Like any holiday, Halloween can be enjoyable for humans, but confusing, stressful, and even dangerous for our pets. Animal Humane Society's behavior and training specialists recommend taking the following precautions to help make sure everyone has a good time.
1. Practice in advance
Even if your pet enjoys company, the constant thumping on the door and shouts of “trick or treat!” may be more than they can handle. Get a handful of treats and practice: have someone knock on the door, then feed a treat. With enough repetitions, your pet will start to associate yummy treats every time someone is at the door.
2. Confine fearful pets
If your pet is shy or fearful by nature, now is not the time to try to make them a social butterfly: plan to confine them in a safe, quiet room, as far away from the commotion as possible. Play a radio, TV, or white-noise machine to muffle noises.
3. Play dress-up
Putting on different costumes while interacting with – and feeding – your pet will gradually prepare them for the masks, plastic swords, and dragging capes they may see on Halloween. The more your pet associates strange new things with treats, the more relaxed they’ll be. As always, stop the activity if they cower, try to escape, or show other signs of stress.
4. Look out for hazards
Unattended candles and pets don’t mix. In addition, they can gobble up chocolate, knock over children, race outside, or get slammed in the door. If your pet won’t be contained in a room, another good option is to keep them on leash.
5. Safety first
If you intend to take your dog trick-or-treating with the kids, plan to have them on leash and under an adult’s control. Even if children are physically able to control the dog, they are not experienced enough to predict and manage behavior. Remember, if the dog gets loose, fights with another dog, snaps at a child, etc., you 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, there's nothing wrong with tucking Fido into his crate with his own treat – perhaps a stuffed KONG – so that everyone can have a good time.
For more animal behavior tips and tricks, visit our pet behavior resources. Have a happy and safe Halloween!