No Tricks or Treats for Dogs This Halloween
Halloween is an annual event that most children — and lots of adults too — look forward to enthusiastically, but this holiday can be particularly spooky for the furry children in your family. To make Halloween fun for all family members, take note of a few Halloween safety tips for your pet.
Leave your Pet at Home
It may not sound like fun for your dog, but if your neighborhood is particularly busy on Halloween and the sidewalks are overflowing with exuberant parents and screaming children, it’s best to leave your pet at home. Why expose him to the chaos and risk upsetting him?
You may be thinking, “Fido loves kids and knows this neighborhood like the back of his paw!” Even kid-loving dogs intimately familiar with their normal exercise route can be thrown off course by the extra people on the street and become agitated. The scary-looking costumed humans that approach for a friendly pat on the head may frighten your dog. This fear reaction can be unsettling for Fido and downright dangerous for Trick or Treaters.
If you do decide to venture out with your dog, make sure he is on a secure leash. Keep him close to you (no retractable leashes) at all times. Be vigilant as you observe your surroundings and assess the people approaching you. Guard against friendly, excited children. Too much physical contact from strangers who don’t look like normal humans combined with the natural desire to protect his owner can instigate an aggressive reaction from Fido.
Just because Fido stays home doesn’t mean he can’t participate in Halloween. Lots of pets wear costumes. Just remember that it’s important for 2 and 4-footed children to wear comfortable, safe clothing. Costumes should be loose enough to provide freedom of movement, but not loose enough to trip up little feet. On the other hand, costumes that are too tight can restrict breathing and make movements difficult. Make sure that your pet’s costume does not interfere with his vision or hearing, and include reflective markers or a light to your pet’s collar to make him easier to spot in the dark.
Also, beware of small parts, like buttons, that can be chewed off and swallowed. Steer clear of hair dyes or paints that your pet could lick off their fur and be ingested. Lots of pet owners opt for Halloween-themed bandanas as a safe, yet stylish way for your pet to celebrate the holiday.
Provide your Pet with a Calm, Secure Area to Stay
Dogs that stay at home aren’t always fans of the neighborhood candy hunt. The doorbell constantly rings and strangers in weird costumes invade their domain. Too many sights! Too many smells! Too many sounds! Even dogs that normally love children can be thrown off by the constant knocking or ringing of the doorbell, as well as the sheer number of visitors and the weird appearance of their human friends. If yesterday, Billy from next door was in play clothes with a smile on his sweet face and tonight he’s a scary pirate, it can be difficult for your dog to recognize him.
Unless your dog is extremely mellow, let him rest in a room away from the frenzy with the door closed. Turn on the TV, radio, or white noise machine to dull the sound of the doorbell and exuberant Trick-or-Treaters. Or better yet, pre-empt the doorbell by sitting outside and intercept the kiddos before they reach your front door.
Secure Potential Escape Routes and Ensure their Microchip Information is Up-to-Date
If your dog stays with you and is calmly greeting the Trick-or-Treaters, keep him safely on leash. That way he can’t dart out the door after the visitors and you have control over his movements in case something triggers an aggressive action.
If your dog historically becomes overly agitated when strangers visit, Halloween will only exacerbate his anxieties. Some dogs get so worked up that they pace, bark, and whine all evening. It’s no fun for you or your poor dog for him to be miserable and anxious all evening. You may consider asking your veterinarian to prescribe a sedative. As a practice run, give the medication before Halloween night to assess the impact on your dog.
Keep Halloween Treats Away from your Pet
Resist the temptation to share Halloween candy with your pet. In fact, keep all candy safely out of reach. Chocolate in all forms and candy or gum artificially sweetened with xylitol can be very, very dangerous for dogs. Plus, dogs may gobble up candy… wrappers and all. Cellophane or foil wrappers are big trouble when swallowed. Even natural treats like caramel apples should be off limits. Intestinal upsets, GI blockages, and pancreatitis can result from eating items not normally on your pet’s menu.
Decorate with Safety in Mind
Festive decorations set the Halloween mood but can pose health risks for your dog. While non-toxic, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds can upset a pet’s stomach especially when consumed in large quantities. Lit candles in Jack-O-Lanterns become fire hazards when toppled by a curious canine, and fall-colored corn cobs are pretty, but can obstruct the intestinal tract and often require surgical removal. Decorative holiday lights may brighten your porch, but remember to keep both lights and power cords out of your dog’s reach. Nibbling on electrical cords can be shocking!
Halloween can be lots of fun, and it may be your favorite holiday, so go ahead and buy the candy, plan the costume, map your Trick-or-Treat route, and decorate the house. Just keep your dog in mind as you prepare for Halloween so that the entire family has a good time.