How to give your dog a safe and happy Halloween.
Halloween can be terrifying for dogs. Frequent visitors knocking unexpectedly, dressed in scary costumes can seem very disturbing for them. Don't worry though if you want to avoid a long stressful night and a hefty bill at the local animal hospital, read our top ten tips and tricks to ensure you and your Smart Dog have a safe and happy Halloween.
Top 10 tips to set your dog for Halloween success.
Get your dog used to their costume now.
Does your dog enjoy being dressed up? If so great! If not or you're unsure whether they like being Wonder Woman for the night, read our post about how to spot the signs if your dog is stressed or anxious. Many dogs actually hate wearing costumes, most will tolerate it for a short while. Help your dog get used to their costume now. Introduce each part bit by bit, pairing with treats as you go. If they get weird or back away, you're going too fast. Take it slow and never force a dog to do something they're not comfortable with. Dogs left in costumes unattended will struggle to walk and get free. Chewing through fabric is dangerous, bells and eyes get swallowed easily and typically require costly surgery to remove. Masks on dogs stress them out when they obscure their vision and make it difficult to breathe, especially squash faced dogs like Bulldogs and Bostons. Dyes and sprays get licked so you'll want pet safe ones that aren't toxic. Maybe think of something that can sit on the back of your dogs harness instead, like bat wings or perhaps a festive bandana, they always looks cute.
If your dog does put up with being Frankenpup for just a few minutes, long enough for you to grab some quick snaps, share the best ones in our Smart Dog Group and Smart Dog Training Facebook and Instagram pages. Then give your four legged friend the night off, you probably wouldn't want to be Count Dogular any longer than you had to, regardless of how incredibly cute you looked.
Take your dog for a good walk before dark.
It's easier for dogs to rest and sleep if they've had a good sniffy walk. If you're not back until dark, maybe think about other fun ways to wear them out mentally in the safety of your home. Try food puzzles, long lasting chews, training and "find it" games.
Use containment to keep everyone safe.
Inevitably the doorbell will be ringing lots more over Halloween, so you'll want to get any equipment you'll need now. Keep your Smart Dog away from the front door behind a dog gate or a closed door they can't open.
Imagine Halloween from your dog’s perspective.
Even if your Smart Dog knows the trick or treaters, they'll most likely be children dressed in halloween costumes who'll appear very different to how your dog remembers them. This can create conflict and confusion for your dog. Unknown callers will be be perceived as strangers who may not know how to behave calmly around dogs; so you might not want to let your dog greet anyone at the door during Halloween.
Put up a friendly sign to keep people safe.
If your dog is really scared by rowdy people and isn't going to cope with trick or treaters, think about hanging a polite notice on a bucket filled with goodies saying ‘Nervous dog. Please don’t visit here. Take treats instead!'
Keep sweets and chocolate safely out of reach.
Some sweets, gum and dark chocolate is toxic to dogs and can be fatal for them. Be vigilant to ensure nothing toxic to your dog is left accessible. If you think they might have ingested something toxic, immediately call your vet's out of hours emergency number for help.
Other Halloween hazards to be aware of.
Candles in pumpkins ignite pet fur rapidly, so keep them way out of reach to avoid horrifically painful burns and scars. Better yet go for the LED candles instead. Glow sticks are dangerously toxic to pets. Corncobs get stuck when swallowed. Electric cables give life threatening shocks when chewed. Fireworks and other loud noises can be traumatising. Keep them safe by not letting them outside after dark. In case your dog does bolt off and gets lost, make sure they have an ID tag engraved with your mobile phone number and postcode. This massively increases your chances of being reunited quickly. And in case you've moved recently update your dog's microchip details, tags can and do fall off.
Give your Smart Dog a safe comfortable den.
If your dog is showing signs of stress or anxiety put their bed under furniture or cover their crate with a blanket and leave the door open. Position it somewhere warm away from the front of the house, so your pal has a place to escape to where they can feel safe and secure.
Stuff a Kong to keep your dog occupied.
Stick to your Smart Dog’s routine. Anticipating trick or treaters you'll want to plan lots of things to keep your dog busy, calm and content. Have several puzzle feeders ready to go when kids come calling. Give your dog a Kong to keep them chewing while you answer the door. Use some of your dogs daily food allowance mixed with tasty treats to avoid over feeding and sickness.
Reward all of your dog’s good behaviour.
Praise calm behaviours like settling down and reward right responses to your prompts. Avoid telling your dog off. Telling a dog off, never tells them what to do and can make matters worse. Understand if your Smart Dog is 'naughty' it might be that they're stressed, reacting to an unsettling night.
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Why not get in touch. We love questions at Smart Dog Training. If you have a question about this article or anything else dog related, leave a comment below or book a friendly chat for Free with Smart Dog Training coach Luke Wheldon IMDT.