Halloween will be upon us in a few days.  For me, I enjoy the unofficial start to the holiday season. Halloween brings with it, cooler weather, a change in seasons, autumn colors and people getting in the spirit with decorating.  I enjoy the scary movies and the history behind the holiday and how different cultures have their own perspective and traditions during this time of the year.

On the flip side, Halloween can be terrifying for our furry friends.  The constant ringing of the doorbell to the kids yelling ‘Trick or Treat’ to all the costumes which take away a bit of the humanness known by our dogs.  For fearful or reactive dogs, this can be even more frightening.  I know my little Boogs would be on edge every time the doorbell rang and someone was outside behind a mask.  So, in thinking about how I’m preparing my dogs for the trick or treaters, I thought I would share them with you!

If you’re going to be home and going to respond to the trick or treaters:

  1. Keep your dog in another room away from the door and give her something delicious and chewy during that time.  Putting Lily in a room away from the front door will keep her at a distance and will expose her less with the chaos of opening the door and seeing all the costumes and the high pitched voices of children.  On top of the distance away from the door, give Lily a bone will distract her and give her a job to do.  Chewing on a bone actually releases hormones which makes the dog calm down naturally.  This will help Lily in feeling more settled during this more strenuous time.  Keeping your dog away will ensure she won’t get triggered by seeing something she perceives as scary and have a fight/flight response kick in.
  2. If you will have candy from your own kids or just love Halloween candy, like I do, then ensure you keep ALL candy out of reach of your dogs.  As you may know, chocolate, in particular is toxic for dogs.  Yes, some chocolate is more dangerous than others depending on their percentage of cacao, but its better safe than be freaking out after you discovered Lily got into a bag of Nestle crunch bars.  On a side note, when Eddie and I first adopted Jack, we had to ‘Jack Proof’ (because he was completely stressed in a crate or in a laundry room) our house before we left, so anything he could destroy or think about destroying was out of reach.  It was the weekend before Halloween and I bought some bags of candy like the aforementioned Nestle Crunch Bars and Tootsie Roll Pops.  I believed I tucked them away on a high enough shelf in the pantry.  Eddie and I left for a party.  After a few hours at the party, I got the sinking suspicion Jack got into something, so I left Eddie at the party and went home.  When I arrived, I saw Jack was able to leap up to the shelf where I stashed the Halloween candy and unwrapped several miniature crunch bars and lollipops and ate them!  In the end, he survived, but my terror in knowing this could have potentially killed him, scared me and I’m WAY more careful now.  I hope you don’t make the same mistake I did.

If you’re going to be home and not answering the door/leaving home to avoid the trick or treaters:

  1. I would suggest keeping your dog in another room away from the door as I mentioned before.  It may be a good idea in crating your dog so the constant ringing of the doorbell doesn’t completely set off your pup.
  2. You may want to also consider posting a note on your door saying something like “Happy Halloween! Don’t Ring the Doorbell or Knock.  I Don’t Have Candy”.  This way, you don’t need any explanation of why you are making the request while at the same time you’re ensuring Lily’s safety.  Its also pretty straight forward which won’t cause much confusion.  Hopefully, for a child who isn’t old enough to read, their parent will be there and be able to redirect their child towards another house.  I’m considering this option as I would like to keep the stress down in the home for Jack and Bernie.
  3. Plan ahead of when you’re taking Lily out on a walk.  You’ll want to consider the time frames of when kids will be out in costumes walking around in groups or with just their parents, so Lily doesn’t get triggered and completely freak out.

However you take Halloween whether you celebrate it or not, please keep your pets safe and plan ahead of how you’ll ensure they are relaxed while the chaos ensues outside!!

Happy Halloween!!

Published by houndbiz

Katherine Porter is a force free, reward based dog behavior advisor and consultant serving clients and their companion dogs worldwide. Her calm and gentle approach in coaching clients in effectively communicating what they want to their dog blends her MSW background into her dog training and behavior practice. Katherine was a behavior consultant for Heeling Hounds after graduation. She opened Four Paws and You Dog Training LLC when the military relocated her family to Fort Sill, OK in 2015. During this time, she volunteered with Rainbow Bridge Can Wait where she provided post adoption consultations to new pet parents. She also developed and implemented tailored behavior modification plans for highly reactive dogs residing at the shelter. She also provided educational programs to military children through interactive workshops at the Fort Sill School Age Center. In 2017, Katherine relocated Four Paws and You Dog Training LLC to Germany. She served the Armed Forces communities in Bavaria. She continued coaching and advising her clients in addressing their companion dog’s fearful and reactive behavioral issues. Katherine takes a Do No Harm approach first and foremost in providing behavioral plans. She is committed in serving clients with gentle and modern science approaches in modifying behavioral concerns such as reactivity, aggression, separation anxiety and fear based responses. Katherine is a member of the Pet Professional Guild. She is focused on integrating a holistic and modern approach in addressing her client’s pet companion reactive behavior issues.

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