Holidays are times for families, including pets, to spend time together. Halloween is a great time to practice keeping your pets safe while enjoying holiday festivities.
Guard the Halloween Candy Stash
Chocolate can be toxic to dogs. Xylitol, used to sweeten some gums and mints, is also potentially deadly, as is anything made with red grapes, including wine, raisins, and grape juice.
Even if you’ve avoided those ingredients in the treats you’ll be giving out this Halloween, sweets in general — not to mention the plastic wrappers they come in! — are not good for your pet’s health. Keep all candy in a dog-inaccessible cupboard or drawer.
If the dog will be with you while you give out candy, using a bowl, box, or basket with a removable top reduces the chance of spills — and keeps your four-footed friend honest when your back is turned!
Find Out How Fido Likes Costumes
If this is your first Halloween with your canine companion, find out how he reacts to costumes before the neighborhood is flooded with ghouls and beasties. Put your pooch on a leash and approach a few friends or family members in their costumes.
If possible, expose the dog both inside in good light and outside in the dark. Let the dog approach at her own pace. Back off if her body language shows signs of agitation (tucked tail, raised hackles, intent staring, or pinned-back ears).
Some dogs are freaked out by large hats, pumpkin heads, rubber masks, and other flamboyant paraphernalia. Find out how your dog reacts so you know what to expect at trick-or-treat time.
If you’re thinking of putting a costume on your dog, try that ahead of time, too. Not all dogs tolerate being dolled up. Getting a dog to wear a hat takes time and rewards, so start early and practice often!
It goes without saying that the costume must be SAFE for your pet -- not too small and tight; not so loose that your pet will trip on it or have it catch on a piece of furniture. NEVER cover your pet’s eyes or nose!
Keep Pets Inside
If possible, keep all your pets inside on Halloween night. If you’ll be opening the door for trick-or-treaters, shut any potential escape artists into a bedroom.
Some dogs bark incessantly if shut away in a back room while the front door bell rings again and again. One solution is to have someone stay with the dog.
If you are holding down the fort alone, your dog may behave better if he can see the action. Consider placing him in his crate or an x-pen where he can view the front door. Another option is to have him on a leash, tied to a (heavy!) piece of furniture.
DO NOT let the dog greet trick-or-treaters on the threshold — there’s too much risk of someone being accidentally knocked down or even bitten during all the excitement.
Tricks AND Treats
Whether or not your dog is in costume, turn Halloween into tricks-AND-treats! Have a bunch of dog treats near the door. When the doorbell rings, give him the SIT command, reward him when he does it, and then open the door to the trick-or-treaters.
Rewards will turn the incessant doorbell rings into a happy game, and help your dog stay calm. If you’re worried that he’ll eat too much, have him skip dinner, and toss him his kibbles instead of high-calorie treats.
Trick OR Treat
If your family situation means you MUST take your dog out so that you can supervise your kids trick-or-treating, keep her out of harm’s way by following these guidelines:
- Make sure your own costume won’t interfere with safely handling the dog.
- Encourage the kids to wear low-maintenance costumes that you won’t have to adjust at every house. Both the kids and the dog need your attention tonight; you can’t afford to have one distract you completely from the other(s).
- Bring a headlamp, which leaves your hands free, in case you need to light up a yard ornament to calm your dog.
- Carry a pocketful of training treats. Stop with your dog at the edge of each yard and have her sit beside you while your kids go to the door. Reward the sit with a treat.
- Use the “Leave It!” command liberally to make sure your dog doesn’t pick up anything (such as a dropped chocolate bar!) from the ground
- Ask people to keep their distance from the dog.
Handle your dog calmly and confidently, and the evening will be fun for the whole family.