As we leave the Halloween season of dressing ourselves and sometimes our dogs in costumes, we move into holiday festivities, which offer the same possibilities, and I got to thinking about why people dress up their dogs. I’ve written about this before, but I think I may have a handle on it now.
I used to think that putting a costume on a dog was just a way of trying to humanize the dog, and I often wished people wouldn’t indulge in this exercise because it was asking the dog to be seen as something he or she wasn’t. But, after years of being involved with Old Dog Haven and seeing hundreds of dogs dressed in costume at various events, including the all-time favorite Best Costume contest at the Walk for Old Dogs, I think there may be a different message here.
Perhaps people who dress their dogs in costume, especially during various holidays, are saying “You’re a member of our family and our family celebrates this holiday, so you’re a part of that celebration.” Being a valued member of a family is really a big deal for our dogs because many of them have never had that experience, or if they have, it was a very long time ago. To be shown off by people who love them gives the dog an opportunity to experience a kind of inclusiveness that’s important.
It’s all about belonging.