Happy Howlin' Halloween

Halloween is a fun holiday for many; decorations, costumes, parties and tons of candy and treats. For our dogs, Halloween can be very confusing and stressful. Yards are full strange things that weren’t there before, people look different, faces are no longer recognizable, and there are so many wonderful smells and things to investigate but are unknowingly dangerous. So, be aware and know what to do to keep your dog safe on Halloween.

Decorations When Out of Walks

Yards now look different and are full of things that weren’t there before, and some of those things move or make strange sounds. When you take your dog out for a walk around the neighborhood, be aware that he may react to a decoration that catches his attention. Be sure to not react yourself. If your dog is interested, allow him time to assess the new decoration. He may find the new thing uninteresting and move on. If your dog is fearful or defensive or hesitant, redirect your dog’s eye-contact back to you. Then allow a large wide birth to pass the “scary house” and move on, all the while talking to your dog in a kind and encouraging tone. If he is curious, allow him to investigate. Remember that this can be a socialization opportunity, so in situations that are difficult, remember to revisit at a distance and pace to allow you dog to eventually conquer the situation.

Dog Proof Decor

Some decorations can look or smell enticing to a dog. Fake spiderwebs and silly string are toxic if ingested. It is a good idea to brush up on cues such as “leave it.” Open flame candles can be knocked over by inquisitive noses, paws, or exuberant wagging tails (and a fluffy tail can catch fire). Small plastic decorations can look like fun toys to chew on or eat. Keep your dog away from these types of decorations, or place them higher up where they can’t be reached. Consider using flameless candles - lights that look like they have a flame but don’t. They can be purchased at many stores that sell decorations for the holiday. 

Halloween Night

The night of Halloween is full of people in costume, knocking on the door, running, hollering and laughing which may be too much for some dogs. Consider keeping your dog in a room away from the front door, especially if you have a dog that likes to dart out the front door and greet people or go explore or escape. Crates and baby gates to keep you dog away from the front door makes it easy for to to answer the knocks of trick-or-treaters and not have to worry about you dog getting loose. If you dog is anxious about people coming to the house, consider preparing a stuffed kong or other longer lasting treat to keep your dog occupied.

Also remember that many faces are now covered with masks which gives a dog, especially a young puppy not exposed to this yet, mixed signals. “It smells like a human, but it doesn’t look like a human!” In addition, some kids, especially teenagers who don’t have or understand dogs, like to “tease” dogs when they see a dog react to their costume. It’s all fun and games for a teenager to bark back at a barking dog, but that can have a lasting negative affect on your dog. If you have a sensitive dog or young dog, choose how to manage situation. Perhaps a very small group of kids your dog knows well can say hello and give your dog his own Halloween treats and allow your dog to have a good experience in a controlled situation. For larger groups and unknown visitors, keep your dog away from the door.

Remember to keep the candy bowl up high on a shelf or safely on a counter or on top of the refrigerator where it can’t be reached by your dog or knocked over and spilled on the floor. The high sugar and fat content in candy and treats can cause pancreatitis in dogs if enough is consumed. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is toxic to dogs and sugar-free candy contains artificial sweeteners that are highly toxic to dogs (see my article “Food Safety”). So keep all those yummy human treats up and away from your pup’s reach.

Just in Case

If your dog does ingest candy or treats or something else he shouldn’t, please call your vet, their emergency number if after hours, or the ASPCA 24-hour Emergency Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. Have hydrogen peroxide on hand if you need to induce vomiting and know where your local emergency clinic is if you need to take your dog in for care after hours. It’s always good to be prepared for that emergency situation in case it does happen. We always hope it won’t, but you never know, and believe me, no matter how cautious or careful or knowledgeable you are, things happen. My pup, at 5 months, surfed the counter and ate 16 scoops of chocolate chip cookie dough off the cookie sheet while they were sitting there waiting to be put in the oven. All it took was a split second of unsupervised opportunity and, “GULP,” followed by a trip to the emergency clinic to get an injection to make him throw up all the contents in his tummy. Not fun. So always hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.

Keep Our Kitty Friends Safe

One last word of caution, if you own a cat, especially a black one, keep it indoors on Halloween. Sadly, many cats disappear on this holiday. So keep your sweet kitty safe and indoors that night.

Be prepared and be safe, both you and your pets, and have a very fun and...

 Happy Halloween!