How to celebrate the holiday’s spooky fun without freaking out your dog.
We’re fast approaching the spookiest night of the year for dogs (and cats). Halloween can be particularly difficult for our dogs, who are assailed with new noises, doorbells ringing, and scary kids in costumes. This is a stressful time for animals, but with a little planning, you can make it an enjoyable and stress-free holiday for your four-legged family members. Here are my tips:
Leave the Trick-or-Treating to Humans
You might think your dog loves heading out to see all of the children dressed up in costumes, but the truth is, you’re putting your dog at risk to be injured, your neighbors at risk for being bitten and yourself at risk for a lawsuit.
This is the time of year that your dogs are most likely going to be happier indoors, away from noise, and out of range of doorbells being rung for hours on end. Consider crating your dog during this stressful time, or putting her into a room with a Kong toy and some relaxing classical music (although my pets prefer Enya).
By the way, if you’re looking for a great way to keep your kids visible, the pet industry has some of the best products on the market. Check out the PupLight, which you or your child (or your dog) can wear for easy nighttime illumination and visibility for up to a mile.
Train Your Dog to Ignore the Doorbell
Training dogs not to react when the doorbell rings is one of the greatest things you can do for them. The best way to do this is to start when they’re puppies and help them grow accustomed to noises gradually. However, if your dog is already reactive, you can help in several ways. My website, PetsWeekly, has a detailed training method that can help you teach your dogs to ignore the doorbell. It’s important to start now.
Beware of Candles
Candles go hand-in-hand with All Hallows’ Eve, but it’s very important you avoid the use of candles if you have pets. This is especially true if you do decide to have your pet to wear a costume—a dog need only brush against an open flame or wag her tail the wrong way to catch fire.
Rather than using candles, consider using flickering LED lights to illuminate that jack-o-lantern. Technology has given us some cool replacements for candles.
Costumes or Paint
Ideally, you should prefer your dog in her natural state, but if you do feel the need to dress her up, remember that her dog costume should be made with the same care as those for children (I recommend dressing your dog during the calmer time of day, taking photos and then removing the costume). Costumes can be quite stressful to dogs and if you’re in the Southwest, they can also be very hot and could cause heatstroke.
The best costumes are the most minimal, such as a bowtie that clips to the collar, a lion’s mane or a simple coat to stay warm. If you really want to put a costume on your dog, be sure it’s safe, made from fire-retardant material and can be easily removed in case your pet becomes distressed.
Another less-stressful option is specialty, nontoxic pet paint. The paint usually wears off after a bath or two, and the easiest-to-use versions are available as a spray or coloring pen. Never, ever use paint or dye that isn’t specifically designed for pets (and never use any type of paint on birds or reptiles).
Keep Treats Out of Reach
There are so many toxic products that dogs can get into during this time of year, that I am unable to list them all. You must find a way to keep candy and other dangerous foods out of your dog’s reach. This often means discussing the dangers of leaving candy lying about with your kids and housemates.
Pet Poison Hotline is a great resource to keep on hand—there are apps for your cellphone and iPad, as well as a special number to call in case of emergency. Calls cost $39 but might save you an expensive emergency veterinarian fee if you call them first.
Keep Deadly Decorations Out of Reach
Decorations are very dangerous for pets. Whether it’s decorative corn, glow-sticks, plastic party pieces or wires and cords, decorative items present choking hazards and the possibility of bowel obstructions, not to mention possible burns or electrocution.
Wrappers are also a favored danger by pets because they make noise, smell wonderful and humans always seem to leave them lying around. Keep a close eye on your kids and make sure they are properly disposing of candy wrappers and any leftover pieces of candy that fall onto the floor.
ID is Imperative
It is particularly important that your pet is microchipped, wearing proper ID and is up-to-date on vaccinations during Halloween. This is a great time to make sure the microchip register has your current information. You might consider registering your dogs’ microchips at Found Animals, where a grant has helped make this free nationwide registry available to all pet owners (no matter what brand of chip your pet has).
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is a fulltime freelance writer, bestselling author and founder of PetsWeekly.com. She resides in the deserts of the Southwest with a few dogs, several cats and a very understanding husband.