8 Ways to Help Your Dog Have a Happy Halloween

Halloween is one of the most eagerly anticipated nights of the year for kids, but for our dogs, it can be a frightening and unpleasant experience. The constant stream of strangely dressed visitors, new experiences, and noise can be upsetting for even the calmest of dogs.

According to a study done by the University of Michigan, people are four and a half times more likely to get a dog bite on Halloween than any other day of the year. There is also an increased risk of your dog running away or getting hit by a car.

Make Halloween a great experience for everyone in your family, including your dog, by following these eight tips:

1. Keep your dogs out of the candy bowl.

Chocolate and artificial sweeteners are toxic (xylitol also found in peanut butter)  to dogs, and they can get very sick, and even die from eating it. Candy wrappers are also a choking hazard, so make sure that they are cleaned up. If you’re bringing the dog with you trick-or-treating, be vigilant about keeping your dog away from any wrappers or treats that might have made their way to the ground.

2. Find a place for quiet time if your dog gets overstimulated.

If your dog seems to be stressed out, you might want to consider giving him a “time-out” and putting him in the crate for a few minutes, or some other out of the way area. The constant activity and noise can make him feel unsafe, which can lead to a dog bite or the dog trying to run away.

3. Plan a nice activity after trick-or-treating is over.

Take your dog for a nice long walk, or something that the family can do together with the dog, like a play session with dog-friendly treats.

4. Practice obedience for a few days before Halloween.

When a dog knows what to expect, he will usually be calmer in a stressful situation. Practice commands like “sit,” “wait,” or “back off,” and use yummy, high quality treats. It will also help when the door is open for trick-or-treaters, so an obedience refresher before the big night is good dog parenting.

5. Test out the costumes to make sure they don’t frighten the dog.

If there are masks, make sure that the dog sees you putting them on and taking them off, so he knows who is underneath. Dogs can also have certain sensitivities to specific “characters.”

6. Monitor your dog’s behavior for sensory overload.

Some dogs might do well at first in a party environment, then get cranky if the activity goes on for too long, and eventually have a meltdown. Most dogs will usually give plenty of warning signs before this happens, so pay attention to what’s going on with him throughout the holiday. Often when people get bit, it’s not because the dog didn’t warn them; it’s because no one noticed that he was stressed or scared. If you have him out trick-or-treating and he seems tense, maybe it’s time to bring him home and continue the evening without him.

7. Reward appropriate behavior and apply consequences to problem behavior as soon as it happens and be consistent.

It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to keep up with impulsive “prey drive” dogs, but if you don’t reward at the right time, your interventions will be less successful and may not help at all. Keeping your dog on track with his behavior will help him to listen to you when there is a lot of new activity around.

8. Use LED lights instead of candles.

They are safety hazards when there are pets around. They can get knocked over, and our furry friends can also wag a tail right over a flame and get burned. If you need to have a candle in your pumpkin, keep it out of your dog’s reach. Pumpkins are tasty food, which will attract them to want to sniff, or even take a bite out of it.

With a little preparation and planning, even dogs with sensory issues can have a positive and memorable holiday experience. Good luck and have a Happy Howl-oween!

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About the Author: Roman Gottfried is an internationally renowned Holistic Training™ expert. He works with dog parents worldwide to help their dogs reach their full potential, by teaching them the holistic philosophy of dog training. He sees clients online and in-person. For more information, please visit his website http://www.romansk9training.com.

Parental Influence on the Emotional Development of Dogs

Most dog parents will agree that taking care of their dog consists of keeping their loved one safe, warm, fed, clean, and loved. It’s really not that different from raising a toddler.

Photo by Chalabala/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Chalabala/iStock / Getty Images

The main difference, is that dog parents often focus primarily on the animal’s survival needs without considering their emotional development. Training, structure, and calm assertive leadership are usually the main priorities.

Parents have a significant impact on a dog’s personality, behavior, self-confidence, and a number of other factors. Just like children, dog’s emotional growth needs to be supported and nurtured in order for them to be happy and balanced. 

A Dog Trainer can help a parent with education and some direction, but ultimately it’s the parent’s responsibility to educate their dog and encourage growth. There are studies that link a child’s competence with their parent’s investment in their play and activities. Dogs need the same investment of time, emotional support, and energy. Just being physically present isn’t enough to enable dogs to regulate their behavior, learn social skills, or have their needs met. The key is quality interaction, not quantity. When they don’t receive it, they can struggle with learning how to be social with other dogs, and have difficulty forming attachments, just like children do.

A study done on childhood development illustrates this concept.

