Children milling about giggling happily, lots of sweets to eat, brightly lit jack-o-lanterns, and visitors stopping by all evening long—to people (and kids, especially) Halloween can be a fun time of year. But to your family's dog, those same conditions can create a very different atmosphere: one of anxiety and alienation. To your dog, this special night is clearly not normal, and how he reacts to these unusual circumstances may depend on how well you prep him.
Here are a few Halloween safety tips that can help assure a pleasant and incident-free night in which all the scary stuff is in the name of good fun for everyone, including your dog:
- Exercise your dog before party guests and trick-or-treaters are expected to arrive. After 30 minutes of walking or playing, most dogs will be more relaxed or ready to take a nap. And, as every dog owner knows, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog.
- Give him some space. If the arrival of party guests makes your dog excitable, give him a break in his crate or in a quiet room with a familiar doggie bed or blanket. Allow your pooch to join the festivities after the initial commotion has subsided.
- Provide "door bell" training. Train your dog to sit quietly near the front door when the doorbell rings. Practice every day to reinforce the behavior. A dog that barks and jumps up on guests is usually not appreciated. And, because this is Halloween, you can expect the doorbell to be ringing quite a lot.
- Distract your dog with new toys. Just before your party guests arrive and the skeletons, devils, pirates, and princesses start ringing your doorbell, give your dog some fun new toys to play with. Long-lasting chew toys are nearly indestructible and will keep him occupied for a long period.
- Never leave your dog alone with small children. No matter how much you trust your dog, make sure an adult is always in the room when small children visit your home. And remember, even a child that your dog knows well can appear strange and threatening when dressed in a Halloween costume.
- Be strict with holiday sweets. Avoid giving your dog Halloween candy, cookies, cakes, and chocolate. These sweets can trigger life-threatening illnesses in dogs. Don't overdo the dog treats either. There's nothing festive about a dog that has diarrhea.
- Keep an eye on candles. Lighted candles may make jack-o-lanterns glow radiantly, but they should never be left unattended—especially if they're at your dog's eye level. A wagging tail or a swat of a paw, and candles and hot wax can quickly become disastrous.
By following these simple tips, the "boos" in your Halloween will lead to smiles and laughter rather than worries about your dog's safety, comfort, and anxiety.