Halloween and July 4th are my favorite days of the year! However, both can be the most dangerous and terrifying days of the year for your dog. That sounds like an exaggeration – especially if you have one of those rare bullet proof dogs that aren’t affected by anything in their environment. Most dogs aren’t so bullet proof. We’ll talk about July 4th in a later post (that will be linked back here), but since it is the season for ghosts and goblins (and lots and lots of candy!), let’s talk about dogs and Halloween.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Halloween is the Gateway Holiday for all of the High Calorie Holidays to come? You probably knew that…
Let me give you some Halloween perspective…
To a dog, the humans all smell the same, but they look freaking crazy and incredibly unpredictable.
- Humans still smell like humans, but they don’t look like humans anymore (because even humans wearing Halloween makeup can look like a stranger to a canine friend).
- Humans move and sound different (because costumes can change body language, and masks can muffle voices).
- Little Humans (Littles) have an energy level that could power a small (or midsize) town (either from excitement or sugar or both).
- The Littles are loud (because kids can turn up the volume when they are excited and sugar filled).
- Strange lights float everywhere in the neighborhood (because Littles and Bigs carry flashlights to be safe).
- It’s hard to see (because like human eyes, dog eyes don’t adjust so quickly to rapidly changing light conditions, and we often don’t think to avoid shining those lights in our dog’s eyes because we are trying so hard not to blind each other).
There’s a lot more to it, but that gives you a basic idea of how strange Halloween can seem to your dog. Dogs like predictability. There is extreme comfort in routine and organization. On Halloween, all hell breaks loose and we want to set our dogs up to succeed so even they have a good night! Let’s talk about…
How To Keep Your Dog(s) Safe And Happy On Halloween!
Because we know that if our dog is safe and happy, we are much more likely to have a happy Halloween ourselves!
I’ll cover 2 examples here, but you can combine any of this information to make this Halloween the Best Halloween Buster has ever seen. For example, you can start out with Buster as part of the party, and then he can retire to his boudoir to chill with some Netflix.
If Buster The Wonderful FrankenDog will be part of the shenanigans:
Be sure ahead of time that he is ok around all that craziness that is Halloween.
If you want Buster to dress up, try that Batman costume on Buster well in advance of the Halloween party. You might even want to give him some time to wander around the house several days before Halloween to get used to it. Think about how uncomfortable some of those people costumes can be and then add a layer of discomfort because your dog doesn’t normally wear clothes…well, most dogs don’t normally wear clothes, but again…not judging…we don’t do that here.
Oh…and make sure that Buster is visible to the other goblins in the neighborhood. Reflective tape looks really sharp on a doggy ghost costume!
Even if Buster is ok with all the commotion, be extra careful around Littles. Sometimes Littles are on their best behavior, and sometimes they have consumed too much sugar to know who or where they are. They’re like little aliens…no, no…Dragons…Small Ferocious Dragons with no bedtime…That sweet Halloween High can make us all forget our manners, forget how our inside voices work, and forget that some dogs don’t like to be handled roughly by every Princess, Dracula, and Zombie that lives in the neighborhood. Dogs who have never thought of putting their teeth on children have bitten their own children on Halloween because they were overwhelmed.
It is your responsibility as The Minimally Sugared Adult to make sure that the dog is comfortable, and the children are respectful of his space.
BEWARE THE DOOR! If you are handing out candy, and Buster has a habit of making a run for it whenever the door is opened, please don’t expect him to stay inside the door because it’s Halloween, or because his Littles are around, or even because you said so…remember how well that works on the Littles, and they speak English. Baby gates are little miracles sent to us with the primary purpose of keeping dogs and children safe and out of harms way. Please think about using gates, pens, crates, etc. to confine your dog so you don’t have to spend Halloween playing some really horrible version of Barko Polo with Buster all over the neighborhood. Even if you are convinced that Buster will not take off like a rocket, make sure he is wearing his Bling – ID tags go a long way toward helping lost pets become found pets.
If you know that your dog doesn’t like crowds, then maybe Buster will be more comfortable at home in his crate watching Disney movies on Netflix while you and the Littles party.
