Buying a costume that fits *

*(Online clothes shopping for dogs)

Ever buy a really amazing outfit online and end up returning it because it didn't fit? We all have - and it can be just as hard buying clothes online for your pet! Here are some helpful tips from veteran pet shoppers.

1) Measure, measure, measure - and read the product descriptions! Do the costume sizes have measurements? Follow the instructions and measure your dog. Most dog clothes are sized by one or more of 3 measurements - shoulders to tail, around the chest (just behind the elbows) and around the neck. If your dog is between sizes, the larger size is usually the safer choice.

Some dog clothes go by weight. I personally think this is ridiculous. There's just as much difference between a 15 lb pug and a 15 lb Italian Greyhound as there is between two people weighing 150 lbs who are respectively 5' and 5'10" tall! Look for other hints in the item description (such as recommended breeds) or contact the site's customer service for help.

2) Fit by example - if the package suggests a certain size for your breed of dog, that's usually a safe choice - assuming your dog is typical of its breed. Make adjustments for extra large, extra small and extra wide individuals as needed.

3) Hats, heads and ears - Are your dog's ears close together or far apart? Do they stick up or flop down flat? When buying a dog hat always look to see where the ears are supposed to go. Some have places for the ears to stick through, on others the ears go underneath. Compare this to the type of ears your dog has.

4) Pay attention to sleeves and leg holes - Because of the wide range of dog body types, sleeves and leg holes can be problematic when buying some dog garments, such as sweaters. Most costumes, however, have a looser fit so this is rarely an issue.

5) Length - Is your dog on the short side? Make sure the costume fabric isn't so long that your dog is tripping on it! Most of the time this can easily be fixed with fabric glue.

6) Tails - Just when you're sure you've thought of everything, once I bought a garment for one of my dogs only to find I'd chosen the correct size but her TAIL wouldn't fit through the tail hole! Apparently it was designed for dogs with small cropped tails - boxers, poodles, terriers - not for a long, fluffy Sheltie tail! Fortunately, most costumes open down the back so this isn't a problem!