Keeping our pets safe on Halloween

costumeHalloween is fantastic and fun for kids and adults, however it is not nearly as pleasant for our pets. Costumes and props can be spooky triggers that set our dogs off. They don’t understand that it’s a holiday and all in the name of fun and there’s no way of explaining that to them. We have some great tips to share with you before the big night comes.

MANAGEMENT

Keep your dog indoors or on leash

This is not the time to leave your dog unattended outdoors – keep your dog on a leash or closely monitored in the backyard. Check your fence and gate to make sure your little Houdini can’t get out.

Double check your dog’s ID tags

We recommend double checking your dog’s collar daily to ensure it fits properly, but most of all around special holidays. Also check the ID tags to make sure they are clear, easily read, and most importantly up to date.

Block access to the door

If you have trick or treaters coming to the door, utilize a barrier such as a baby gate or even a tether to block access to the door. No matter how friendly you think your dog is, the doorbell is often a trigger for over arousal and no child deserves to be charged at the door. Some dogs will even take the opportunity to “door-dart” and take off running through the neighbourhood. Better safe than sorry.

Block windows and noise

If Fido loves prime time television and tends to sit at the window barking at passers-by, Halloween night will be no exception. Whether you are home or not, block the windows and play some classical music or white noise to prevent Fido from delivering the running commentary all night long.

Provide a place for your dog to hide

Many dogs feel stressed on Halloween night, understandably. Providing a safe space for Fluffy is only fair. Set up their crate or confinement away from the door and equip them with cozy bedding, and toys/chews.

Utilize calming aids

Plug in an Adaptil diffuser a couple days beforehand, play classical music, utilize a Thundershirt or anxiety wrap – any of these can be helpful to keep stress levels lower.

Give them something else to do

Food dispensing toys such as Buster Cubes, Kong Wobblers, or Nina Ottosson puzzles are fantastic ways to let your dog work for their kibble and stay occupied. Having a few stuffed, frozen Kongs in the freezer will put you ahead of the game. They will appreciate having their own little “Playstation” during the chaos.

pumpkinTRAINING

If you have some extra hands, you can turn this into a fantastic training opportunity – especially if you have a new puppy. While one person is dedicated to answering the door and dishing out candy, another person can be stationed away from the door with the dog on leash. Armed with high value treats, you’ll want to be prepared:

Think “Pavlov”

As soon as the doorbell rings or there’s a knock on the door, immediately feed a couple of small/soft/stinky, high value treats to your dog. Don’t hesitate and don’t make the food contingent on any behaviour; you’re simply creating an association. Doorbell rings = food happens. With repetition, this will create a marvelous emotional response (“hooray!”) to the doorbell AND cause them to come to you next time they hear it (instead of running to the door, barking).

Think “Skinner”

Now, get your clicker out! As soon as your dog looks at the children wearing costumes, click and feed a treat. Lather, rinse, repeat. This quick and dirty game is called “Look At That” and is from our Control Unleashed class. This exercise can really diffuse any arousal or tension before it escalates and is a great way to teach dogs to look at something or someone but to stay connected to you rather than reacting.

Keep it short and sweet, giving your dog plenty of breaks and watching for signs of stress; panting, pacing, whining, vocalizing, dilated pupils, yawning, licking their lips, avoidance, or any over-reaction. These are all signs that your dog is overwhelmed and needs to stop training and find a safe place away from the excitement in order to relax.

candyCAUTION

Halloween candy and chocolate are very unsafe for dogs – most have ingredients that are toxic, but they can also be choking hazards. Remember this in the days following Halloween as you take walks with your dog – Keep one eye on your dog and one eye on the ground ahead and around you.

Teach your dog a rock-solid “drop it” and practice daily, especially leading up to the holiday – it’s such an easy behaviour to practice and dog love it!

Have a safe and happy Halloween, everyone!