Halloween is upon us and it is a holiday that many enjoy with their pets. It’s a holiday that we have truly morphed into our own as pet owners. While it’s nice to be able to share some Halloween activities with your dog, it is important to keep their safety in mind, and be understanding if they don’t want to participate.
Halloween has dangers other than what many might consider the most obvious, candy. Decorations, ill-fitting costumes on them, anxiety from the constant doorbell ringing, anxiety from trick-or-treaters dressed in costumes or masks, scary yard displays, and the general commotion that takes place on Halloween, all can be a risk for your dog.
One easy step that all dog owners can do, regardless of how their dog celebrates Halloween, is to make sure your dog has proper identification. Even if you are planning on having your dog stay indoors, don’t take any risks. Make sure that if your dog was to get lost, it would be clear for anyone who found him or her, how to identify your dog and get them home safely.
Halloween is known for some extreme decorations, and like other holidays, it’s important to make sure those decorations are pup friendly.
When it comes to pumpkins, dogs are going to be curious. Pumpkin is actually good for dogs’ digestion, but not necessarily a carved one sitting out for a month. If your dog does taste it, they might end up with a upset stomach, but no big problems.
Candles are a safety issue at Halloween, especially when they are put in pumpkins that smell good to your dog. If your dog shows increased interest in the pumpkin and you have a light it, keep it out of the dog’s reach. Swishing tails are also a threat because they can knock a pumpkin over that has a lit candle in it. You can use LED lights, however the pumpkin still needs to be kept out of the dog’s reach in case they decide to investigate.
Some indoor Halloween decorations have tiny pieces. From the classic plastic spider in the fake web, to the collectable Halloween village Spooky Town, tiny pieces are always ready to be knocked to the floor for your dog to gnaw on. Try to avoid small decorations, and if you can’t, keep the room off limits for the dog.
Many Halloween decorations have electric wires. This includes electric candles for pumpkins. If your dog chews on these cords, they can get burned or give themselves a lethal electric shock.
Sources: “Halloween Dangers to Dogs & Cats” on the Pet Poison Helpline website
“Halloween Safety Tips” on the ASPCA Pet Care website
Picking out a costume
There is nothing wrong with dressing up your dog on Halloween, but it’s important that the costume is dog-friendly. It’s very easy to get swept away in the fun. If your dog just wants to rock a bandana, more power to him, but if it’s a full costume you want, here are some suggestions to keep in mind.
When choosing a costume, only buy costumes made for dogs. Children’s costumes, even tailored, should never be used. While it may sound silly to mention, there is actually an important difference between the two. The neck elastic in children’s costumes is much stronger than what is used in pet costumes and it could irritate a dog’s neck or constrict their airway.
Keep in mind when deciding on a costume that your dog needs to be able to breathe, see, hear, smell, and bark comfortably. Consider if your dog could comfortably eat or drink from a dish and go to the bathroom in the costume without restriction. Pick a costume that doesn’t have any dangling pieces that they can chew off or can fall off for them to eat later. Lightweight fabrics are best.
Have your dog try on the costume ahead of time to make sure they are comfortable in it. Make sure they have free range of motion and the costume doesn’t impede their movement. If a costume is too big it’s also a hazard. They can trip on it or slip out of it.
Most importantly, make sure that your dog has proper ID on and can be identified. Halloween can be a dangerous time for a dog. It’s quite literal to say that a dog could get spooked and run off so make sure your dog is safe.
Sources: “Three Tips for Dressing Up Your Pet for Halloween” on the ASPCA blog
“Howl’oween Good Fun” by Sandy Robins on Hartz.com
The doorbell on Halloween
Just like people, Halloween will evoke different emotions in dogs. Some dogs have no problems staying by the side of their owner as they hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. They greet the masked and costumed children as if it was any other day and the excitement doesn’t seem to faze them. However not all dogs are going to have this reaction. You are going to be the best judge on how your dog will react, however making sure to factor in all the elements is important. Plan ahead so you can keep your dog comfortable and their stress at a minimum during the holiday.
It’s smart to keep your dog away from the front door during trick-or-treating hours. The constant doorbell or knocking on the door has the potential cause anxiety for some dogs, making them incredibly stressed. On the other end of the spectrum, some dogs could get over excited from it. Trying to hand out candy and control the dog would be incredibly hard to do.
On top of the noises are the trick-or-treaters. It’s interesting to wonder how different dogs interpret costumed adults and children. With the current media trends in werewolves, masked superheroes, and other characters that a dog may not identify as human, it is important to ask yourself how your dog would react. They might become terrified and hide, they might attack the person out of fear or if they feel you are in danger, or they might dart out the front door.
If you know your dog is going to get stressed, have them stay in the back room, or if they are crated, they might feel more comfortable in there. Make sure they have water, food, and you can give them their favorite toy. If you know your dog has severe anxiety, call your veterinarian and ask for further advice.
A dog that gets over excited can benefit from being in a back room or crate as well. Being in a back room with water, food, and some toys to keep busy is a great spot for them until the trick-or-treaters and any other exciting guests have left.
