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When the opportunity arises to be a judge at the most prominent costumed-dog contest related to Halloween in NYC, it's at that moment you realize this is a dream that you've always had, but never knew was on your bucket list. At the end of the day, any dog in a costume is a winner in my eyes, but here are five things I learned as a judge of the Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade.
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1. Forget store-bought costumes.
While your dog might look cute dressed in the hot dog or taco ensemble you bought at Party City, the only effort that generated was opening your wallet to pay for an overpriced outfit that plenty of other dogs will be wearing this holiday. One of the day's most impressive entries was a group of small dogs wearing tiny hand-stitched Alice in Wonderland–inspired costumes. Not an expert with a sewing machine? Another favorite handmade entry was the Hounds of Anarchy (based on FX's Sons of Anarchy) that featured a large dog wearing a painted cardboard motorcycle, with a small dog on his back as the rider.
2. Go topical.
Halloween isn't just for us humans to reference something culturally relevant; topical costumes are even funnier when it's your pooch making the statement. Clever, current references made it to the top ten each round, with notable entries such as a French bulldog as Barknado (Sharknado), two Chihuahuas dressed as characters from HBO'sBehind the Candelabra and doggie Kim Jong-Un with the owner as Dennis Rodman.
3. Represent your city.
NYC is a veritable gold mine of costume ideas, so dive deep into your city's history and pull out a gem. Dirty-water-dog carts, Mr. Softee and Dr. Zizmor subway ads were genius costumes, and while not totally indicative of New York, current visitor Banksy was represented by little doggie graffiti artists, complete with spray-paint cans and owners dressed as famous examples of his work.
4. Remember: It's all about your dog, not you.
Sure, some folks had great overall getups, but in the end, the focus wasn't truly on the dogs. The owners dressed as the Empire State Building and King Kong (with theme music!) were impressive, but the tiny dog as the blond damsel in distress seemed like an afterthought compared to the rest of getup. If you're planning on a group costume with your dog, take a backseat and let the pup be the star of the show.
5. When in doubt, make your dog look as ridiculous as possible.
The funnier your dog looks, the better your chance of winning. I nearly busted a gut seeing a Shiba Inu in a G-string as a Chippendales dancer, a wide-eyed pooch wearing a turban as Zoltar from Big, a Lhasa apso with cornrows as James Franco's Alien from Spring Breakers, and a sleepy Chihuahua as a lobster in an overflowing pot of bubbles. The latter was so adorably ridiculous and well done, it won Best in Show for the day.