Train your dog to wear a costume

There are dogs who love to dress up. Then there are the others - dogs who either just aren't into it or at worst are hell-bent on tearing that cute little outfit to shreds!

Sound like your dog? Don't despair - with a little time and patience you can teach your tomboy Terrier to be a costume wearing, photo posing fool ...and love it!

What you'll need:

  • Lots of tiny treats. Use something your dog really likes.
  • An article of dog clothing - hats are easy so we'll use a hat in this example.
  • Your dog, and a place to work where there aren't a lot of distractions.

The basics:

We'll be using a process called "shaping".

The key to this training is to go slowly. When your dog is comfortable with one step in the training on at least 8 out of 10 tries, it's time to ask a little more of him. Work in short sessions - no more than 5 minutes at a time, several times a day.

Any time you have trouble getting your dog to succeed at a particular step, go back to an earlier training step for a while and work your way back up.

1) Introduce the costume - The first thing we will do is just show the hat to the dog. Let him see it and give him a couple small treats. Do not feed him if he attempts to bite it - if your dog tries to eat the hat put them in a stay and let him see it from a safe distance away - this is assuming your dog knows how to stay!

If your dog or puppy has no obedience training and is difficult to control you may want to put some dog training classes on your "to do" list, save the costume for next year, and check out our creative costume ideas for stubborn dogs.

2) Now that your dog has seen the hat, hold it over his head briefly - he should ignore the hat, if not hold it a little farther away. Feed a treat and take the hat away. Repeat several times, each time holding the hat a little closer to his head.

3) When your dog is calmly letting you hold the hat over his head, briefly touch it to his head, feed and remove it. Repeat several times. Again, you want to work this step until the dog is calm about you touching the hat to his head. If you have problems getting to that point, go back to step #2 for a while then try again.

4) Next, set the hat on your dog's head for a second, feed and remove it. Repeat. As before, you are looking for the dog to accept the hat being briefly on his head. If necessary, go back to one of the previous steps for a while and work back up to this one.

5) Very gradually leave the hat on your dog's head for increasing amounts of time (counting in seconds). Always follow up with a treat. Don't proceed too quickly, you want to always be the one to remove the hat (you don't want your dog to get impatient and remove it himself.)

6) Finally, fasten the hat - feed and praise your dog (tell him how Cu-u-u-te he looks in that AMAZING new HAT). Don't make him wear it for a long time, take it off before he has enough and takes it off himself.

7) Congratulations ! You can use this same process to teach your dog to wear other types of costumes. Remember to always work in small increments (hint: it helps to write your training plan downbefore you start training) and use plenty of treats and praise!

Want to learn more about this popular and effective way to train your dog ? Visit Karen Pryor Clickertraining for informative articles, success stories, books, dvd's and more!