Halloween Hounds: A Guide to Canine Costuming
Looking for some mythological tales to tell around the spooktacular party campfire this Howl-o-ween? Zack Manko and Sorsha share some great ones & ideas on how to bring your dogs in on the action!!
Many dog owners and their pets look forward to October 31st every year. While October has much to offer, by way of delicious fall goodies, crisp weather, and delightful Oktoberfest festivities, many people are zoned in on Halloween alone. And of course, there’s a lot to love here.
Beyond the religious aspect of All Hallow’s Eve, October 31st is also the occasion for candy, parties, and, of course, dressing up. While kids across the country will be throwing on the goblin gear, many adults enjoy putting on a costume as well. Some take it still further, and dress up their dogs, too.
We’ve talked about dressing up your dog for Halloween before, but that was a cautionary tale. This year, we thought we’d give you a one-two punch of history and costume inspiration, as Sorsha and I talk through some of mythology’s spookiest hounds and give you a jumping off point for how to turn these legendary hounds into a costume for your canine companion.
So, get out a notebook, get out the sewing kit, and read on for some houndly Halloween highlights.
One of the most fitting critters for the spookiest of holidays is Cerberus. This three-headed hound was the guardian of Hades (the Underworld) in Greek mythology, keeping souls in and pesky heroes out. Besides the three heads, some descriptions also give him snakes on his back. I’m just stuck on what his food dish must be like.
Cerberus is mentioned in many Greek myths, such as those involving Hercules and his 12 Labors. He also makes an appearance in the pinnacle of Medieval epic verse, Dante’s Inferno.
So, how do you dress your pooch up as the three-headed guard dog of hell? Simply attach some additional heads to their collar. You could repurpose some stuffed animals or print out some canine faces and glue them to cardboard.
Black Dogs of Britain
The United Kingdom has many local legends about ominous black hounds. For example, there’s Old Shuck, a black dog from the Medieval era that was said to portend the death of anyone that sees it. Similarly, the folklore of northern England gives us the Barghest, a large, black, “goblin dog” that could shapeshift and often preyed on lone travelers. The Black Dog of Newgate is the restless spirit of a prisoner that was murdered there.
The list goes on and on with these supernatural sable critters. Given their ubiquity across Britain, it should be no surprise that several English authors used them as inspiration for plots or characters. For example, these beasts served as the basis for The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame).
Costuming up your faithful furry friend as one of these critters could be difficult, as we don’t recommend dying your dog (especially for one day). But, if your pooch just happens to be dark and intimidating already, an oversized nametag on their collar can help nail this one home!
Various northern European cultures have tales of a wild hunt, in which a mythological or folkloric figure leads a hunt accompanied by a pack of spectral hounds. Scholars are unsure of just what these tales are supposed to represent (though Sorsha seems to believe they're related to hunting).
You'll need a pack of dogs to pull this one off properly. Adding some simple "ghost" sheets or fake cobwebs could give them an otherworldly look. Ready for the best part? It's no Wild Hunt without a leader—you!—so get ready to dress up as a mythical warrior of old.
Also spelled Fenrir, this dread beast is the great wolf of Ragnarök, the end of the world in Norse Mythology. Now, we know this is a wolf and not technically a dog, but Fenris has the spook factor on lockdown, considering the whole apocalypse factor.
Fenris is one bad puppy. The offspring of the god of chaos and trickery, Loki, and a giantess, the wolf was bound with a mythical chain and fetters called Gleipnir, which was made of impossible items, such as the breath of a fish and the beard of a woman. During this binding, Fenris bit off the hand of Tyr, the god of war.
It gets worse. During Ragnarök, Fenris will break his bonds, swallow the sun, and kill Odin, the king of the Norse pantheon. Odin’s son manages to smite the beast and usher in a new era, but still, it’s clear this critter is one tough character.
Those looking to dress up their hound as this legendary lupine should start off with some broken chains. You could go the extra mile and dress up as Odin and go for that paired costume look.
From the bloody fields of Norse mythology, we move to the blessed realm of hagiography. Saint Dominic is a 13th century Catholic Saint that is also known as the “Hound of Heaven”.
This moniker in part comes from a dream his mother had before St. Dominic was born. Praying for another child, his mother had a dream of a hound carrying a torch that set fire to the world. This dream foretold the life of St. Dominic, who would reignite the faith across Europe through the rosary and destruction of heresies.
This list only scratches the surface of mythological canines (and the costume possibilities they inspire). No matter what type of costume you go with, be sure to double check that whatever party or trick-or-treat night you’re going out for allows dogs. Remember, if at any time your dog seems irritated, agitated, or uncomfortable, ditch the costume and go for that natural look.