A blog post by Gia Savocchi, Dog Behavior Specialist
Holidays are fun, but they can pose unique challenges for our dogs. So many pet parents ask me for Halloween dog safety tips around this time. Halloween can be a very spooky and dangerous time for your pet. By being proactive and making sure to implement some changes, Halloween can be a safe and stress-free event. From toxic candy, to scary decorations and costumes, to increased door dashing, this holiday can be one of the tougher ones to navigate as a pet parent. Let’s review some of the hazards, and some Halloween dog safety tips!
Don’t Eat That!
Everyone knows that chocolate can be toxic to dogs, but did you know that there are even worse things for them to eat? One of those things is xylitol, a deadly ingredient found in some snacks. Make sure all food items are kept out of reach of your dog. In addition, wrappers and small chip bags can pose a choking or blockage hazard as well. The easiest solution is to put things up high right away. Remember, if you have kids they can forget and leave something toxic right on the ground in their bag. Click here for a list of foods that are toxic to our dogs.
Keep your dog inside!
Halloween is a very confusing time for dogs, with people walking in the neighborhood in record numbers, in strange and scary outfits. Make sure that you keep your dog inside, no unsupervised playtime in the yard. Taking a dog trick-or-treating, while a fun idea, can be a disaster. Dogs can become terrified by people in costume, and become aggressive or bolt, becoming lost. I don’t recommend taking any dogs with you while walking on this night, as there is no need to take the risk. Please make sure your dogs collar and tag is on them, in case they do get out. I’ve been using the Fi GPS collar lately, and I love it!
A quiet place (for your dog).
Some dogs become very stressed by knocking and the doorbell. By disabling the doorbell, and keeping candy out in a bowl or individual packets (COVID) you can minimize stress greatly. You should also give your dog a quiet place that they can go during the peak of Trick-Or-Treating. This quiet place could be a room at the back of the house with a gate. I like to play soft music, or have a noise-machine going to help drown out sounds. A special treat, such as a stuffed Kong or a bullystick is also a great way to keep your pets mind off the people coming up to the house.
One Halloween dog safety tip that people forget about is keeping decorations pet friendly. Wires and small pieces are very tempting for dogs and puppies who like to chew. Make sure what you put out isn’t within reach, and that all wires are taped down or behind objects. Inflatables, which are becoming very popular, have been known to spook dogs on walks. I recommend taking treats with you on walks so that you can counter-condition any decorations that your puppy notices. Simply wait for your pup to notice the inflatable Charlie Brown or random foot sticking out of the ground, say YES! the moment they notice, and reward with a high-value treat. This helps to prevent problems before they start.
What about dressing up my pup?
I love to dress my dogs up. They don’t mind this either. If your dog doesn’t like to put on clothes, I would skip it! There is no reason to further stress a pet on an already stressful holiday. Please make sure that costumes are non-restrictive, and that they allow your pet to see. Never leave a dog in a crate or unattended with a costume on. They could become caught on something.
What can I work on before this holiday with my trainer?
There are many behaviors you can work on to help your pet better handle holidays. My favorite skills to practice are being able to be sent to and contained in a room, crate training, sitting and waiting when the door is opened, and leaving a treat with the “leave-it” cue. All these things are really helpful during any holiday! Your trainer may have some Halloween dog safety tips to share too!
About Me, The Writer, Gia: I’m a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (among other things), and a little obsessed with dogs. I’ve been working in the dog industry for 15 years now training dogs and teaching people across the globe, and as a lifelong learner I’m continuously studying everything I can in order to better help my clients and their pets. I’m currently working on my MSc in Clinical Animal Behavior! I have four dogs, Poppy, Vera, Levon and Georgie and one parrot, Atlas. I also have a bunch of Indian Runner Ducks. If you’d like to learn more about me, click here.