“In studying the outcomes of Ainsworth’s Strange Situation experiments, L. Alan Sroufe found that the style of early attachment relationships predicts later emotional development of children. Sroufe asserts that, “Such variations [of relationship quality] are not reflections of genetically based traits of the infant but of the history of interaction with the parent” (188). This suggests that attachment styles are not inbornbut are driven by how parents interact with their infant from birth. Longitudinal attachment studies show that children with anxious attachment were likely to be emotionally disturbed and have low self-esteem (Sroufe 190).”

A child’s attachment style is learned from the parent and affects their emotional state as adults. Dogs form attachments to their human parents in the same way, so in order for them to grow into emotionally stable adult dogs, they need healthy interaction.

A parent’s emotional state affects dogs the same way it affects children. An important factor in the emotional development of dogs is how warm a caregiver is. A parent who is depressed or stressed affects a dog no differently than a child. Many studies have been done to measure the effects of a mother’s depression on their children.

“Depressed mothers have maladaptive thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, and these, along with being in a similarly stressful environment as the mother, put a child at risk of developing his own emotional problems (Sroufe 204).”

A depressed mother puts a child at risk of abnormal emotional development because she tends to put them into fewer social situations, can be indifferent to them, and in general will provide less stimulation than a mother who is happy or content. This makes it more difficult for a child to learn how to regulate their emotions, and dogs are the same.

“Children see how their parents display emotions and interact with other people, and they imitate what they see their parents do to regulate emotions (Sheffield Morris et. al).”
Photo by mj0007/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by mj0007/iStock / Getty Images

A dog's temperament also plays a role in their emotion regulation, guided by the Dog-parenting style they receive. Hostile or neglectful Dog-parenting will often lead to behavioral issues because dogs are extremely affected by stress.

They will become prone to negative associate emotions, which can arouse even more negativity from the Dog Parent. Destructive chewing, potty accidents, separation anxiety, human-dog disputes, and a host of other problems can arise, which create no-win situations where everyone ends up miserable.

Emotional responses have a deeper effect in dogs. The way in which Dog Parents address their dog’s emotions affects how comfortable dogs are expressing them. When a dog expresses their emotional state, like chewing when they are stressed, if a Dog Parent reacts with disciplinary action and doesn’t address the feeling behind it, that shows the dog that its feelings don’t matter.

This can cause a dog to be less able to cope with stress and become prone to negative emotions and behavior.

Helping dogs find ways to express themselves in a breed-specific manner and guiding their emotions will help them to regulate their responses to stressful situations. It will also help them to have fewer social challenges. Some dogs are not as emotionally evolved as humans are and they get can easily get stuck in an emotional dead end.

This type of “emotional coaching” greatly helps reduce behavioral problems in the future.In addition to being able to express their own emotions, it’s important in social situations for dogs to be able to identify and deal with the emotions of those around them. Dog Parents should teach their dogs how to comfort someone who is afraid, or approach someone who is smiling instead of feeling threatened, but other parental behaviors also influence how their dogs learn to recognize the emotions of others.

“It has been found that the interaction between parents affects a child’s emotional and social development, and marital conflict contributes to problems in these developmental areas (Sheffield Morris et. al).”

The biggest contributing factor in marital relations that affect a dog’s emotional development, is whether the dog sees the parents fighting. This is referred to as “background aggression” in the dog's environment, and if the dog is exposed to it, even though it is not directed at the dog, the dog as a“natural dispute solver” is attracted to take sides, which causes stress if he is attached to both Dog Parents. Problems with emotional security and regulation are a likely result in this situation.

Coming from a family with divorced parents, I can relate to this issue of background anger being a factor. Although my parents split when I was at the vulnerable age of three, they made sure not to fight in front of me, and I think that allowed me to have a healthier reaction to the divorce and to be emotionally well adjusted socially.

The Perfect Dog-Parenting Formula

The choices that a Dog Parent makes affects the dog emotionally, physically, and socially, but it’s important not to obsess with having a perfectly well-adjusted dog. There is no perfect formula for parents to model their child’s behavior, and the same is true for dogs.

There is no such thing as a perfect dog, or a perfect emotional developmental experience. Each situation is unique. Dog Parents can help their dogs develop into emotionally stable adult dogs when they use positive feedback, give them a supportive environment, and choose to be role models for healthy behaviors and interactions.

Roman Gottfried is an internationally renowned Holistic Training expert. He works with dog parents worldwide to help their dogs reach their full potential, by teaching them the holistic philosophy of dog training. He sees clients online and in-person. For more information, please visit his website http://www.romansk9training.com.


