How To Not Spook Your Dog this Halloween

Oct 8, 2021

We’re heading towards that spooky time of year again. Autumn leaves are scattered across the ground, so we’re playing hide-and-seek with the ‘business’ end of our pups' daily walk. It’s a nasty trick when you accidentally find a poo that had disappeared under the leaves, but didn’t really go away, am I right?!

For Halloween, folks will either be passing out candy at home or be out walking with their munchkins, helping to juggle their bags of candy. If you’re trick-or-treating with your dog in tow, you’ll end up being one hand short if your pup stops to squat, so having a dooloop will be especially handy. You’ll want to pick up after your pup to be sure you don’t leave any ‘tricks’ on the path for the neighborhood goblins, ghosts and their chaperones!  But you also don’t want to mistake one treat bag for the other when your lugging both -- just sayin’!

Alas, there are many dogs who take a pass on the door-to-door festivities. Many are justifiably alarmed seeing oddly clad strangers, so they’ll prefer to stay safe at home.

When someone knocks on your door, does your dog wiggle and wag, duck and run, or growl and freak? If your dog goes bonkers at the sound of a doorbell or knock, here are 7 sure ways to make Halloween (or any bustling holiday) a lot less alarming.

Hold a dress rehearsal.

If you or your children will be wearing costumes at Halloween, or if you’ve purchased ghoulish motion-activated decorations to startle trick-or-treaters who arrive on your porch, gently introduce your dog to them well before the big night. Quietly let your dog sniff the costumes, especially if they are new out of the bag, and get used to the sight, sound, and smell of you or your kids in your scary garb. Give your children treats to reward their pup as they show off their Halloween finery.

Be sure your kids know that while it’s fun to scare one another at Halloween, jumping out to scare their furry buddy is not a good trick at all.

Take your time introducing canine clothes and costumes.

From hotdogs to honeybees, there are dog costumes of every sort available to buy. But should every dog wear one? Only your dog can tell you. My Bella is costume-adverse: she freezes. She is a rescue dog and some things just make her nervous, but that's okay. She models if she’s asleep…we call it passive modeling.

If you’re set on having your dog join in the festivities with holiday-themed garb, you’ll want to start sloooow. Use baby steps when introducing your dog to any type of clothing – even warm snuggly winter wear or booties to make your dog more comfortable in frigid weather. Stock up on treats so your dog will associate yummy goodness with their new clothes.

Choose a costume that isn’t too restrictive, especially if it is the first time your dog has experienced clothing. Let your dog sniff the costume, and share some treats to create a positive association. You’ll want to proceed in gentle steps over a few days, draping the costume or the winter coat over your pup, fastening it on and taking it off, and gradually leaving it on for a few minutes at a time. Treat your dog to snacks, play, or a meal so their costume sessions include activities they love.

Is your dog twitchy and uncomfortable wearing their costume, even if they seem to tolerate it? You might want to ask yourself if it’s really worth making your pup unhappy. A holiday-themed collar will spark the spirit of any special day, from Halloween, to Christmas, to Hanukkah, or even Valentines Day. Your dog won’t even notice that they are decked out in festive bling if they are sporting a brighter version of their everyday wear.

No Halloween sweets for your sweet!

Wrapped candy is almost as irresistible to pets as it is to kids. It smells neat, tastes great, and has that curious crinkling sound. A bored dog who stumbles across a Halloween bag full of candy on the floor in a kid’s room can’t be blamed for diving in for an explore-and-destroy mission. If your dog is a counter surfer or cabinet sniffer, they are already experienced at hunting for fun stuff to taste-test!

You’ve probably heard it said time and time again, but it’s an important message: Candy can be downright toxic to your pup. Even a small amount of the sugar substitute xylitol (sometimes called “birch sugar”) can cause low blood sugar, liver failure, seizures and even death. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs due to its theobromine content. How chocolate impacts your own dog’s health will depend on how much and what type of chocolate they eat and how much your dog weighs. Dark, bitter chocolate has more theobromine than sweet chocolate.

If you discover your dog has been grazing in a candy bag or bowl, note how much and what type is missing, and give your veterinarian or a pet poison control line a precautionary call – don’t wait until your dog shows signs of illness.

Store your kid’s candy in a high secure cupboard. And of course, after you’ve sorted their candy, hide your own favorites in an even more secure location. It’s Tootsie Rolls for this dog mom (only the original flavor, please) and Milk Duds.

Be sure to warn children that candy is really, really dangerous for pets. Kids hear all the time that “candy isn’t healthy,” but they might not realize that for their pets it can be deadly – a far more dangerous threat than simple tooth decay.

When in doubt, wear them out! De-energize your dog.

Take your dog for a long walk or spend some time in the yard playing chase and fetch to burn off nervous energy. Be sure your dog has a chance to take a sufficient bathroom break before the festivities begin. Dogs who are tired and relaxed are more likely to nap through visitor hours once the novelty has worn off.

Bring outside dogs inside your home and lock your pet door if you have one. It’s unfair to subject a fenced, kenneled or tethered dog to a night-long parade of laughing, jostling strangers, and there is always the unfortunate chance that your dog could bear the brunt of a Halloween “trick.”

Create a cozy safe space.

Does your dog have a favorite room that can be closed off from the hustle and bustle of holidays? Set up a bed or crate well before the big day, provide a treat-filled toy like a Kong, and get your pup used to spending time in the room with the door open. Then close it for a few minutes at a time until your dog is comfortable being left alone. Check out these step-by-step instructions to get your dog used to staying in a room of their own.

Once your dog sees being closed in their safe room as a treat rather than confinement, you’ll have a safe place to stow your pet any time visitors, maintenance, or movers come to call. If holiday activities overstimulate or frighten your dog, a time out in their safe room will be their welcome retreat.

Nullify knocks and doorbells.

Does your dog love to greet the sound of the doorbell with an enthusiastic bark, slide and bounce?  Tape over the doorbell and keep a sharp ear out for those tell-tale giggles of trick-or-treaters so you can greet the children before they knock. Even if your dog is closed in their safe room, you’ll decrease their spikes of excitement and stress by reducing the triggers that would usually send them zooming to the door.

Send the little monsters next door for their treats or set up an outdoor candy bowl

If Halloween makes both you and your dog grumpy, a strategically placed sign to let people know that your dog thinks Halloween is a trick rather than a treat and that your candy is next door should help. Stock your Halloween-loving neighbors up with extra bags of candy. You’ll make them look extra-generous doling out doubles, and you and your pup will enjoy peace, quiet, and quality time together.

If you like to celebrate and have made other arrangements so munchkins don’t come knocking, why not have a smaller, quieter, costume-free Halloween gathering with people your dog knows and loves? If you want to further treat your dog-loving friends and family members, gift them a dooloop dog-poop bag holder. We’ve got Halloween colors of bone white, ghoulish green and boo-black (actually matcha and charcoal). 

With a little advance planning, we hope you and your furry best friends have a safe, healthy, and treat-filled howliday!

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