NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Halloween can be one of the most festive days of the year for family and friends, but it can also pose some challenges, especially for our four-legged friends: our dogs.
Richard and Vicki Horowitz from Barkbusters explained to WTNH, WOOD TV8’s Connecticut sister station, what dog-owners should keep in mind regarding pets’ well-being during Halloween.
For dogs, they say, Halloween can be a nightmare—from oddly dressed squealing kids and strangers ringing doorbells to unusual commotion in the neighborhood, all packed into one action-filled night. Dog owners may not be able to control external surroundings, but they can care for their dog’s safety.
Barkbusters suggest that you do not leave your dog outside. Even if you have a fenced yard, bring your dog inside where it is safe. If your dog is usually kept outside, bring him in a few times before the big night to get him used to being indoors. Sometimes a sudden change can put more stress on a dog. If your dog cannot come inside, ensure your dog has a safe place to go, like a doghouse. Your dog may be used to strangers, but so many little ghouls and goblins running about may be too much. Remember also that it is a natural instinct for dogs to protect the family from strangers, and on Halloween there will be no shortage of strangers. Pranksters love to tease and even be cruel to dogs.
Keep your dog restrained. If your dog is timid or scared, or if he tends to love people a little too much, it is best to put him in a separate room away from the doors to limit his excitability, aggression and chance of running outside and becoming lost. Also, consider having a crate or safe zone (such as a pillow or a bed) that you can direct him to when people come to the door.
Check your dog’s ID tag. Be sure identification tags are secure on your dog’s collar just in case.
The best thing you can do for your dog when he is feeling unsettled by Halloween activities is to act as you normally would around your dog. By over-reassuring your dog or giving him an unusual amount of attention, you inadvertently can communicate to him that because you are acting differently, there must be something to worry about.
Have your dog get used to costumes. Your dog may see his family members as strangers once they don their Halloween costumes. Before the kids put them on, allow your dog to scent the costumes. If your costume has a mask, keep the mask off when you are with your dog because dogs can become confused when they can’t see our faces.
Many candies — especially chocolate — are bad for dogs. The severity of the toxicity depends greatly on factors like breed, age, size and how much candy was ingested. Problems may range from a mild upset tummy to vomiting and diarrhea or even death. If you have any concerns at all, consult with a veterinarian immediately. If you want to keep your dog safe, make certain that sweets, including their wrappers, are kept well away from your dog. A wad of wrappers can block the intestinal tract, a very dangerous condition.
Protect dogs from candles and pumpkins. Excited or agitated dogs can easily knock over a lit candle or pumpkin. Be sure those items are away from your dog’s reach, or consider a battery-powered candle that does not burn. It is also a good idea to allow your dog to see and scent the decorations before dark, without the candles. Those faces can look scary, especially from a dog’s-eye view in the dark.
Think twice about dressing your dog in a costume. While some dogs might enjoy being dressed up, many don’t. Experiment first to see if your dog likes being in a costume. If so, fine — he’ll most likely enjoy himself and the extra attention it brings. However, if he shows any resistance, don’t do it. Dogs feel enough stress around Halloween without also having to endure the discomfort and peculiarity of wearing a strange costume.
If you take your dog with you while trick-or-treating, be prepared at all times. Ghosts and witches can appear at any time. Do not let your dog approach the door of a house and stay clear of possible gags or gangs of goblins who will gather at the door. Dogs do not understand that the person jumping out at you will not hurt you; they often think they can only help you by acting aggressively. Neither children nor adults in costumes should approach a dog without the owner’s consent. Even the most well-behaved dog can be startled by a ghost popping out and “attacking.”
Finally, if you want your dog to be included in Halloween festivities, think about his safety much as you would the safety of a small child. Your dog does not understand Halloween, so he or she needs you to provide the guidance and safety that you always do.
This article originally appeared on WTNH.com.