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Halloween has become a big holiday in America in terms of consumer spending, largely because it is now celebrated by far more adults than children. Door-to-door trick or treating has become rare for a lot of reasons, among them safety as well as health, as more and more parents opt for not letting their kids stuff themselves with candy.

Meanwhile, many major cities host Halloween block parties for adults, and almost every big amusement park has its own scary walk-through attraction featuring vampires or zombies or other very adult thrills. And, as Halloween has become more popular with grown-ups, another group has begun to participate more and more.

That would be our canine friends, and the pet costume industry has exploded. Last year, Americans spent $350 million just on costumes for their dogs, dressing them up as everything from Darth Vader to a Disney Princess to bring along for the fun. A lot of my fans will probably assume that I think Halloween costumes for dogs are a bad thing, right? You might be surprised to learn that I think there’s a place for them, but with very specific conditions.

When it comes to clothing in general for dogs, it can serve a purpose: protection. Booties to keep their feet safe from snow or hot pavement are fine, and so are coats to keep them warm when it’s very cold. Backpacks, of course, fulfill their need for jobs, and dog goggles can protect their eyes from the sun or irritants like sand and dust.

Dogs may still put up a struggle when you try to put any of these things on them — who wouldn’t, since it’s a lot more comfortable to not wear anything? But at least each of those items above has a perfectly logical purpose designed to keep your dog safe or comfortable.

So what about that ballerina outfit, or the bumblebee costume, or dressing your wiener dog up like a wienerschnitzel? It doesn’t provide protection or really give your dog a job. In fact, Halloween costumes for dogs are really only for the owners. They provide us with a source of amusement and a way to feel like we’re helping our dogs to participate in the event. And as long as we keep that in mind, it’s fine.

The costume is for us, not the dog. And the key word is “costume.” Just as each of us may dress up as something we’re not for the holiday, we have to remember that we’re doing the same for our dogs; dressing them up as something they’re not. They can be very cute like that and get a lot of attention, but underneath the costumes, they’re still just dogs.

Since dogs in costumes can be so cute, I decided to finish this post in a video, where you can see a lot of dogs in costumes, and hear the rest of my explanation on why doing this can be perfectly okay, if you do it in the right way…

Stay calm, and watch the video.

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