Halloween is a favourite holiday in my house, which means the decor has been up for weeks, the dog beds are surrounded by pumpkins, and Remy and Ira have been wearing festive collars and bandanas since October 1st. Admittedly, it is easy to get wrapped up in the fun of this holiday, but as pet parents we do have to remember to limit the level of involvement of our pups to something suitable for their individual needs... which sadly may not include wearing a t-rex costume 24 hours a day so you can feel like you’re living in Jurassic Bark.
When approaching any holiday, you can’t browse the internet without finding a slew of safety tips to abide by. Of course, there are some important basics:
- Keep chocolate and candies out of reach of your dogs (and me... I have no self-control around a packet of rockets)
- Avoid singed whiskers or tails by supervising your pups around the open flames of candles and jack-o-lanterns. LED candles are a great alternative.
- Steer clear of pranksters and keep your pets safely inside on Halloween and Devil’s Night
- Don’t leave your dog unsupervised while they’re in a costume and remove outfits if they will be playing with other dogs (nobody wants to be dragged around the dog park by their Superdog cape)
But let’s be honest, those are just four of the same 20 tips you’ve probably already read in 100 different articles. Instead of repeating the same old info, I wanted to share with you some practical advice on how to set your dog up for success come October 31st.
While this may sound silly, the first thing you should do is think about your dog. And what I mean is to really think about their needs (not just get lost in their big brown eyes) and break apart the events of the holiday. Are they comfortable around children? Do they bark at the doorbell? Are they frightened by loud or sudden noises? If your pup is at all uncomfortable with the aforementioned, set them up in what I like to call a “Halloween Happy Hut”! At different times of the year it is also known as a “Firework Fun Flat” or a “Thunderstorm Tranquility Tent”. Or, to put it simply, a safe space away from scary triggers.
Making your pup a Halloween Happy Hut is actually quite simple and you don’t need to own a crate; triple H could be in a bedroom, laundry room or bathroom outfitted with the following:
- their bed along with blankets to snuggle into
- multiple food-dispensing toys to keep your pup occupied. This will burn mental energy and help their brain to release happy endorphins (thanks, food!)
- music or white noise to drown out the sounds of the doorbell and the many voices of trick-or-treaters.
If your dog has never been confined to a certain area of your home, do a few short practice runs before the 31st. Start with just a few minutes and gradually increase the amount of time your dog is alone, 2-3 minutes at at time. Springing anything new on your dog in the moment, will likely just pile on to the stress they are already feeling, so preparation is key.
Depending on the severity of your dogs anxiousness, you may only have to gate off the front entranceway so they can’t barge at or through the door. You can even turn the doorbell into a fun game of Pavlov’s Dog (classical conditioning). Door bell rings? Toss a treat onto their bed or mat that you have set up nearby behind a gate. With enough repetition by practicing for a few minutes each day, the doorbell will become a cue to your pup to go to their bed for a tasty snack and they will be ready to do tricks for treats on Halloween.
Maybe your dog loves kids, they don’t so much as blink at the sound of a doorbell or maybe they howl along gleefully at loud noises (I highly recommend joining in, it’s a blast). If this is the case, kudos! However, as much as we love our dogs, others in your neighbourhood may not be so keen on your Frankenweenie.
If your pooch will be helping to dole out the goods at your house or tagging along for trick-or-treating, make sure they are leashed by your side. Additionally, pick up a collar light or something reflective if they will be out after dark.
If staying in is more your forte, make a Halloween Happy Hut big enough for the whole family! Lock the doors, turn off the lights and snuggle in with your pooch, that box of 350 mini chocolate bars and 2011’s cult classic, Spooky Buddies
for a solid night.
I hope these tips will help keep your goblins and ghouls safe from all the things that go 'bump in the night' this Halloween!