Animals and Money: Dressing Fido for Halloween

In the midst of an ugly recession that has businesses worrying about Christmas spending, Halloween is turning into an unlikely strong spot in the economy. According to the National Retail Federation we'll spend nearly $6 billion on Halloween this year. And a growing part of that is in pet costumes.

More of us are planning to celebrate Halloween this year (64.5%, up from 58.7% last year). And we're collectively going to spend a little more each. The average person will spend $66.54, up from $64.82 a year ago. The typical budget is $24 for costumes (including pet costumes), $20 on candy, $4 on greeting cards and $18 on decorations. Halloween greeting cards? No, thanks--I'd like more candy.

PetSmart surveyed owners this year and found 16 million of us plan to dress up our pets. A survey from found 40% of dog owners had definite plans to dress up their dog, and an additional 25% will include their dog in festivities of some kind.

I'm assuming participating in Halloween means attending a party or helping give out treats to trick-or-treaters, but the survey doesn't say. The release also doesn't say how they did they survey, but to get such a high percent of Halloween participants, my guess is they just did it on their site, which attracts the most enthusiastic dog owners.
The Retail Federation says the most popular dog costumes are pumpkin, devil, witch, princess and hot dog.

Halloween can be a welcome holiday for anyone overwhelmed by the much higher stress, higher obligation Christmas. No one feels bad for being single on Halloween. Halloween spending may be up, but Halloween is still not that much about spending money--or at least feeling like you have to spend money. And dressing your dog up fits perfectly into that. There's no pressure to dress up your dog. Just the opposite.

Halloween has become a big event in dog run communities around the country. My own dog run, Tompkins Square, has the biggest in New York City and uses it as a fundraiser for the dog run. My dog Jolly, now almost 15, is a little old for Halloween these days. Not that he's too mature, but he has arthritis and won't like the big crowd. When he was younger, he dressed variously as a dalmatian, a member of KISS, a rescue dog and the Statue of Liberty.

Jolly is a big ham and genuinely liked the extra attention he got wearing a costume. What I learned that he didn't like: wearing anything on his head or feet. Your have to keep your dog's comfort in mind: Dogster's survey says 43% of dog owners say their dogs resent wearing a costume.
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