The holiday season is upon us, and as we are caught up in the hustle and bustle of the weeks to come, there are things to consider for our furry companions. We’re jumping into the dark festivities of Halloween, which can be a blast for the family — but keep these potential concerns in mind and help your dog avoid the horrors of Halloween gone wrong.
1. Be careful with costumes
Dressing up Ralph, our French Bulldog, provides a lot of fun for the family (though we wonder if he agrees). However, we know it’s important to keep his comfort in mind.
Many factors can play into picking out the perfect costume for your dog. Weather is an obvious factor. Longhaired breeds can overheat, while short-haired breeds can get cold. If you’re taking your dog out trick-or-treating, check the forecast and plan accordingly. When in doubt, I suggest a costume of layers. It’s much easier to take a layer off should it get warm than to find dog-friendly options in the cold.
Also, remember your dog can change his/her mind, so make sure you try on the costume well ahead of the festivities. If your pooch hates the only costume you got, the day will be a bust. Costumes are only fun if your dog is having fun wearing one, so make sure your dog agrees with your choice.
2. Candy: Just say no
Unless it is an event for dogs and planned accordingly (providing treats you know are safe for your dogs), don’t. The list of dangerous foods for your pup grows daily, but many of the Halloween staples — chocolate, grapes, raisins and xylitol (found in many candies) — are all toxic to dogs, and all are way too easy to find on this night.
With the resources in organic treats or recipes for homemade treats, this shouldn’t be a factor for dog owners looking to spoil the four-leggers or hosting the neighborhood party.
3. Stay safe, outside and in
At the door and on the street, you need to do all you can to support safety in your neighborhood. If you’re out and about with your dog in tow, the same rules used for your kids apply: no street walking, no running, carry a light, and aim for a costume that shines (rather than shadows) in the dark. When in doubt, reflective tape is never out of style on Halloween. Make sure you stick with your friends and watch out for each other.
While the march for treats can be a challenge, Halloween night for a dog with anxiety can become a nightmare. If this sounds familiar, it may be best to turn the lights off, discourage trick-or-treaters, and hunker down for a calm evening.
If you really love Halloween and insist on giving out candy out, consider a safe place for your pooch to deal. Gather up the necessities for comfort and keep him/her in a quiet room full of positive support. You might also find relief in noise via television or radio, as it can often help on a night when stress is literally knocking.
Pixie, our big girl, isn’t a fan at all, so one of us will sit with her while the other takes door duty. To be frank, her issue isn’t anxiety. She just wants to be out with kids like her. She’s positive she’s a real girl and should be treated accordingly … which is another story for another time.
I’ll quickly mention corn, which tends to be more prevalent during the fall holidays; many dogs are allergic. Also, hardened decorative corn is a serious choking hazard for the canines of the world. If your decorations include corn, consider a change to keep your dogs safe.
4. Keep on guard at the front door
Dogs and doors can be a hidden danger, especially if your dog is anything like Ralph, who assumes everyone is coming to visit him, and he’s anxious to visit and absorb the love. The mix of dog, kids, sugar, costumes, and general excitement isn’t conducive to normal behavior (from the kids or the dogs).
Some dogs jump at the chance to step out, while others hide. Some kids are scared of dogs, and many more need a minute to get acquainted. Some kids are allergic, and some just don’t like dogs. Worst of all, both the kids and the dogs can be tempted to run as a response to an unexpected confrontation … and on Halloween, you do not want running.
If you’re handing out treats, it’s best to keep your dog away from the door. Whatever you can do to create that separation or encourage the need to police the door all night, make sure they aren’t underfoot and they’re safe.
5. Pumpkins and candles
Pumpkins aren’t toxic, but can cause issues if your dog swallows a large piece. Pumpkins can and do cause digestive distress, like any food, if consumed in large amounts. It’s a given you don’t want any animal eating a whole pumpkin, and it’s a given you’ll find pumpkins along the way on Halloween. Keep those dogs away to keep ’em safe.
While eating pumpkins is a worry, the larger concern is often found in the lit candle inside the pumpkin. Knocked over, that’s a serious fire hazard. If you have a rascal or two who play, especially if they tend to get excited by light, you’ll want to keep the jack-o-lantern out of paw’s reach. Consider using a flameless candle as a safer alternative. If those aren’t an option or you’re still stressed about your dog’s curiosity, simply skip the light and get that pumpkin up and out of view.
6. Kids and dogs don’t mix
As adorable as the dog may look, this isn’t an invitation to pick up, poke, touch, tease, sneak up on or treat the dog any differently than you normally would. I’m sure most of you have children that are well behaved around your dogs, but it’s Halloween! We all get excited. Add a dozen Snickers, some scary costumes, and the desire to be a little naughty and those emotions can get the best of us.
It can’t hurt to reinforce etiquette with your entire family before a fun-filled night. Your pooch will appreciate it, as will your family and friends enjoying the festivities together.
7. Watch out for the late-night revelers
It’s probably best to keep your dog inside on such a high-traffic night, and we highly suggest you head out with them for potty breaks with lights when needed. Halloween invites antics that your dog may not appreciate. Kids will be out until all hours to beg for candy, but the older kids can cause real problems when the mischief begins. There are certain dangers you’ll recognize in typical Halloween antics (eggs, toilet paper). However, the true danger is one you rarely consider: letting your dog loose.
Shelters report that they typically get increased traffic on the days after Independence Day and Halloween. Dogs get loose with regularity on these holidays, for a multitude of reasons. Don’t assume someone will let your dog out; they can also escape if they’re frightened, scared off, or possibly get out unnoticed while you do candy duty.
It’s an evening ripe with opportunity for mistake and oversight, and behavior is unlike any other night of the year. As such, we suggest you take the opportunity to police your current setup and insure you address possible issues. Make sure escape routes aren’t available. Make sure doors and gates are locked. Make sure your dog has proper identification in case they escape. Think of your dog as a priority, not a distraction, and things should be just fine.
Follow these tips and guidelines to provide a safe and entertaining Halloween for you and your family, especially the four-legged children. There’s no reason to miss out on the festivities, and it’s easy to enjoy the night. Plan accordingly and you’ll find a happy Halloween for everyone!
Thumbnail: Photography ©Phidophotography.com.
This piece was originally published in 2013.
About the author: Heather lives in Colorado with her husband, two daughters, and a number of four-leggers depending on how many fosters are residing in the house. She’s primarily a full-time volunteer where her services are needed the most.
Read more on Dogster by Heather and about Halloween: