Halloween is fast approaching and, as dog trainers and behaviour therapists, we know that this can be a particularly difficult time for dogs. Most dogs don't like change because they are used to the routine and association they have built and are most familiar with. Their environment may be different because of decorations in the house and the street, and the people around them can change in both appearance and behaviour. We’ve put together some useful advice for anyone who owns a dog, or who may have contact with dogs over the Halloween period.
- Your children may enjoy dressing in Halloween costumes, but your dog may not! Please don’t dress your dog in costume unless you know they are comfortable with this. Trying to force your dog into an unfamiliar (and possibly uncomfortable) costume could result in a stressed dog who may react aggressively towards you and other people he encounters.
- Once you are dressed in Halloween costumes, particularly those that include masks, your dog may not recognise you, and may respond to you very differently to normal. We would recommend that you never wear, or allow anyone else to wear, a mask in the presence of your dog. If you or your children are going to wear costumes, make sure that your dog has a chance to sniff them before wearing them, and that you behave in your normal way around him whilst wearing them.
You cannot assume that your dog understands that you are wearing a mask or a giant spider costume. Dogs will struggle to make sense of the changes. Furthermore, if you set about deliberately shocking your dog by wearing ugly masks and screaming at him, you risk stressing your dog and, at worst, you may get bitten. Similarly, if somebody else does this and gets bitten, you will be responsible!
- Don’t be afraid to control children, or any other visitors, to manage their behaviour around you dog.
- Sweets and chocolate can be poisonous to dogs – ensure that all confectionery is out of reach of your dog.
- Trick or treat is great fun for children but not necessarily so for dogs. He may become anxious about the number of people knocking at your door, wearing masks and making Halloween noises. Again, you can’t expect your dog to understand that it is Halloween. To him, this is behaviour that he didn't expect, does not understand and he may feel that you are under threat, and react accordingly. Make sure your dog has no access to the front door or the hallway during the times when trick-or-treat groups are likely to visit. By doing this, you will be protecting him from a stressful situation and ensuring the safety of both your pet, and the ‘visitors’.
- In case your dog does panic and escape whilst you have the door open, ensure that he is wearing his collar and ID tag, and that the details are up to date.
- Be careful when using candles in the house. Make sure they are high enough to avoid the risk of them being knocked over by a wagging tail, or use electric or battery-operated candles instead.
- Unless you are 100% sure that your dog can cope with the added excitement, or the stress of being out amongst ghoulish figures carrying lamps in the dark, don’t take your dog trick or treating. Leave your dog at home with the television on and the curtains closed, or pop him in his crate with a tasty dog treat.
- If you are someone who doesn’t participate in Halloween dressing up or trick or treat, try to remain as normal as possible around your dog. Don’t over fuss your dog as this can send him a message that there is something to be worried about. Consider leaving a pot of sweets outside your door with a sign for trick or treaters to help themselves. That way, you won’t be disturbed.
- If you meet a dog whilst dressed in a costume, behave sensibly. Keep your distance from the dog as you address the owner. Don’t attempt to stroke the dog, and never try to deliberately scare the dog. Your actions may leave the owner and the dog in serious trouble if you get bitten as a result of your actions.
We want you to enjoy the Halloween celebrations whilst remaining safe, and ensuring that your pets are safe and happy too. Giving a little extra thought to your four-legged friend will give you the best chance of a happy Halloween with no unfortunate, unforeseen incidents.
Bark Busters trainers have trained more than 1 Million dogs worldwide and are renowned authorities in addressing dog behaviour with all-natural, dog-friendly methods. Bark Busters training is the only service of its kind that offers International guaranteed lifetime support. With hundreds of trainers around the world, Bark Busters continues its mission to enhance the human/canine relationship and to reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia. Contact your local Bark Busters dog trainer to see how they can help.