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Halloween is a lot of fun, right? But it may not be for your dog.
There are so many spooky things–and people in costume–that can be frightening to your canine best friend.
You may even want to show off your pup in costume. But it’s generally best to not do it during trick-or-treating time.
There’s too much danger that your pup may flee or even become defensive when the costumed Frankensteins hold out their bags for goodies.
Preparation is the key to a safe and fun Halloween and today we’re going to cover Halloween safety tips for your dog.
I always prepare for any holiday. I have five dogs and it would be sheer chaos if they were loose as people in costume came to the door.
My dogs are well-socialized and trained. But it would be asking too much of them to be calm when what they’ll perceive as aliens stand in the doorway.
So I make sure that they are in a safe location prior to the festivities. I’ll discuss this in more depth later in this blog post.
Halloween Safety Tips for Your Dog
Keeping everyone safe is key. Of course you don’t want your canine best friend to escape or feel like he needs to defend himself against these scary newcomers.
You also need to be sure that he can’t get into any hazardous items.
So prepare ahead of time to ensure that everyone enjoys the holiday and is out of harm’s way.
Prepare Your Home
You need to “puppy-proof” your home even if your dog’s an adult. So you need to make sure that your dog can’t reach any dangerous items. And there are many during Halloween festivities.
There are usually so many decorations that make the holiday festive.
After all, your dog doesn’t understand that these things can pose a peril.
He may even think some are toys and be drawn to them. So keep treats and other unsafe items out of his reach. These include:
- Lit candles, including lit jack-o-lanterns, which pose fire hazards
- Wires, which can also pose fire hazards
- Glow sticks and other glow-in-the dark items, which can contain toxic substances if chewed
- Batteries, which can cause choking or internal injury
- Pumpkin, which can pose a choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage. Although dogs can eat the inside and seeds of a pumpkin (not the rind) in small quantities, if the pumpkin is moldy or rotting, it can cause illness
- Candy, some of which can contain deadly Xylitol (also called Birch Sugar), which lowers blood sugar to dangerous levels. Even candy with sugar can be a choking hazard or cause a blockage. And candy corn–a staple of Halloween festivities–can cause gastrointestinal problems and severe diarrhea and vomiting
- Chocolate, which is extremely toxic to dogs because it contains theobromine, a substance that dogs have a hard time digesting
- Other goodies, nuts, such as macadamia, can be toxic to dogs. Even a small amount can cause weakness, tremors, and lethargy. Apple cores and their seeds can be deadly if ingested. Apple seeds actually release cyanide after being eaten!
- Candy wrappers made of paper, cellophane, or foil can pose a choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage
- Decorations and costumes, which can pose a choking hazard or cause a blockage if chewed. Or the paint or item itself may be poisonous to dogs.
- Fog machines, which can contain toxic solutions
If for some reason you believe that your dog has been exposed to a harmful or poisonous object, substance, or edible item, call the ASPCA Poison Control Center for advice, at 1-888-426–4435. Or call and go to your nearest veterinarian or veterinary emergency room.
Have Your Dog in a “Safe Space”
There are so many odd things that accompany Halloween–the noises, the strangely-costumed people knocking at the door or ringing at the door, and the weird decorations (some which are animated and seem to be alive).
So it’s best to have a safe space ready for your pup during trick-or-treating time or even during a holiday party that you may be hosting.
Just picture this spectacle from your dog’s perspective.
He could either be scared out of his wits and want to flee from the invaders. Or he may become defensive–and aggressive–trying to protect you, himself, and his home.
So have a room far from the festivities set up for him. You should get him used to this confinement for a few weeks prior to Halloween if he’s not used to it.
Depending on your dog, you can leave the door to the room closed or put up a non-moveable gate blocking the entrance to the door.
Some dogs do better looking out whereas others do better without the visuals.
Make sure that the room is cozy for your pup. You can have a favorite bed and safe, favorite toys waiting for him.
If being alone is too much for him during this time, have someone he knows and is bonded to keep him company.
To block the noise, you can have a TV, music, or white noise playing.
Even socialized, well-trained, friendly dogs can easily dart out a door. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.
I keep my dogs in the family room, which is in the back of our house, during Halloween. They’re used to being there and it’s no big deal to them.
They don’t even realize that anything odd’s happening. And they’re safe and can’t dart out the front door.
My dogs with activity toys in the family room
Should Your Dog Go Trick-or-Treating?
It’s not advisable for your dog to go with you trick-or-treating. He would be subject to all of the scary ghouls and decorations that he would face at home.
When a dog is in fight-or-flight mode, he can easily escape from a collar or harness. And he could flee from the area.
So don’t take the chance. You can celebrate with him in another way discussed below.
My shih tzu China was a very confident dog who loved everyone. I showed her in competitive obedience. And she was a therapy dog.
New experiences–such as unusual hospital equipment or people in medical clothes and masks–didn’t faze her.
But one day I was out socializing her at a local shopping center and we encountered someone in a weird costume.
