Like any holiday, Halloween can be very enjoyable for us, but confusing, stressful and even dangerous for our dogs and puppies. Take the following precautions to make sure everyone has a good time:
Get ready in advance. Even if your dog enjoys company, especially children, the constant thumping on the door and shouts of “Trick or Treat!” may be more than he’s ready for. Get a handful of treats and practice with him: have someone knock on the door (quietly, at first), then feed Fido a treat. Repeat frequently, increasing the volume of the knocking each time until even loud thumping doesn’t scare him.
Protect fearful dogs. If your dog is shy/fearful by nature, now is not the time to try to make her a social butterfly: simply plan to confine her in a safe, quiet room, as far away from the commotion as possible. Play a radio, TV or white-noise machine to muffle the footsteps and voices. If you welcome visitors inside, do not allow them to disturb her.
Play dress-up. Putting on different costumes (or parts of costumes) while interacting with – and feeding – your dog will gradually prepare him for the masks, plastic swords and dragging capes he may see on Halloween. The more Fido associates strange new things with treats, the more relaxed he’ll be. As always, stop the activity if he cowers or tries to escape: make a point the next time to ignore your dog and let him approach at his own pace.
Look out for hazards. Unattended candles and puppies don’t mix! Loose dogs, in addition, can gobble up chocolate (which is toxic to them), knock over children, race outside or get slammed in the door. Keep your dog either safely in her crate, in a puppy-proofed room, or on-leash with you.
Safety first. If you intend to take your dog Trick-or-Treating with the kids, plan to have her on-leash and under an adult’s control. Even if children are physically able to control the dog (a small breed, for example), they are not experienced enough to predict and manage her behavior. If something goes seriously wrong (the dog gets loose, fights with another dog, snaps at another child, etc.), you – the owner – are responsible for your dog’s behavior.
In short, planning ahead can make all the difference between a fun evening and a hair-raising ordeal! Remember that there is nothing wrong with tucking Fido into his crate with a stuffed Kong so that everyone can have a good time.
Have a happy and safe Halloween!