Sheffield Morris, A., Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., Myers, S. S., & Robinson, L. R. (2007). The role of the family context in the development of emotional regulation. Social Development, 16(2), pp 361-388.

Siegler, R., DeLoache, J., & Eisenberg, N. (2011). How children develop. (3rd ed.). New York:Worth Publishers. Sroufe, L. A. (2001). From infant attachment to promotion of adolescent autonomy: Prospective, longitudinal data on the role of parents in development. In J. G. Borkowski, S. L. Ramey & M. Bristol-Power (Eds.), parenting and the Child’s World: Influences on Academic, Intellectual, and Social-emotional Development. Psychology Press.

Volling, B., McElwain, N., Notaro, P., & Herrera, C. (2002). Parents’ emotional availability and infant emotional competence: Predictors of parent-infant attachment and emerging self-regulation. Journal of family psychology, 16, pp 447-465.

Negative Effects of Daycare on Dog Development and Nine Ways to Prevent Them.

Dogs who came from “doggy day camp” or commercial pet care were less socially adaptable than dogs who came from pet sitter care.

Time spent in nonmaternal dog care (daycare) is strongly linked to dog’s social–behavioral development. Entry into dog care before the age of one with continued and extensive child care throughout early puppyhood years is commonly associated with lowered social competence and cooperation, more problem behaviors, negative moods, aggression and conflict.

From my experience as a high quality boarding and daycare provider, I have observed that dogs who came from “doggy day camp” or commercial pet care were less socially adaptable than dogs who came from pet sitter care. How significant is the impact? The potential negative effects of hours spent in daycare is greater than the effect of the quality of parenting and is comparable to the impact of poverty on children. Moreover, the effects remain throughout puppyhood and adolescence. 

The link to a balanced and emotionally adjusted puppy is maternal sensitivity. It is the strongest and most consistent predictor of dogs’s social–behavioral adjustment throughout development. When a low level of maternal sensitivity is coupled with more time spent in daycare and/or a lower quality of daycare, dogs tend to experience insecurity in their attachment to their pet-parents. Secure owner-dog attachment is critical for positive pack interactions, good social behaviors, balanced emotions, and exploratory behaviors.

What does this look like as a puppy develops?  Dogs who experience more hours of dog-care had significantly fewer social skills and poorer work habits as adult dogs. By age 18 months, dogs who had experienced more center care continued to show more problem behaviors. And at age 24 months, dogs who had experienced more non-relative (non-familial) pet care reported more aggressive behaviors and impulsivity, including lack of excitement and impulse control, jumping, or aggression towards strangers.

As you might imagine, when a puppy has better dog care quality (i.e. personal, familial care), there are positive social behavioral effects including fewer problem behaviors in ages 7 months and up. But dog care quality is significantly less important in either positive or negative social and emotional outcomes than quantity of pet care.

Dog Parents whose dogs spend more time in non-maternal care are likely to exhibit lower levels of sensitivity and less positive parent–dog interactions, regardless of the quality and stability of the child care. Dogs whose parents exhibit low levels of sensitivity and who are in dog care more than 5 days a week or in lower-quality dog care are more likely to experience attachment insecurity.

Attachment insecurity is associated with negative social–behavioral outcomes across development. Dogs who do not establish secure attachments in their relationship with their mothers are more likely to experience social withdrawal, depression, and anxiety. Male dogs with an insecure maternal attachment are more likely to exhibit conflict, aggression, and acting out.

Give your dog at least 5 minutes 100% of your time every day, and you get a best friend for life.
— Roman Gottfried, Holistic Dog behaviorist

In summary, here are NINE ways you can ensure your doggy day care set up doesn’t set back the emotional development of your dog:

  1. Make sure your doggy day care includes personal interaction with the caregiver.

  2. Ensure social manners are part of the care-protocol and  insist on this.

  3. Consider placing your dog in 2 or more day camps a week as it will increase the social interaction and reduce “territorial conflicts.”

  4. Ideally, dog-camps days should be fewer than the home care days.

  5. Keep dog camp days and home care days at least 3 days apart.

  6. Seek home care with one or more personal caregivers to increase social–behavioral development.

  7. Seek caregivers who offer social dog walks as this will increase the dog’s social adaptability

  8. Make your focus the QUALITY of day-care rather than quantity of day-care. - For example, hire a qualified and experienced care provider 2x a week rather than hiring a cheap dog walker 5x a week that has no care experience.

  9. Increase the personal time with your dog. Days the dog is in nonmaternal care, the dog will  usually come home tired and miss important emotional connection time from their human-parents.

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