The person was dressed as the Philly Phanatic, the mascot of a baseball team. It was a large, six-foot-plus creature in a bright green, furry ensemble.
To China, he was a large monster. She was terrified and wanted to flee.
She had never acted like that before with anything she had faced. So it made me realize how even a well- socialized and trained dog can encounter something unusual and the survival instinct can kick in.
By the way, I picked China up so that she couldn’t slip her harness. And we went to another area to continue our walk.
Celebrating Halloween with Your Dog
I know it sounds like Halloween isn’t fun for your canine companion. But there are many ways that you can celebrate the holiday with him.
You can even have certain Halloween-themed treats to give him.
Some pet parents even love to dress their pups in costumes.
If you decide to do this, make sure that your pup is fine with handling and wearing a costume. If your dog wears sweaters or coats and is fine with it, then he will probably easily accept wearing most costumes.
Get him used to wearing the costume using yummy treats when you put it on him.
Sheltie Amber and shih tzu China in costumes
Make sure that the costume fits properly and is comfortable. The costume shouldn’t have pieces that can easily be chewed off or it can be a choking hazard or cause blockages.
The costume also shouldn’t block the dog’s sight or impede his breathing, hearing, or movement.
I used to volunteer at a local hospital with my pet therapy dogs. During holidays, I would dress some up to celebrate–and cheer up the patients.
Other Safety Concerns for Your Dog
It’s also helpful if your dog is microchipped. And don’t forget to register his microchip with your current contact information.
Have a recent photo of your dog ready just in case he gets lost.
Keep your dog indoors during any festivities. Take him for a walk prior to activities. And have him potty beforehand if possible.
Even if your dog is used to being in your fenced yard, it’s best that he remains inside during Halloween activities.
What Should You Do if You Have an Anxious Dog?
If your dog is generally anxious or is stressed by new experiences, there are measures that you can take prior to Halloween.
Talk with your vet about whether he should have any prescription medicine to help him during Halloween.
If he doesn’t need prescription meds to alleviate his stress, there are holistic and other measures that you can take to get him through the day and night.
Anxiety signs to look for include:
- Excessive barking or whining
- Lip licking
- Sweaty paws that aren’t temperature-related
- Shedding dandruff
- Tail and ears tucked
- Pottying in the house (when he doesn’t normally)
Just be sure to get him used to it first in non-stressful situations. As long as your pup isn’t stressed by wearing it, you can put it on him and play.
Give him great treats when you put it on. You want him to associate it with fun–not stress.
And there’s even music called “Through a Dog’s Ear” that’s been created to help a dog remain calm.
And there’s a product called Adaptil that mimics the mother dog’s pheromones, helping calm the pup. It comes in a plug-in, a spray to be sprayed in the environment such as the dog’s bed (not on the dog), and a collar.
Training and Socialization
Of course, socializing your dog to things that he will face in everyday life can help him cope with other new experiences. It builds confidence.
So a well-socialized dog will probably have an easier time during the hustle-and-bustle of Halloween and its preparation. And taking the time to socialize him will improve the quality of his every-day life.
But, as I said, it’s still best to have your pup in a safe space because of the various new, exciting–and spooky scary–things and experiences that make up Halloween.
A reliable recall can save his life should he somehow slip out. And teaching him to leave unsafe items can also be life-saving.
Teaching a “settle” cue where he learns to be calm can also help avoid anxiety.
Get Professional Help if Necessary
If your dog is anxious and the aids discussed above don’t help, get professional help.
You may need to contact a veterinary behaviorist. Even if you don’t have any in your area, many will do remote visits.
And if you just need to train and socialize your dog, contact a positive-reinforcement trainer or behaviorist with experience.
We have three children. They want our dog to go with them trick-or-treating. Is this advisable?
No. Even friendly, well-socialized and trained dogs can get spooked (pun intended) on Halloween. Between the scary decorations–many that move or make sounds–and people in costumes, most dogs are overwhelmed. And a frightened dog may try to bolt or defend himself. It’s the fight-or-flight instinct.
We want to show off our pup in a Halloween costume. He wears coats and sweaters in winter and is fine with them.
Your dog should be fine with the right costume. Just make sure that it fits properly and is comfortable. And make sure that there aren’t parts that your pup can chew off and ingest.
My dog is terrified of new things. I can’t even put up Halloween decorations because he would be too scared. What should I do when trick-or-treaters come to the door?
You can set up a safe room for him as I discussed above. This will help minimize his stress. And talk with your vet about medicines to lessen his anxiety.
And ask your vet about the holistic and other aids I discussed above in this blog post to see if they’re appropriate for your dog. You should also contact a veterinary behaviorist who can help your dog adjust to new experiences.
Halloween is a fun holiday. But just make sure that you make sure that your dog is safe from the many dangerous, scary, spooky objects, people, and experiences that make Halloween a howling-good time.
How do you keep your pup safe during Halloween? Do you put a costume on him? Please tell us about it in the comments section below.
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