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.