My kennel club had an entry in an upcoming parade, and I was thinking of an interesting way to costume my dogs while still leaving them mobile enough to march in the parade. My idea was to mount an action figure on the dogs' harnesses to make it look as though the dogs were being ridden like horses. Part of my goal was to make them simple and as inexpensive as possible, but to also look cool and hold together well.
1/2 yard cloth material
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Step 1: Acquire Action Figures
I tried a couple of toy figures I had lying about, but they were far too small. I needed a doll that would match the proportions of my 35-lb standard schnauzers. I thought the ever-popular Barbie would be appropriate, and I looked in a local thrift store. Surprisingly, they had very few children's toys at all. I knew that my daughter had had a small collection of Barbies as a child, but I wasn't certain I could find them. As she is now aged 24, most of her vintage toys are now secured up in our attic. After rooting through several dusty boxes, I found not the pile of undressed, partially dismembered Barbies I had expected, but a matching set of Barbie and Ken dolls, brand new in the box. The Star Trek editions. Bonus!
My daughter's recollection is that my brother gave them to her with the idea that they would be worth something some day. They were certainly worth something to me on this day! Barbie and Ken normally retail for about $10 each, not a costly investment.
Step 2: Choose Dog Harnesses
I have Kurgo Journey Harnesses for my standard schnauzers. I used the same harness for my Doggie Cam instructable. Though not inexpensive, the harnesses are very well built, and have an integrated pad on top that could serve as a perfect saddle. Probably, just about any similarly designed harness would function the same way. Many inexpensive harnesses have a loop around the neck, another around the thorax, and connecting straps top and bottom.
Step 3: Attach Figures to Harnesses
I wanted the dolls to be firmly attached to the harnesses. Attachment at the ankles would anchor the legs much like stirrups, while a seat belt would keep their butts in the saddles. I started with the Ken doll and mocked up his position with the harness on a dog. The feet hung right next to the forward buckles, which would make a solid attachment point. I used my favorite fasteners, zip ties (A.K.A. cable ties). Small black ones would blend in with the black boots. I strapped the ankles to the outside of the buckles and rotated the ends around to the back where they would not be seen as readily. I trimmed the excess of the zip tie with scissors.
I ran a zip tie around the waist of Ken and through the loop on the top of the dog harness. This plastic black belt acted as a seat belt for Ken, holding his body in place.
I tried to mount Barbie on the other harness with the same arrangement, but I had to move Barbie's ankles to the insides of the buckles. There's, uh, no polite way to say this, but Barbie's legs don't spread.
Step 4: Accessorize
I felt the costumes needed a bit more pizzazz. The dolls looked great riding on the dogs, but the harness alone was a bit plain. I went down to my local JoAnn Fabrics and purchased half a yard of Star Trek material for about $4. I cut the material into two triangles to make neckerchiefs for the dogs (see photos for details). These little accessories added some color and reinforced the Star Trek theme. Neckerchiefs are a low-hassle costume component, and they don't bother my dogs. Many dog costumes have hats or other headgear that my dogs will not tolerate. I even had enough material left over to make a neckerchief for myself.
Step 5: Field Test
I took the neckerchiefs and tied them around the necks of the dogs so that the material hung over their backs like a cape. They looked a bit like horse blankets, which supported the horse-riding illusion. I removed the collars that they normally wear because they were not needed and didn't match the color scheme. I then strapped the harnesses onto Isabel and Indigo and let them run amok. The dolls held up fairly well, but occasionally had to be adjusted back into position. Significantly, they never fell off, in spite of being put to a severe test. As you can see, the dogs were playing hard. Although I originally wanted a cowboy theme, I love the Star Trek uniforms. They could only be better if Ken was wearing a red shirt!
I am planning to not walk in the parade but skatejor it, a subject of another of my instructables. I will probably publish this instructable before the parade, but will add a postscript and perhaps some photos afterward for the curious.