While Halloween is a time of fun and excitement for humans, it can be stressful and downright dangerous for dogs. So much in their world changes very quickly: there’s a ton of activity, new people are everywhere, strange foods and smells abound, and even the people they love suddenly look very different. It’s important that you prepare your dog for any big events, such as parties and trick-or-treating; stay vigilant about dangerous decorations, costumes, and foods; and ensure that they have a secure place to go when things get too stressful. Here are some helpful tips from our experts to ensure that your dog doesn’t have a terrible night, and ruin yours in the process.
Decorations & Parties
Everybody loves spooky decorations, such as skeletons and jack-o’lanterns, but you need to ask yourself if your dog could ingest all or any part of the decorations, get tangled in cords or strings, or knock something over. Also, will your dog be scared or startled by this new decor? If any of these are real concerns, you have two options: not using the decorations, or putting them up in one part of the house and keeping the dog away. Always be ready to put the dog in a familiar room, away from the docrations or activity, or in their crate.
Be cautious of decorations – spider webs & plastic spiders are all examples of things that can be hazardous for a pet if consumed. Excited dogs can knock over jack-o-lanterns and possibly cause a fire. –Hannah Perkins
Many glow-in-the-dark items contain a liquid that can be irritating to your dog’s mouth and throat if punctured. Glow sticks may help humans to be seen in the dark, but they also can look like a treat to your dog.
Halloween candy poses an obvious danger. Not can the ingredients, such as chocolate, sicken your pup, but there are also wrappers, sticks, and other packaging that can wreak havoc on a dog’s digestive tract. Keep in mind that the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it tends to be. Other candies or gums often contain xylitol, an artificial sweeter that is toxic to pets. Many “sugar free” products contain xylitol, but it is also in some products not labeled as such. Even candies without “bad” ingredients can be dangerous if their shape and size can cause intestinal obstruction, if swallowed whole (a dog specialty). Finally, although raisins may be a healthy alternative for kids, they can cause kidney failure in dogs. Play it safe: keep your pets away from all treats because even “the healthy ones” can be dangerous for your dog.
If you have a pooch that has any type of history of getting into things, especially food, you might want to consider a way to limit the risk of an unnecessary late night call or visit to the vet that could dampen the holiday spirits. Taking extra precaution with how candy is treated and handled is helpful, as well as crated your dog during the most fun and potentially chaotic times (of course, this differs with every family and can depend on the hype level of your kids). –Simon Perkins
Keep in mind that the danger from candy doesn’t necessarily end on November 1. Pay attention during walks for the next few days because kids tend to drop all the above items throughout the neighborhood on Halloween night. Just because your pet navigated Halloween night safely doesn’t mean that they won’t find these items over the next few days. Keep your dog on a leash and walk them during the daylight if possible so that you can see what they may be getting into.
Even if your dog is a real people-lover, things may change when those people are wearing masks and costumes. Some costumes may even include lights, sounds, props, and the like, which may seem really strange to dogs and startle them. Before you host a party or trick-or-treaters, try gauging the dog’s tolerance to costumes and masks .
Get a baseline understanding of your dog’s tolerance with (scary) masked figures. Put on a mask in front of your dog. If the dog freaks out, you might want to consider putting the dog in a closed-door room if you are hosting trick or treaters. –Charley Perkins
If you decide that you’d like to dress-up your dog for the holiday, take time to make sure they feel comfortable in the costume. Before Halloween, practice putting it on and taking it off. Offer ample rewards while putting it on, while they are wearing it, and while you are taking it off.
Dress them in a costume that is comfortable. If it seems like your dog is resistant to wearing a costume, it could simply be because it is not the right fit or too extravagant. Measure your dog to find costumes in the correct size. Ultimately, if your dog seems to not be a fan of dressing up, don’t make them. –Melinda Benbow
Dogs are chewers, and those dangling parts, squeaky bits, decorative ribbons, or beautiful buttons can be irresistible to them. What started out as fun can become an obstruction of your dog’s respiratory or gastrointestinal tracts. If your pet does don a costume, keep your eyes on them to be sure that they are not overheating and that the costume does not obstruct their breathing or their vision. Remember that what may be fun for you isn’t always fun for your dog. –Dr Ross Palmer
If you plan to trick-or-treat with your kids, think carefully about whether or not the dog should join you. Children in costumes rushing to pet your dog can be overwhelming. If you haven’t had much exposure to children or new experiences and know how your dog reacts, avoid putting your dog in an uncomfortable position by leaving them safe and happy at home.
If kids are coming to your door, be mindful of your dog so they don’t dash out and escape or get startled by the costumes. If your dog typically barks when there is a knock or doorbell, consider setting up the candy distribution on your front stoop to keep your dog calm during the night.
Keep in mind there is a lot of activity on Halloween. Kids in costumes, traffic driving the neighborhood, doors opening and closing constantly. If you and your pup aren’t prepared, it could be a recipe for disaster. You would hate for your dog to escape out the door while you are handing out treats, only for them to be overwhelmed by all the extra people out and about in unfamiliar costumes then running around scared in higher than normal traffic. –Standing Stone Kennels
Set Them Up for Success
A great way to lessen your dog’s anxiety is to make sure they get plenty of mental and physical exercise before your Halloween party or outing. You can also get them their own toys and treats for the holiday, so they don’t try to steal human candy. Finally, move their crate to a quiet, familiar area if you’re planning on crating them during the festivities.
Your evening may go better if your dog gets lots of exercise during the day. Tired dogs don’t get into much trouble.–Jon Comeau
Even if you think your pup can handle all the above dangerous situations, they might end up anxious or uncomfortable at some point. Keep an eye on their body language to see if they’re trying to communicate with you that they need their space and separation. Look for panting, excessive yawning, ears laid back, and similar signs of discomfort. And if you do suspect that your dog may have consumed something that they shouldn’t have–or if you’re in doubt–give your vet a call to see what they recommend. Veterinarians are well aware of the dangers that Halloween represents to pets.