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Posted on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 6:55 a.m.

Is Halloween going to the dogs (and cats)? Pet costumes flying off the shelves this year

By Angela Smith

There are plenty of questions I have as a new dog owner: Which pet food should I be buying? Can I bell train my dog for potty breaks? What is the most effective way to minimize barking? And perhaps the most time sensitive: Should my dog have a costume for Halloween?

Thumbnail image for grandpa Roo.jpg

Although my dog Roo enjoys her grandfatherly sweater vest on a cool autumn day, I'm not sure she will get into a costume for Halloween.

Pet costumes have seen a steady increase in popularity in Ann Arbor and around the U.S. News sources ask patrons to send in pictures of their cutely costumed companion, pet stores offer costume contests, and people who see their pets as part of the family want their four-legged children to share in the fun of Halloween.

In reality, I know my 9-pound spirited-yet-timid Miniature Pinscher Roo will likely be barking from the back room for much of Halloween night, no costume needed. But while shopping, there are a few that do catch my eye. Who doesn’t smile at a hot dog?


image via google shop

Both my dog and my 4-year-old son are fascinated by sharks -- chasing stuffed ones and reading about vicious ones, respectively. If my son is a shark for Halloween, wouldn't it be amusing if boy’s best friend was the same?


image via ebay

And what’s not to love about a Scottish Carrier?

Or imagine the political comments she’d be making as Mutt Romney or Bark Obama.

Halloween costumes have become big business for retailers, and predictions are showing an increase in pet costume spending this year. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend an estimated $370 million on Halloween pet purchases. That is up by $40 million from last year.

“Americans in general don’t want to skimp on their pets — if the family is dressing up for the evening, they want to make sure all family members get in on the fun,” according to spokesperson for the federation, Kathy Grannis. Consumer anthropologist Robbie Blinkoff explains another reason for the trend. "People are dying to get dressed up themselves, but many lack the confidence. We dress up our pets, who are a symbolic extension of ourselves."

Pet costumes range in price from about $7 to $25 according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. The report goes on to say that the most popular pet costume in the Midwest is a frog.

Ann Arbor dog trainer and Petco employee Kelly Ralko says she would not agree. “We do not even sell a frog costume. I think the hot dog is the most popular.”

The San Diego-based retailer offers a wide selection of pet costumes, and the local Petco is sponsoring a costume contest on October 27 at 2 p.m. Ralko will be judging and hopes to see some creative and even some handmade costumes this weekend. “People have been hush-hush about their plans. They want it to be a surprise and can’t wait to show off their pet.”

But there are people who frown upon the practice of pet costuming. It's easy to scoff at the exorbitant spending, or criticize pet owners for not thinking about the stress or hazards involved with some costumes. Both the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals warn that ill-fitting costumes as well as those that constrict movement or have small chewable parts can be a danger. But if pet safety and comfort remain at the forefront of the costume decision, risks are minimal.

So will you be costuming your dog this Halloween?


PetPost Post

Fri, Dec 14, 2012 : 3:37 a.m.

Is good post There are plenty of questions I have as a new dog owner: Which pet food should I be buying? Can I bell train my dog for potty breaks? What is the most effective way to minimize barking? And perhaps the most time sensitive,for information. the pet post


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 7:04 p.m.

you can put lipstick on a dog and its still a dog!


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

Every time I see articles like this, I can't believe the commenters. Their thought process isn't as complicated as you think. They don't get self-conscious. When animals see themselves in the mirror, they're not checking themselves out and worrying about their looks. They think there's another dog inside the mirror! Animals do feel ashamed, maybe even embarrassed, when you scold them, but they don't have the ability to reason - in order to be embarrassed of your clothing or a costume, you'd have to have some form of self-consciousness. Animals don't ever "feel stupid". If you complain about pet owners dressing up their pets, then you better complain about parents dressing up their babies, too. Babies are essentially unaware that they're wearing a costume, just like pets are. As one of the commenters said, that is also "for YOUR well-being, not theirs". Maybe we could worry about things that actually matter, like animals that are being neglected or abused.

Ann English

Sun, Oct 28, 2012 : 12:01 a.m.

I remember very well how my last dog didn't get self-conscious: smiling though one cheek was bleeding from another animal biting her, smiling when she came out of the veterinarian's treatment and exam area with a lot of fur shaved off, and stitches showing there. The ONLY reason I ever put a T-shirt on her was because the vet recommended I do so to protect her stitches from the elements. It happened to be summertime.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

I don't understand why the replies to this were deleted. As far as I know, someone was just saying that another issue, one more important than pet costumes, is the issue of people who don't keep their dogs on a leash. Why not delete the comment below this which is making a passive-aggressive attempt at calling someone stupid?


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

Speaking of an uncomplicated thought process ...

Dog Guy

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

Many, many people keep pets mainly as fashion accessories for their own public images. Is putting a pet in a Halloween costume any essential change?


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

As usual the poll question is incomplete! Where is? This is the dumbest idea to come along in a while. Pet owners are like little kids. They can be swayed by every gimmick to get them to spend their money. Don't bother bringing your pet to my door!


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.


Dog Guy

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

What if the pet has been given a human name? Will you give treats to Steve and Lola?


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:21 p.m.

I will never understand the need to dress a pet up like a human. Now a sweater or even boots/socks for cold weather, I get. That's protection against the elements and for the animal's well being. Dressing up a dog (a cat, are you SERIOUS?!) is for YOUR well being, not theirs. And they know they look stupid. They give you those LOOKS. HEED those looks. Spend your money on a new new chew toy.