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Stop Halloween From Spooking Your Dog

A dog sitting outside near pumpkins carved into jack-o-lanterns.

Halloween can be a fun time of year for us humans, but it can be a nightmare for our dogs. The strange sights and sounds of the holiday can spook even the calmest canine. These tips can help make Halloween stress-free.

  • Costumes that change the appearance of their favorite humans can be frightening to dogs. Work on familiarizing your dog with Halloween accessories now. Let him sniff the costumes and watch your kids put on and remove their masks so he knows who those masked people are on Halloween. This is especially important if your dog is overprotective or extremely fearful.
     
  • Resist the temptation to dress up your dog, unless you are absolutely sure he won’t find it distressing. If you do dress your dog in a costume, never leave him unsupervised. Make sure that all elastics are loose fitting and accounted for. A dog that chews on his costume can end up with bowel obstructions and could possibly choke on any small parts. A costume can also get tangled in trees and bushes.
     
  • If you worry about your dog bolting out the door when trick-or-treaters show up, practice this ritual with him now. Teach him that even if the door is open, he is not to run out. Use a leash at first and practice at times of day when there are distractions outside. If you’re still nervous come Halloween, confine him to a room or his crate with a favorite toy during trick-or-treating hours.
     
  • Keep your dog on a leash if you enjoy sitting on your porch while waiting for trick-or-treaters. Also, be sure to keep your dog safe by not leaving him outside in your yard unsupervised when trick-or-treaters are on the prowl.
     
  • Keep the candy bowl out of your dog’s reach. Remember that chocolate is toxic to dogs. Make sure your kids keep their Halloween loot where the pooch can’t get to it.

Above all, remember your dog doesn’t grasp that Halloween is a holiday and may find the commotion of witches, ghosts, and goblins genuinely frightening. Be sensitive to your dog’s stress level and safety—and have a Happy Halloween!

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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