A Halloween Survival Guide for Dogs
It’s that time of year when spooky spirits and ghastly goblins come out! While we humans have fun with Halloween, our dogs do not quite see it the same way. They take the scariness a little too literal. Here are some Halloween survival tips for your dogs. Plus, dog safety tips for your trick-or-treaters.
Note: Some tips are applicable as the first signs of Halloween creep up, such as decorations and costumes, others are specific to All Hallows’ Eve.
Creepy ghosts hanging in trees, animatronic zombies and talking skeletons - As humans, we know this is all fake. However, dogs are not humans. Of course every dog is different. What one dog finds terrifying might barely register to another. That said, watch your own dog. Pay attention to what he is telling you. Is he stiff and fixated on a scary jack-o’-lantern, or cowering when a ghost sways in the wind? What about yawning or lip licking when he sees a giant spider? All of these can be signs that your dog is not comfortable. Other common stress signals include panting when your dog is not hot or thirsty, pacing, moving in slow motion, hypervigilance, moving away, and suddenly not eating when he was hungry just moments before. Being aware of what caused your dog’s stress will help you support him through it. You can try to desensitize your dog to the scary object by pairing it with treats (if your dog will eat). Better yet! If you are able, move away from scary things. Your dog would thank you for it. This is also a great excuse for you to get away from the creepy giant spider too. To sum it up, try to see the world through your dog’s eyes. Pretend you have no idea these decorations are fake or that they are supposed to be fun.
Similar to ghastly ghouls and eerie goblins, people wearing costumes can be unsettling for dogs. Their own family can even spook them. Masks covering faces are especially scary for dogs; if you must wear one, do so away from your dog. On the flip side, some costumes and accessories can be interesting for a dog – swords, wands, tails and other dangling things can be viewed as a fun thing for dogs to chase and chew on. Maybe not so fun for the kid wearing the costume though.
Costumes for dogs are also not always a good idea. If you MUST dress your dog up, make sure the costume isn’t restrictive in any way. Avoid putting things on their face that can obstruct their vision. Dogs often feel they have to be defensive if they cannot see well. Again, watch your dog and pay attention to what he is telling you – if he doesn’t look happy, be kind and take the costume off.
A dog-friendlier option: a seasonal bandana or collar.
Doorbells are often triggers for our dogs leading to lots of barking and commotion. Then you open the door and there are people of all sizes in strange costumes! Needless to say, for many dogs trick-or-treaters can get overwhelming quickly. This is a recipe for even the sweetest dog to become stressed. Over-excited dogs can jump on little monsters, and fearful dogs can get traumatized. These dogs may feel they have no other option than to defend themselves from masked invaders. To keep your dog happy and dressed-up visitor safe, keep him away from the front door by putting up a temporary gate or putting him in another room with a yummy chew, treat-dispensing toy, or stuffed Kong. Bonus: if your dog tends to dash out the door as soon as it opens, keeping him away from the front door will prevent this.
- For your own trick-or-treaters, avoid approaching any dog. This applies to dogs they know, since the dog might not recognize them.
- If someone opens the door with a dog, stand still and wait for them to put the dog away.
- If a strange dog approaches your trick-or-treaters or scares them, teach your littles to be a tree: fold in their branches (their arms), look at their roots (their feet), be still and boring until the owner gets the dog or the dog walks away. Never run around dogs. Most dogs can easily outrun us. Running sparks their drive to chase. Be the tree.
Halloween can be a fun and exciting time for humans but remember the purpose is mainly to be scary, spooky... even terrifying. Dogs do not understand this change. Be kind and fair to them. Let’s keep them out of the spooky festivities and let them spend the night in peace, away from little monsters and goblins. Your dog will thank you for it.
Bonus: Make sure your dog can’t get to any candy. Chocolate is toxic to dogs.