If you’re looking for something a little…scary (okay, downright terrifying!) for your dog this Halloween, then you can’t go wrong by creating him a DIY Demodog costume. And if you’re a Stranger Things fan, you’ll definitely want to dress up as your favorite character and trick-or-treat right along with him!
Dustin Henderson is a natural to accompany “Dart” – after all, he found the little pollywog when it was just a tiny thing.
Our DIY Demodog Costume can be as simple or as complex as you’d like to make it . Do what works well for your best fiend.
Confession: we like to do cosplay builds for conventions. There is a difference between cosplay and costumes. When you cosplay, you strive to create your character in minute detail. When you dress up in a costume for Halloween, it’s just all about the fun. I had to keep reminding myself this was a DOG COSTUME. I was making it so Chloe and I could have fun together. It didn’t need to be down-to-the-second accurate.
Plus, she’s a dog. This costume was probably going to get spit on, pawed at, rubbed on things and possibly destroyed.
We made a video of the build to give you a quick overview of the process.
If you decide to craft this costume, be sure and read the Build Notes at the end for hints and tips…
- E-collar in your dog’s correct size
- Light brown, grey, or tan dog t-shirt
- *Craft foam, 2mm (most commonly found at craft stores.) HIGHLY recommend 5mm
- Hot glue
- Mod Podge, matte and gloss
- Hair dryer or heat gun
- Acrylic paints
- Brushes, sponges
- Dye-Na-Flow fabric paint (optional)
- Lightweight gauze or muslin fabric (optional)
- Friendly Plastic (polymorph plastic), white Sculpey or white craft foam
- DAP Kwik-Seal Plus
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*Taking a moment to discuss craft foam with you… My main goal was for Chloe to be comfortable in her costume. This was my first time crafting this type of costume for a dog, so we decided to go with the most commonly found 2mm foam sheet. What we discovered is this thickness would be perfect for a small dog. But for a small-medium to large pup, a thicker foam works best to hold shape.
You can purchase rolls of craft foam online in several different thicknesses. My recommendation is to go with at least a 5mm foam sheet. If you can’t find it, that’s fine. Just glue two pieces of the thinner foam sheets together with hot glue. That’s what we did.
Let’s start with the basic pattern. Why reinvent the wheel when you have the perfect measurements and radius already calculated for you – use a plastic e-collar. Your dog probably already has one and if not, you can get one at any pet store or your vet’s office. If you’re very sweet, they might even let you trace it without buying it.
Take the e-collar and trace it on your craft foam for the base pattern.
Download and print the pattern for the large and small ‘petals.’ You can resize the dimensions to fit your dog. Or use your own design if you like. The petals should be about the same height as the e-collar.
Lay the petals on top of the base pattern and trace around them. Be sure and leave plenty of space at the bottom of the collar. This will help give strength and keep the petals from being too floppy.
Cut out the pattern. Scissors are fine or you can use a craft knife if you want.
Time to seal the foam. Craft foam tends to suck up paint like crazy, so we’re going to coat the pattern with a thin layer of Mod Podge Matte or other craft glue.
Let this coat dry about 20-30 minutes and then apply a second thin layer. Turn over and repeat on the other side.
When both surfaces are completely dry, it’s time to heat and shape the petals.
Use a heat gun if you have one. Otherwise, a hair dryer on the hottest setting will work great.
Start with one petal, and heat it, making sure to move the heat gun slowly back and forth until the foam softens. It shouldn’t take more than 30- 40 seconds with the dryer on high heat. Then simply take the petal and shape it into the desired look. You can use your hands or fold the petal over a rounded object to help shape it. Hold in position until completely cool and stiff. Move on to the next petal.
This next step is completely optional.
There are a couple reasons you might want to add a fabric backing to your foam costume pieces.
- If you feel the foam needs a little more structure, a layer of fabric will help.
- To add a more realistic texture and feel.
Check this first: bend your Demodog collar around to form a circle and see what you think. Do the petals seem a little floppy? If so, add the fabric. Lightweight fabric like gauze or muslin are perfect.
Cut strips of fabric for each petal. Coat the back of the petals with Mod Podge and lay the fabric strips on top. No need to smooth the fabric; the ridges and bumps will give a realistic skin appearance when painted.
When the fabric is dry, trim away excess fabric. Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge on top, making sure to glue edges down. Let completely dry before painting.
Use a couple different shades of acrylic craft paint to get the shade of red that you want for that glistening, teeth-filled mouth. I used a couple shades of red for the base coat. After the first coat dried (about 30 minutes) I applied a stippling technique using a makeup sponge with some red, purple and black paint. This gives some depth and texture.
The back of the petals should ideally match your doggie t-shirt. You can use any combination of brown, grey, tan and green to get the color you want. Apply a base coat. Allow to dry and use the stippling technique to highlight the fabric backing.
When the paint is dry, cover with a thin layer of Mod Podge.
So What About the T-Shirt?
You can certainly use your doggie t-shirt ‘as is’ without changing a thing. But if you want to get detailed, you can use some fabric paint (highly recommend Dye-Na-Flow) to add a mottled, skin appearance.
If you want to paint your shirt, I strongly recommend going with a tan or light grey. Dark shirts will not take up the paint correctly.
