Is Halloween Trick-or-Treating Going to the Dogs?

First published in the Oct. 22 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

OK, so you are concerned about how, and if, you are going to dress the children up for Halloween.
But wait: there’s another thing to think about — besides the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s how you are going to dress your pet up for trick-or-treating.

Photo courtesy Josh French
Around Town columnist Andy Lippman’s dog, Scout, recently got into the Halloween spirit at Urban Pet and donned a racehorse jockey costume.

Yes, people do worry about such things, and the Urban Pet store on 900 Fair Oaks Ave. is glad they do. In fact, if you want to know this year’s top-selling costume, it was a hot dog. Yes, dress your dog up as a hot dog.
Alas, it is already too late to find that costume at the Urban Pets, at least in South Pasadena.
“We’re already sold out,” said manager Josh French. “Last year, our biggest selling costume was an alligator — and it sold out, too.”
Dracula costumes are big sellers, too, this year, French said, adding that he’s also selling more spiders and sharks this year.
“They are easy to get on,” French explained. “They either go on the head or slip on the body like a harness.”
MarketWatch, citing data from the National Retail Federation, reported in 2019 that Americans spent around $490 million on Halloween costumes for their pets that year, more than double what they spent for the season in 2010. Additionally, that article said a survey from indicated that 51% of respondents planned to costume their dogs in 2019.
Now, I’ve got a dog, and I’m not sure how long a costume would last on him, or even whether I’d buy one in the first place. But French said that he’s noticed that younger customers are buying costumes these days — and it’s pretty evenly split between men and women.
“It’s a lot more acceptable for Halloween,” French said. “It just goes to show the amount of trust there is between dogs and their owners.”
Notice I said dogs. French said that cats are not much into costumes, although the store does sell holiday bandannas for both dogs and cats. And in the category of “pets wear the darndest things,” French said that one of his employees has a pigeon, which she showed off in photos of the bird wearing overalls.
Obviously that’s a bird that trusts its owner.
Store executives look through catalogues months ahead of time, hoping to find that “something” that will catch a customer’s eye in order to prepare for Halloween season.
This year, French struck pay dirt with Oogie Boogie, the iconic villain from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” best described as a jazz-singing boogeyman made of burlap and stuffed with various bugs. French explained it is a plush toy that he described as looking like a “spooky little sandman.”
“Now that was a surprise,” French said.
French said that a lot of people dress up their dogs for family parties during the holidays, or to greet trick-or-treaters at the door. Troublemaker that I am, I asked French about dog treat bags.
“That’s a great idea,” French said, “but I haven’t seen anything like that yet.”
Where’s a pet supposed to put his treats? I guess he’d have to play a trick on his owner.
As far as treats go, French said that a lot of the companies have special packaging for treats on the winter holidays. In case you are planning that far ahead, French said that costumes weren’t as big as they are at Halloween, although elf ears and reindeer antlers are usually good sellers.
“People like to have little stockings for their pets, and they put in toys or treats as stocking stuffers,” he said. “Some of the treats come in flavors like turkey or cranberry.”
Bandannas that have sayings like “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” are also in vogue, and if you have a Jewish household or friend, there is also a “Happy Han-ukkah” bandanna. I asked about a Kwanzaa bandanna and although French said it was a great idea, he hadn’t seen one of those yet. Christmas might be a good time to buy your pet that sweater you think they have been craving.
It doesn’t cost too much, I found out, to make your pet happy. You can buy a toy for $5-$20 and there are bones and treats that cost less than that. If you want to buy a dog sweater, it can run $25-$50. That’s probably less than the sweater you are planning to buy for your Aunt Rose.
The Urban Pet in South Pasadena was one of those businesses that was eventually designated essential and remained open during the shutdown of many local stores during the first months of the pandemic. When Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced that stores were closing at midnight, I was one of those people who rushed to the Urban Pet store to stock up on dog food and a special brand of treat that my dog loves. No use everybody suffering during the shutdown.
“There were lots of people who did the same thing,” French said, “and they were delighted to hear that we were going to be open. Everyone was really helpful in terms of following protocols. Everyone was looking out for each other. It was — and is — a nice community thing.”
French said that they are just now beginning to stock winter holiday merchandise, and except for some pet food, the South Pasadena store has not been hampered by the ongoing supply chain issues as far as order deliveries go.
Urban Pets also has stores on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, the Silver Lake and Eagle Rock neighborhoods and West Hollywood. The South Pasadena store has a dental cleaning service once a month and vaccines are given when they are available.
I’ll close now and go off in search of an Oogie Boogie costume. I’d hate to have a grumpy dog around the house on Halloween night.