If Buster The Wonderful FrankenDog will NOT be part of the shenanigans:
Don’t feel guilty because Buster isn’t part of the party. Chances are, Buster is much happier NOT being part of the party.
If Buster will be staying at home, it might be a bad idea to leave him in the fenced yard all by himself. Sometimes people can be BAD on Halloween. It might just be a prank, but Buster shouldn’t have to deal with people throwing eggs at him because they think it’s funny (and you shouldn’t have to give Buster a de-egging bath after walking all over the world to get candy). Besides, all those ghosties outside the fence can be pretty terrifying from inside the fence – especially if that fence is an electric fence (with no boundary visible to the dog). Any ghost or ghoul (or over sugared teenager) can walk right into Buster’s yard!
AND THAT DOORBELL! If you know the doorbell sets Buster off, maybe you could unplug the doorbell – just for tonite. You could sit outside on the porch so the Trick-or-Treaters won’t have to knock or ring the bell. Or maybe Buster should go party with a relative. Find the one who hates Halloween the most and offer to pay them in candy.
Remember, life with a dog is about what your dog finds comfortable, not about forcing your dog into a situation that is bad for him because you feel like he needs to be part of the party. You’ll find me always encouraging you to think of every situation from your dog’s perspective. It’s the best way to keep them happy and healthy.
And this would not be a post about dogs and Halloween if we didn’t talk about the Demon Candy. Halloween candy is an excellent source of nutrition – you read it on the internet, it must be true! Candy for everyone – except the dog!
I’m sure you already know this, but it is worth repeating. Chocolate is not a good diet for dogs. Most people know this one well, but If you want to read some extra science-y details on this, check out this article on chocolate intoxication.
Let’s also take a moment to mention Xylitol. As we look for a way to reduce calories in our diets, alternative sweeteners are being used more frequently to replace sugar. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is used to give sweetness to lots of foods, including chewing gum and peanut butter. Xylitol poisoning in dogs happens fast, and is really terrifying – from out of control rapid blood sugar crash to kidney failure faster than you can think about how awful this is. I’ve seen this one first hand when my hound dog thought a pack of orange flavored sugar free gum was delicious. Thankfully, she didn’t get much, and we arrived at the vet quickly. I’ve also had several students lose dogs to Xylitol poisoning before anyone really knew how bad it is for pups. You can read more about Xylitol poisoning here.
Most Halloween candy doesn’t come from a box. And there is no requirement to label ingredients on the individually wrapped Halloween sized candy. So you really have no way of knowing if that piece of candy contains Xylitol. To be safe, just don’t give Halloween candy to your dog.
If you really feel like your fluffy friend needs to celebrate with special treats, check out these recipes, or you can make any dog treat recipe halloween-y by using the right mold or cookie cutter.
And please make sure the Littles keep the Halloween candy out of reach. If you’re having a Halloween sleepover, it’s important to communicate this to all the ghosts and goblins in the house – Littles don’t think like Bigs, and Bigs sometimes drink too much and think feeding dogs funny things is…well, funny. And sometimes Adults forget that the height of a dog’s face might be the same as the height of the coffee table. You know…the table with the candy dish on it…My hound dog also puked a peanut butter cup wrapper after spending Halloween away from home. But that’s a story for another blog post.
I hope I’ve helped you understand Halloween from Buster The Wonderful FrankenDog’s point of view. What a terrifying holiday! Humans in costumes just don’t look like humans anymore, and before you know it, Buster could be overwhelmed and having the worst day of his life. Please remember to set Buster up for success by controlling the things in his environment that need to be controlled, and by keeping that evil candy WAAAAAAY out of reach…maybe you should just eat all of it…right now…
And a special Thank You! Shout Out to Lynn for reminding me that Halloween is just around the corner…Left to my own devices you would be reading this in December and the Christmas Blog Post next October!
Lynn – You Rock!
The World Needs Your Input!
We’re all Dog Trainers here, and the best way to get better is to share ideas!
How does your dog feel about Halloween? Do you have a Doggy Halloween Ritual to keep your pup safe? Please post your thoughts below and let’s start a discussion!