Dogs are seriously freaked out on Halloween and who can blame them? For some, a mask can transform people into monsters and decorations that move can surprise. Other dogs don’t seem to notice any of it; if you have such a laid back gem, skip down to the section on candy and count yourself lucky. For the rest, here’s my Halloween Survival Guide for Dogs:
1) Solitude can be sanity.
For both of you. The costumes and masks alone can frighten but then there are “those” people. For reasons I don’t understand, some people seem to find it fun to scare animals by looming, startling or zombie walking at them. Don’t do that and don’t allow that to be done. Dogs are not “acting” scared, they ARE scared. Setting your dog up in his crate in a back bedroom keeps your dog safe, you from getting annoyed and allows the party to go on.
2) Introduce “real life” decorations, like a zombie dog, from behind. Meaning, face that hell hound to the wall then let your dog in. A cautious sniff to the artificial rear helps dogs understand it is not real so when you turn that face around they just give it a canine shrug and walk away. Same with any human-shaped decorations. Keep your dog away from things that jump out at him, especially if he’s a sensitive (or reactive) type. Using My Smart Puppy’s “Check It Out” game can help change your dog’s mind from Oh No to Oh Good!
3) Keep your dog on leash.
If you do want your dog out with you, and he isn’t overly concerned, on leash can make things easier. You both can dress up to answer the door. On leash prevents door bolting or happy trick-or-treater mugging. There will be no getting spooked by someone in another room or getting into the candy (a bigger concern these days then ever, read below).
4) Dogs and candy do not mix! Yes, chocolate it a risk. It is toxic to dogs to varying degrees. The darker it is the more of a danger it is. But nowadays, the bigger worry is the artificial sweetener, Xylitol. It is extremely poisonous to dogs and lurks in much sugar-free candy/gum. If you have kids or are having a party, confining your dog safely while candy is celebrated and sorted then put out of your dog’s reach, can make this that much easier.
If you decide to crate your dog safely until all is quiet, try not to feel bad. This is not a great holiday for many dogs. If it makes it easier, get him a special toy or treat that he can enjoy. After candy to put away, your dog can be presented with his own goodies and he can do tricks for his treats. That can make the evening what it should be: safe family fun for everyone.