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Creating Award Winning Dog Costumes

It's never too early to start working on your next pet Halloween costume. That's my motto. Each year I create a handmade, couture costume for my dog Kitai. I adopted Kitai from a Northern California Animal Shelter 6 years ago when he was somewhere around a year old. Kitai does have a mellow disposition but that doesn't mean I just threw a costume on him and headed out the door to go trick or treating.
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"Chia Kitai"

The Original Chia Pet Dog Costume

Let's start at the beginning. For a pet costume to truly be fun your pet has to not mind wearing it. If you dog or cat freaks out, rolls constantly, pants, breathes heavily or tries with every fiber of its being to rid itself of a costume, I would discourage you from pursuing pet costuming as a shared activity.

Kitai as Cesar Milan "The Dog Whisperer"

If however your pet doesn't mind dressing up, or as in Kitai's case actually seems to enjoy it, then pet costuming could be a fun activity that you and your fuzz ball can enjoy together.


How does one get a pet to enjoy wearing a costume? With Kitai it took nothing more then a dog treat each time I "fitted" his costume to him during the design process. Now he eagerly hangs around waiting for his next fitting so that he gets another treat.

"Sushi Dog"

Secondly, every time your pet wears his or her costume they should have fun. That means no wearing the costume during anything your pet would not equate with fun. Kitai knows when his costume comes out he's going to go somewhere where there will be lots of people, dogs, treats and maybe even a new toy in store for him if he wins a costume contest. So when he sees his costume come out of the closet he literally lights up and start prancing around the room because he knows something fun is about to happen.

Kitai's terra cotta pant legs for his "Chia Kitai" costume.

And now for the basics on creating a custom dog costume:

1. Make sure your idea is unique by doing a google image search for whatever you're considering as your costume and adding the words "dog, pet, halloween, costume" to the end of the search string. If twenty images pop up showing other similar costumes people have made or a mass produced version of the idea I'm considering, I move on and think of something more unusual.

2. Use felt to create your costume. It's inexpensive and you don't have to finish the edges so it saves a ton of time. You can cut and tack it all together by using a sewing machine or hand sewing. I always double the felt and use two layers to make Kitai's costumes more sturdy.

3. Start out using a standard "horse blanket" style base to cover your dog's body. Kitai doesn't mind his costumes as long as they are only on his body so I never put anything on his head or paws because he would probably freak out.

Remember, comfort is key. If your pet isn't comfortable then it's no fun. This year's Chia Kitai costume was more work then usual because I had to create little pant legs for all four of his legs as well as additional single layer panels that ran along the bottom of his costume. This enabled him to sit or lay down no problem. Had I not taken this extra step the costume would have been too cumbersome for him to move in naturally.

Good luck on designing your first or next pet costume!

To view more pictures of Kitai's costumes or if you're looking for a new pet to adopt from a Northern California shelter or rescue please visit where you will find links on the home page that may help you find your perfect pet.

Idea submitted by:Stacie Tamaki

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