Halloween, Stranger Danger and Your Dog

Halloween characters and costumes may not be much of a treat for your dog, especially if this is his very first Halloween. Young dogs who have only been part of the family for a short while are especially vulnerable as they have probably not even experienced your seasonal wardrobe change. When the first cold front blows through we may reach for that parka and mittens without giving much thought to how this metamorphosis may affect our dog. How did we double in size and become all puffy with layers of down overnight? Some dogs, those that roll well with the punches, may not even take note. But there are those sensitive types who observe and react to minute changes in their environment. Imagine waking up and finding that your beloved companion had suddenly sprouted fangs, horns and wings! For these sensitive souls, Halloween can indeed be a scary event. And if you are considering dressing your dog up, make sure he is on board with that. Some like it – most don’t!

Plan Ahead

If you are planning on dressing up for the occasion, allow your dog the opportunity to investigate the costume before you actually wear it. Put it on the bed and sit beside it. Invite your dog over to investigate but if he is reluctant, don’t force him. You can toss treats to him and gradually toss them closer and closer to the costume. When he becomes comfortable you can start to put on one article of clothing at a time. In this way you are permitting him to see the change from his much loved Mom or Dad to Captain America or Wonder Woman!
Refresh your dog’s memory. Three of the most useful commands are Stay, Quiet and Leave It. One of our most favorite aspects of Halloween can be dangerous for your pooch. Chocolate is abundantly available, can easily end up on the floor and is toxic to dogs. This is when “leave It” comes in handy. Trick or Treat-ers knocking on the door and ringing the bell can be wildly exciting. This is when a good strong Stay will serve you and your dog well, as well as Quiet.

Protect Your Dog

If you dog is not well socialized, is fearful, or aggressive there are ways in which you can manage the situation. Understandably, not all dogs are going to relish the excitement of the occasion. Consider these alternative approaches:

  • Board your dog overnight , either with your vet or a boarding kennel, indoors.
  • Seclude your dog in a back room, with a favorite chew toy. Turn the volume on the radio way up to, hopefully, drown out the ringing, knocking and other commotion.
  • Meet your scary guests outside. Be proactive and set up a table and chairs. Have some decorations and the all important goodies to hand out. Waylay those goblins, fairies and vampires and keep your dog happy and safe this Halloween!

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