Halloween can be a difficult time for dogs. People begin acting weird, dress up in strange costumes, and small people come knocking at the door. Dogs don’t understand this at all, so they can become worried and frightened or overly protective.
Halloween from Your Dog’s Point of View
Several years ago, my husband decided to dress up as a Star Wars Sith for Halloween. He went into the bedroom and closed the door to get into costume. He wore his motorcycle leathers, black from ankles to neck, with tall black boots and a black cape, red and black Sith mask, and carried a realistic light saber. Opening the bedroom door, he leaped into the hallway with the light saber held ready to battle the good guys (the Sith are bad guys). When he did that, our three Australian Shepherds answered his challenge and dashed down the hall, hackles up, growling, snarling, and barking. They were ready to protect their home from this aggressive trespasser. Thankfully, my husband, who realized immediately he had made a mistake, dropped the light saber and ripped off the mask. They didn’t bite him, but Bashir, the oldest dog, watched him carefully for the rest of the night; grumbling under his breath. If your dog is one to battle the postal carrier and delivery drivers, then children coming to your house for trick or treat are going to cause a problem. They’re going to bark each time someone knocks, rings the bell, or comes to the door. Then, each time they leave, they’re going to be convinced they chased them away. Thankfully, you can make Halloween a little less stressful for your dog and help prevent potential accidents. If my husband had been bitten by one of our dogs, it would have been his fault, but our dog would still have a bite on his record; especially if my husband had needed medical care. Being careful is always better.
Preventing Dog Halloween Scares
Getting Dogs Used to Your Costume
If anyone in your household is going to wear a costume, introduce the concept of a costume to your dog before the holiday or party. Several days ahead of time, place treats on one piece of the costume while talking to your dog in a happy tone of voice, “Look at this! What is it?” and give them a treat. Repeat this a few times and then introduce another piece of the costume. The next day, repeat this with another piece of the costume. Keep it fun, interesting, and rewarding for your dog.
Desensitize Your Dog to the Doorbell
If your dog is reactive when the doorbell rings, do some training to lessen their reaction before the holiday. Have them on leash and have a pocketful of high value (special) treats. Go to the door, open it, and stand in the doorway. Ring the doorbell and ask your dog to sit – it’s hard to bark, look around for strangers, sit, and focus on the treat all at the same time. When your dog sits, praise them, and give them a treat. Repeat a few times, give praise, then go do something else. Repeat this several times leading up to Halloween.
Prepare Your Dog for Trick or Treat
If you’re taking your children around the neighborhood, leave your dog at home. They don’t need to see all the neighborhood kids dressed up and making funny noises as they pretend to be monsters or animals. If you’re at home handing out candy, don’t have them answer the door with you. This tends to get the dog more excited or worried.
Halloween Night for Your Dog
Come Halloween evening, have one family member spend the evening with your dog in another room. Have the TV or music on, grab some snacks, and snuggle up with your dog. They may still react a few times when people come to the house, but hopefully they’ll settle down quickly.
Keep Candy Out of Reach
Far too many dogs get into Halloween candy and this can make them sick. Sugar, chocolate, and candy wrappers can all cause problems; especially if your dog discovers the bowl of candy and eats the whole thing. Should your dog get into the candy or candy wrappers, call your veterinarian right away. They may suggest that you watch your dog’s feces for the next few days if your dog simply got into the trash and ate candy wrappers. However, if your dog ate a large quantity of candy, especially chocolate, your veterinarian will probably want to see your dog right away. Too much sugar can cause health problems, and chocolate can be toxic to dogs, depending on the dog’s overall health, the type of chocolate, and the quantity consumed. Prevention is best; just keep the candy out of your dog’s reach. But should your dog find some candy, call your veterinarian right away. Don’t wait until morning.