I am a huge Halloween fan. I love the spirit of the holiday, the revelry, the colors, the candy, the costumes, the spooky (or not so spooky) decorations, and the harmless debauchery that happens. Oh, I totally forgot to mention that I love carving pumpkins, love baking pumpkin bread, love more baking pumpkin muffins with sweet cream-cheese filling, enjoy roasting pumpkin seeds, and all of those things creating an amazing fragrance for my home!
Unfortunately, Halloween can be a terrifying time for dogs for much the same reasons (minus the muffins, bread and pumpkin seeds). There are scary inflatable decorations, decorations that move, decorations that scream, decorations designed to scare, hyped up kids running around like crazy, people wearing potentially scary costumes, people coming up to the front door, kids screaming because a neighbor scared them, etc.
My blog is too-little, too-late for some things (poor planning on my part) like desensitizing to costumes, scary decorations, the general rabble-rousing, and the frequent visitors but here are some tips for keeping your pups safe on Halloween.
**Give your dog a nice long walk before trick-or-treating begins. Try to get your pup a little tired but do it before the herds of ghosts, goblins, and Justin Beibers hit the streets. Kids dressed up in strange costumers can very easily scare a dog and make him/her concerned. I was fortunate with Rio that seeing kids dressed up or wearing wigs was something of a normal occurrence when we lived in New York (I have no idea why). But the first time he saw a girl in a bright blue wig, he was not his typically outgoing self. He was reserved and very reluctant to approach this girl. After some desensitization, he’s not bothered by wigs/costumes for the most part but it did take some work.
**If your dog is typically an outdoor dog, be sure to bring him/her inside. Dogs who are left outside could panic and run away, could panic and bite someone, or could be the victim of teenaged pranks or other type of not so harmless activities of teens. I don’t know about where you all are, but I know the morning after Halloween, we always find dropped candy littering our yard. Dogs left out could easily ingest dangerous items.
**If your dog has to go outside at all during the evening, be sure he/she is securely tethered or inside a secure fence. When dogs are scared, their first instinct is often to flee. If your dog isn’t secured, he/she could run away if something startles him/her.
**You can work on counter-conditioning work, for ever trick-or-treater that comes to the door, you can toss a handful of treats in the air and have fido seek them out while the child gets his/her candy. This way the kids in strange costumes become a predictor of food, which makes them less scary.
**Create a safe space for your dogs to relax during the scary time. If your dogs are comfortable in crates, put open crates in a room that you will block off (not shut the door but use a gate covered in a blanket to reduce visibility or other visual barrier), that is away from the front door. During the day prep a some stuffed frozen Kongs or other stuffablet toy (I normally make 2 per dog). Before trick-or-treating time, use a DAP diffuser/spray in the room, put on some Through A Dog’s Ear music, and sit with the dogs in the room for a little and maybe give some nice massages. When it’s trick-or-treating time, give everyone a kong, block off the gate, make sure the music is at a good level, and let them hang out in the safe place.
Hope those tips help create a fun and safe Halloween for everyone! Enjoy the candy and the revelry!!