Also, having your dog’s leash attached to a collar while wearing this costume will probably… end badly. Use a harness instead. Add a hole in the top of the shirt for the leash to attach to the harness. We sewed a button hole, although you can simply cut a slit in the fabric.
In-between waiting for all your gluing and painting to dry, you can get busy making teeth.
First of all, you don’t HAVE to make plastic teeth. They look super-realistic, but you can easily mold teeth using white Sculpey clay. Or for even quicker and easier teeth, cut them out of white craft foam and hot glue to the petals.
But if you choose to go with Friendly Plastic, here’s the scoop.
These little white, non-toxic beads are also called thermoplastic or polymorph plastic. Directions should be on the package you purchase.
- Heat water to approximately 140 degrees and add a spoonful of the beads.
- When the beads turn clear, scoop them up and they are ready to be molded into whatever you wish.
Working quickly, roll the plastic into a little rope on a piece of parchment paper. Taking scissors, snip off at an angle to form little triangles. They almost form the teeth without much work! Shape them as you like. Flatten the bottoms for a gluing surface.
Make LOTS of teeth in all sizes.
A word of caution: do not get carried away and shape these teeth as large and pointed as real Demogorgon teeth. It’s tempting, I know. But these little teeth will be next to your dog’s face and eyes. Round the pointed ends for safety.
What if the plastic begins to harden? Or you don’t like the shape of a tooth? Just toss it back into the hot water. It will melt and you can reuse it again. That’s why they call it “friendly” plastic.
Attaching the Teeth
Attaching the teeth to the petals is challenging. We learned quickly that friendly plastic does not stick well to most things. And that the adhesive used on craft foam needs to be flexible.
We used DAP Kwik Seal Plus. You’ll need to experiment a bit to find the right amount to use. Test on a piece of scrap foam you have sealed and painted. Make sure not to apply too much or it will make it harder to cure. Let sit overnight before continuing.
Check the teeth adhesion the next day. If they feel or look loose, then employ our “gum technique.”
Brush a layer of Mod Podge Gloss around a tooth, covering the bottom of the tooth, any DAP and craft foam around it. Take a cotton ball and pull it apart, stretching into a thin rope. Push a small bit of cotton tight around the tooth, packing it tightly. Do this for each tooth.
Next, cut small circles of gauze, and poke a tiny hole in the center. Carefully insert tooth through the hole and gently press the gauze on top of the cotton and around the tooth. Brush a layer of Mod Podge Gloss over the gauze.
When the gauze patches are dry, take a sponge and stipple red paint around the patches to recolor the petals.
When all paint is dry, cover the entire mouth area with a coat of Mod Podge Gloss for a glistening, wet look.
Let the entire collar dry completely. Test around your dog’s neck to determine best position for the Velcro. Hot glue Velcro in place and your DIY Demodog costume is finished!!!
What about YOUR costume? Everyone’s got their favorite person from Hawkins, Indiana. Get your friends to join you in the fun. You can find all the pieces for your Stranger Things character online. Try Amazon, Ebay, Poshmark, etc. for original vintage clothing.
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Confession: I bought a cheap wig for Dustin’s curly locks. However, I am a wig snob and wish I had purchased from my favorite online shop, Arda wigs. But this one did the trick for a cute Halloween costume.
- It is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL that you use the correct size e-collar for your pattern. During our testing phase, I couldn’t understand why the costume wasn’t as tight around Chloe’s neck as it should be. I was totally puzzled. Then I remembered: we had mistakenly purchased the wrong size e-collar for Chloe. It had been a minute since she had worn it (four years, to be exact) and I remembered we had to pull it to the last hole and then some! We were too far into the build to start over…So you can see that this costume collar is way too big for her.
- Test everything! Test before working on final collar. It really saves time to know how things work and how to fix them if they don’t.
- Thicker foam is going to make construction and wearing much easier. If your dog is tiny, you’ll be good to go with the thinner craft foam. You can order thicker foam on Amazon in nice large rolls.
- Teeth-making. Flatten the bottoms as much as possible to help with adhesion to the foam.
- The t-shirt we bought was darker brown than anticipated. We tried using the Dyn-Na-Flow paint, but the lighter colors just soaked into the shirt. Our next attempt was to do a bleaching technique by scrunching the shirt into a ball, securing with a rubber band and soaking in a bleach solution. This is where I learned something I never knew (confirmed by the experts at Clorox.) I always assumed you could bleach ANY fabric. Turns out, some fabric/dye combinations will not be changed by bleach!!! Our t-shirt was one of them. Nevertheless, I was determined to get some mottling on our shirt. I decided to use plain old acrylic paint and was able to get some extra color (painting, stippling and rubbing into the fabric.) Not as much as hoped, but it was okay.
- To really give this a complete feel, I’d suggest finding a t-shirt for your dog that has long sleeves. You can add baby/toddler socks if necessary over her front legs or add a scarf to fill in neck area.
- Chloe is a crazy dog. She moves fast and jumps A LOT. With all her crazy antics while wearing the collar, we only lost one tooth she pawed out. We didn’t have to use the gum patches as anticipated. So, yay DAP!! Use it!
- If necessary, you can punch holes through the foam and lace it up to keep collar in place.
Want more ideas? Check out our Halloween costumes roundup post here.