News & Politics

In It to Win It: How to Win Washington Pet Costume Contests

The competition at area pet Halloween-costume contests is tough. Judges from some of the most popular ones share tips for scoring the top prize.

Less is often more when it comes to dressing up your pet, contest judges say. Photograph via Shutterstock.

1. Go local
The Hill Is Home, a favorite DC neighborhood blog, hosts an online photo competition every Halloween. Last year, the Editor’s Choice award went to Olive, a German shorthaired pointer dressed as an employee from the beloved Capitol Hill store Frager’s Hardware. Judges tend to favor costumes with hometown references—a canine RG3 impersonator took first place in the celebrity category of the Paws at the Park contest, hosted by the Washington Animal Rescue League and the Park Hyatt Washington.

2. Less is often more
Thinking it will gain them an edge, some owners construct elaborate sets for their pets to pose in front of for The Hill Is Home’s photo competition—a tactic that may be more trouble than it’s worth. Says editor and judge Tim Ebner: “We are looking for costumes that are inventive and creative, that don’t necessarily take a huge setup production.”

3. Make It a Twosome
Some owners coordinate their own costumes with their animal’s. The Paws at the Park competition, now in its fourth year, gives a prize for “best couple.” Renee Smith, assistant director of development at the Washington Animal Rescue League, says the cuter the couple—think matching characters from The Wizard of Oz—the better the chance of winning the category.

4. Do It Yourself
“We’ve had some elaborate costumes,” says Jackie Von Schlegel, one of the judges of the pet competition held during the annual Hilloween block party on Capitol Hill. “It’s amazing what some people can come up with.” Smith and Ebner agree with her that do-it-yourself costumes are always well received by judges because they require much more thought than mass-produced getups.

5. Safety first
Your pet’s comfort and safety should be a priority. The ASPCA’s tips include choosing a costume that doesn’t restrict movement and making sure it has no pieces that could be chewed off and present a choking risk. Smith recommends giving costumes a test run before the big day and reminds owners to keep in mind the most important accessory: a leash.

This article appears in the October 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.