should be aware of their welfare and behaviour.

Some dogs might like to be dressed up but others are not keen on the idea.

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Handling dogs while putting on costumes for them can cause them stress especially if the costume needs to be put over their heads or if their legs need to go through sleeves.

Something that owners might not realise is that their dog might seem fine even when they’re not.

The dog behaviourist explains that there are four F’s to look out for in stressful situations: fight, flight, freeze or fidget.

You should take your dog out of the costume when it is safe to do so if they are:

  • Rolling around, trying to get free
  • Pulling at the costume with their teeth or paws
  • Refusing to move or frozen in fear

You should never ignore these signals and beware of aggression as this is the way some dogs try to get away from what’s making them uncomfortable.

Aggression can occur especially when owners are ignoring the more subtle warning signs.

Warning signals can include:

  • Nose or lip licking
  • Yawning
  • Turning their head or body away and walking away

It can also quickly turn into growling, snapping and biting.

The freeze response could come after they’ve tried to struggle out of the costume.

It’s extremely common for dogs when wearing outfits to freeze and emotionally shut down. They also stop trying to escape because they feel they can’t get away.

Some costumes may cover a dog’s face or restrict their movement, so much so that they could be unable to show their usual behaviours.

The costume can cause some dogs to become confused and unsure of how to understand your dog when they’re wearing it.

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Owners might also struggle to understand the dog’s behaviour and misinterpret their body language.

Dogs are also at risk of running away from the situation and injuring themselves in the process. They could also put themselves in danger if they are outside.

Injuries to the dog can occur including getting stuck, swallowing items, or losing balance and hurting themselves.

In worst-case scenarios, dogs can be stressed and suffer fatal events.

When dogs are given choice and control, they can excel when it comes to handling but when they have to be held down in a vet appointment, for example, this can be stressful for dogs and upsetting for owners.

The dog behaviourist encourages owners to work on cooperative care which trains dogs to tolerate handling and teaches them to be willing participants.

It requires classical conditioning, a process which means learning by association. For example, pairing things that dogs like, such as treats, with handling can make them feel more comfortable.

This learning process can be used when it comes to clothing.

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When putting clothes on your dog, make sure they are happy being handled and that they aren’t showing distressing behaviours when they are wearing it.

You need to make sure that the clothing gives them a full range of movement and that it’s not too tight, affecting blood supply or too loose, allowing them to get stuck.

The dog behaviourist asks that you don’t force your dog to wear something that doesn’t benefit them and that is just for human entertainment this Halloween.

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Instead, to get cute pictures, you could sit them next to some pumpkins or in front of Halloween backdrops, like the one available to use at Ryecroft Meadow.

If you’d like to find more information on how to keep your dog safe and happy this Halloween and Bonfire Night, you can visit the Train My Puppy Facebook page.