Sources: “Top Halloween Safety Tips for Pet Owners” located on the ASPCA Professional website
“Halloween Safety Tips” on the ASPCA Pet Care website
“Halloween Safety Tips for Your Dog” by Elizabeth Dobrska on the Animal Rescue League of Boston website
Taking your dog trick-or-treating
If you decide to take your dog trick-or-treating, make sure they are up for the task. Although they may be familiar with neighborhood and the neighbors, Halloween night is much different. The noises and costumed children will be a new environment and each Halloween it will change. Even if your dog has done well in the past, stay alert. Trick-or-treating can be fun for your dog or very stressful, so here are some tips to keep in mind for keeping your dog comfortable while trick or treating
Most drivers are mindful during Halloween night and do their best to avoid going through neighborhoods, but if they have to, they do so cautiously. Dogs, both on and off leash, are smaller than most children, reducing their visibility to drivers. In the article, “Autumn hazards for dogs and tips on keeping them safe”, reflective collars and leashes or LED collars and leashes are suggested to keep your dog safe during the dark hours of daylight-saving time. Dog-e-Glow makes LED collars and leashes and offers Halloween themed ones as well. Available through PetSmart, you can read more about them here. It’s a great way to keep your dog visible, festive, and safe all at the same time.
If you are taking your dog trick-or-treating, there are some things you can bring to make life easier. Although we typically associate Halloween with colder weather, it’s still incredibly important to bring a lot of water along for your dog. In an article by Dr. Katie Williams, D.V.M., “Fall Pet Safety Tips”, Williams informs dog owners that heavy panting can indicate stress so be mindful of your dog’s body language if you do take them trick-or-treating. Petco offers a wide selection of travel bowls, including a fabric foldable travel bowl, a bottle with fold out drinking bowl called Handi-Drink Instant Dog Drinkers, and the Bamboo Pet Collapsible Silicone Travel Bowl, which is a silicone bowl that easily folds into a flat disk.
Another tip would be to bring your dog’s favorite toy. Many dogs like to carry things in their mouth, which you can use to your advantage. Try bringing your dog’s favorite toy for them to carry. With all the familiar and amazing scents on their toy, dropped candy and wrappers could potentially go unnoticed. Whether your dog has a toy or not, is smart to keep an eye on their mouth. Toys can also be a distraction if you think your dog is going to get scared or there is a situation you want to avoid.
Sources: “Howl’oween Good Fun” by Sandy Robins on Hartz.com
“Halloween Safety Tips” at the ASPCA Pet Care website
Halloween is an exciting time for children. When children trick-or-treat, they can scare your dog with their costumes, masks, or noises. When you factor in the added excitement of the candy stash and the sugar rush, the noise gets louder. On streets with startling and scary yard displays, with children running around in costumes your dog may not recognize as human, your dog may go into full alert ready to act on instinct. It is critical that children trick-or-treating on Halloween do not take the dog’s leash.
Trick-or-treater’s have a lot to handle on Halloween. A flashlight and a bag of candy may sound easy, but some costumes can make it extra difficult. Costumes with small eyeholes can reduce a child’s visibility, bulky costumes can limit children’s range of motion, tight or ill-fitting costumes can restrict a child’s movements, and gloves can reduce a child’s dexterity.
Juggling those items in the most constricting costumes is hard enough on any day, but children seem to manage on Halloween. However giving them the dog’s leash on top of all that, let alone on Halloween, is a disaster waiting to happen. Manipulating all their items, a child might accidently drop the leash, it could slip through their fingers if the dog pulls, and they could forget and run off to a friend. Halloween has distractions for both children and dogs.
Children are not the only ones that can get distracted on Halloween. During a holiday when scaring and surprising others is encouraged, it can be dangerous for a child to have the dog’s leash. Even if you think you know your dog’s personality, sudden panic in their mind, will most likely cause them to react similar to their ancestors. If your child wraps the dog’s leash around their hand and the dog gets spooked suddenly, your child could be severely injured if the dog runs.
It is not rare to see dogs bond with and become protective of children in a family unit. They are pack animals. If the dog is being led by the child and they come across something they perceive as a threat, possibly a child dressed as a zombie or another animal, they could act on instinct and attack the threat, to protect your child.
Even at a lit doorstep, there’s still a risk for a child to have the leash. If your child rings the doorbell and a cackling witch answers, your dog could run, get scared, or become protective of your child. If a person answered the door accompanied by an unfamiliar dog, it could be an unsafe situation for your child and your dog.
If you are taking your dog with you trick-or-treating, it’s important that you hold onto the leash for the safety of your children and your dog. Before heading out on Halloween, you may want to let your little trick-or-treaters know that the family dog has to stay with you for his own safety.
While the joy of Halloween night for trick-or-treaters is evident in their squeals of delight as their treat bags fill with candy, the joy is not found everywhere. The holiday known for its frightening and scaring others in good fun can truly become a nightmare for dog owners when it comes to candy. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, calls to their helpline increase by 12% during Halloween, making it their busiest time of year.
Accessible 24/7, the Pet Poison Helpline is an animal poison control center, available to pet owners and veterinary professionals treating potentially poisoned pets in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. In the article on the Pet Poison Helpline’s website regarding the rise in calls, “Halloween Dangers to Dogs & Cats”, the assistant director at Pet Poison Helpline, Dr. Ahna Brutlag, D.V.M., M.S., comments, “Each year we experience a sharp increase in calls around Halloween, especially during the weekends surrounding the holiday.”
Many dog owners are aware of the danger of chocolate and do their best to keep their dogs away during Halloween. While chocolate is extremely dangerous and potentially fatal, it is not the only treat given out to children on Halloween that is dangerous for your dog. Other dangerous items are raisins, candy and gum sweetened with the sugar substitute Xylitol, and candy wrappers.
To read more about Halloween treats dangerous to your dog and identifying symptoms, check out “Halloween treats dangerous for your dog”.