How to have a dog-safe and fun (for everyone) Howl-o-ween
Unusual activities, strange sounds, and lots of costumed visitors at your door can all make our pets feel threatened during the Halloween howliday. Whether your dog is prone to fear and anxiety or not, dogs are creatures of habit and when their “normal” routine is interrupted they can feel uncomfortable, stressed, and even agitated.
Halloween is no exception. Unusual sights and situations can create stressed-out behavior. Don’t let your dog be a scaredy cat. Follow these tips and everyone will have fun.
Place your dog away from the front door
Use either in a sanctuary space or behind a baby gate away from the front door. Even friendly dogs can get stressed with all the visitors and strange costumes appearing frequently at the door.
Here are tips for your pet’s sanctuary space. Now is the time to condition your pet to enjoy a room where they feel safe.
- Make sure that the space has a comfy bed and toys,
- Give them a food toy filled with fabulous food to keep them occupied
- Turn on music or white noise at a little higher volume than you usually would, not only to calm your pet but also to drown out the sounds of the trick-or-treaters.
- Make sure to condition your pet to the room and the slightly higher volume of music before you use it for Halloween.
- Learn more about sanctuary spaces here.
This petrified doxie needs to be in his sanctuary space. He sees the scary thing, barks, and then runs to hide.
This lucky pup, below, is sleeping soundly inside her sanctuary space dreaming of treats!
If your dog is not anxious or stressed from a parade of strange visitors, it’s a great time to practice attention and focus. Have some great treats (such as real food cut into pea-size pieces) and, while someone else has treat distribution duty, reinforce your dog for looking at you instead of the front door. Try staying at a distance if it’s too challenging for your pooch. Struggling to get greater attention and focus? Try May I Have Your Attention Please?, the online program to build these skills.
Take the Halloween fun outside!
Set up a table at the end of your driveway to hand out candy so that your pet doesn’t have to hear or see any of the scary sights of Halloween at the door (or continue to hear the doorbell ring).
Don’t invite your pet to the party.
If you are having a Halloween party, bring your pet to a trusted friend’s house, or doggie daycare, or use their sanctuary space with music playing for the gathering. They will be happier and less stressed. (Tip: Try Zoundz music for pets in the sanctuary space.)
Only tricks no treats (for your dog)
Your pet is already sweet enough, no candy is required. Keep your pets away from the candy by putting candy in the refrigerator or a secure or high cabinet. The same goes for the wrappers. Instead, ask for a fun behavior and reward your dog with his own special treats, such as cookies made just for him.
We all love to look at cute dogs and cats in costumes. Costumes can be scary for dogs and cats. If your pet isn’t comfortable, skip the costume. No matter how adorable, forcing the issue can result in bad or stressed behavior. Some dogs enjoy dressing up for Halloween. If they don’t seem to be bothered, go for it!
If your dog enjoys dressing up, it is important that the costume is pet friendly. Only use Halloween costumes that are recommended for pet use and do not use child-approved costumes as these are not designed with pets’ needs in mind. Be sure to supervise your pet while costumed and remove it before leaving your dog alone in the house.
Maymo and Penny, below, are good sports! Be sure your dog enjoys wearing costumes and supervise closely while they are on.
Be sure your dog has ID
Hats, wings, weird makeup, unusual textures, and added bulk can scare dogs invoking a fear response. For some dogs, a fear response may involve “flight” or running away and hiding. Costume or not, make sure pets are wearing current pet ID tags and that they are microchipped. If your dog were to get spooked and escape from home, they’ll be easily identified if they run out the door.
Look how scared the beagle, Marie, is at this horse head mask in the video below. She barks and then runs away. Not cool or funny.
Leave your pets at home.
You love to trick or treat, but fright night is not something that the majority of pets enjoy. Your pet will be happier at home in his or her sanctuary space.
Safe and less stressful walks past decorations
Are there scary new decorations in your neighborhood? In the weeks leading up to the holiday, there may be new, weird, or scary lawn ornaments. Here are a few tips to make your dog feel less anxious when walking past these houses.
- Carry high-value real food (such as chicken, low-fat hotdogs, steak, or cheese), or a favorite toy if they are not particularly food motivated. (Did I mention “real” food? If you haven’t tried that, your dog may surprise you!)
- When passing a home with Halloween decorations, stay at a distance where your dog can remain calm, or keep increasing the distance until you notice a change.
- Give the yummy food each time they look at a scary decoration and keep moving past quickly. A happy voice can help to calm your dog.
- The more your dog can pay attention to you, the less he or she is focusing on scary things in the environment. Learn how to build these skills.
Please share how your dog did during the holiday. We also love photos! Share at facebook.com/TheRealDogNerds/