Halloween is just a week away and it is a very exciting and festive time of the year, filled with fabulous costumes, decorations, and delicious, sweet treats. In fact, it is one of my absolute favorite times of the year! The beautiful foliage, fun eerie decorations and cooler temperatures make Halloween just spectacular! While humans embrace the spooky spirit, it's important to remember that our beloved pets, particularly dogs, may find Halloween to be a rather frightening experience. There are many reasons why Halloween can be a scary time for pet dogs but there are practical ways to keep them safe and calm during the festivities.
Unfamiliar Costumes and Masks: One of the primary reasons Halloween can be frightening for dogs is the sudden appearance of unfamiliar costumes and masks. Dogs rely heavily on facial expressions to understand their surroundings, and when humans disguise themselves, it can confuse and even frighten them. Moreover, certain costumes may have loud or unusual features that can startle our furry friends.
To keep your dog safe:
- Introduce them to costumes gradually, allowing them to sniff and investigate at their own pace. It is so important not to rush them or flood them with these new and potentially frightening things.
- Avoid forcing interactions if you have a sensitive or fearful dog. This can make your dog’s anxiety so much worse and cause a great deal of issues. Try to avoid insisting that your dog “get used to” things that they aren’t familiar with and work towards positive associations.
- Supervise all interactions between your dog and people in costumes to ensure their comfort – read your dog’s body language and be prepared to intervene and move them to safety if necessary.
Increased Noise Levels: Halloween is notorious for its loud and unexpected noises, such as fireworks, screaming children, and doorbells ringing incessantly. Dogs have sensitive hearing, which means these sudden sounds can cause anxiety and stress. Additionally, the constant commotion of trick-or-treaters approaching the door can really overwhelm our dogs, especially the sensitive ones.
To keep your dog calm:
- Create a safe space for your dog, such as a quiet room or crate, preferably further away from the front door. Having them in another closed off room, or another level of the house may help to soothe them.
- Play soothing music or white noise to help mask the sounds of Halloween. Spa music on Alexa or other similar devices can be helpful as it can sometimes play calm tunes, nature sounds, and even waves.
- Consider using calming aids – pheromone diffusers, Adaptil spray, Composure and Rescue Remedy are all good options to try. You may want to try a few things before trick or treat night so that you know what works best.
Dangerous Decorations and Treats: While Halloween decorations add to the festive atmosphere, some can pose risks to our furry companions. Dogs are naturally curious and may be tempted to chew on or ingest some decorations, leading to potential choking hazards or intestinal blockages. Similarly, many Halloween treats, such as chocolate or candies and sugar free gum containing xylitol, are extremely toxic to dogs if ingested.
To keep your dog safe:
- Keep decorations out of your dog's reach, securing them firmly or using pet-friendly alternatives.
- Store Halloween treats in a secure location inaccessible to your dog. If your dog is known to check countertops for goodies, do not place the candy on the counter.
- Be cautious when walking your dog outside, as discarded candies or wrappers can be harmful if consumed. Take note if there are houses in your walking path that have decorations outside that could frighten your dog. If they are displaying distress about a specific house, find an alternate route until they slowly acclimate to the décor.
Escaping or Getting Lost: The constant opening and closing of doors during trick-or-treating can increase the risk of dogs escaping from the safety of their homes. There is also the chance of gates being left unlatched by children, leading to a dog getting out of the yard. Additionally, the presence of unfamiliar people and noises can make dogs anxious, causing them to react unpredictably and potentially bolt away.
To prevent your dog from getting lost:
- Keep your dog in a secure area or on a leash during the peak trick-or-treating hours. After hours and before you let them out, check to make sure your fence gates are latched properly and that there are no dropped or discarded candies or other items laying around that could put them at risk.
- Ensure your dog has proper identification, such as a collar with tags and a license or a microchip, in case they do manage to get out. Microchips save lives, even if your dog somehow slips their collar with tags, this method of identification is always there.
- Consider using a baby gate or pet gate to restrict access to the front door. If your dog is known to try to dash out, keep them in an entirely different room or part of the house. This is not only safe for your dog, but also for trick or treaters should your dog be frightened enough to try to bite.
While Halloween is a fun-filled fantastic holiday for humans, it really can be a scary and stressful time for our much-loved dog friends. By understanding the potential dangers and taking proactive measures, we can ensure the safety and well-being of our canine companions during trick-or-treat. Let us embrace responsible pet ownership and make Halloween a memorable and enjoyable experience for both humans and their beloved canine companions.