With Halloween just around the corner, it is easy for us to get wrapped up in deciding on costumes and stocking up on treats. Although the spooky season is fun for us humans, it can get scary for our four-legged friends.
To help you prepare for a stress-free Halloween, the Positively Pawfect team have some tips for you.
Trick or treating
Although it may seem like a fun activity to go out trick or treating with your dog, remember that your neighbourhood will likely look, sound, and even smell very differently from normal. There may be lots of lights, decorations, children playing, and other distractions which may feel uncomfortable for your dog. Consider whether your dog would be happy in that type of environment – would they feel safer and happier at home instead?
If you decide to take your dog out with you consider the following:
- Always keep your dog on a lead
- Tell children to give your dog space
- If your dog feels comfortable being touched by strangers, ask people to only stroke your dog on their back or chest. Most dogs don’t enjoy being petted on their head by people they don’t know
- Watch out for any chocolates or sweets that your dog may pick up off the floor – do they have a strong ‘leave it’ and/or ‘drop it’ cue?
- Make sure your dog’s microchip details are up-to-date and that they are wearing an ID tag. This way, if your dog gets spooked and runs away they can easily be identified and reunited with you
Doorbells and knocks
Some dogs may become distressed when the doorbell goes off or if someone knocks. If you’re planning on inviting trick-or-treaters, consider how the regular door knocks may affect your dog. Would it be better to leave your treats outside so children don’t have to knock?
Other things to consider:
- When you open the door to trick or treaters, keep your dog behind close doors so they can’t escape
- Provide your dog with enrichment options to keep them busy. Natural chews, puzzle toys and lick mats are a great way to help your dog self-soothe
Before buying your dog a costume, consider whether this is something they will feel comfortable wearing. Buy it well in advance so you have time to try it on your dog and see how they take to it.
Here are some signs to look out for, that may show your dog is stressed:
- Licking their lips
- Trying to pull the costume off
- Tail between their legs
- Stiff body
- Pawing at their muzzle/head (particularly if they are wearing a hat)
- Moving away, turning their head away
- Panting and/or excessive drooling
If your dog shows these signs, it may be a good idea to do some desensitisation training with them. You can do this by putting the costume on the floor and giving your dog a treat for engaging with it (e.g. sniffing it, touching it). You can then slowly build up your dog to be more comfortable wearing the costume by holding it up to your dog, giving them a treat, then putting one part on, more treats, and slowly moving towards the full costume being on. Take your time and observe your dog’s body language, if they show signs of stress, it is likely you’ve moved too fast and need to spend more time on the previous step. Please also be mindful that some dogs just don’t like wearing costumes and you shouldn’t try to force it – it’s better to have a ‘naked’ happy dog than a stressed out dressed-up dog!
We hope you find our guide to a safe Halloween helpful! If you have any questions or need help with any of the training suggestions made in this blog, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team on email@example.com.