Halloween can be a very traumatic time for pets, especially dogs and puppies. Neighborhood children, who have been the pups’ playmates for months or years, suddenly appear to have become ‘monsters’, with scary clothes, hats, wands, swords, masks and SOUNDS! Here’s how you can help your pup/dog cope with the excitement:
BEFORE HALLOWEEN, as many times as possible, and during the week before Halloween especially, have your or your neighbors’ children, wear their costumes around your dog. Have them wave their arms and make scary noises as they plan to do on Halloween. Have them go to your door and ring the bell. Answer the bell with your dog in his crate near the door, or behind a baby gate. Be very happy and playful if your dog shows any signs of stress or fear. DO NOT force your dog up to the children and do not have the children offer treats to a frightened dog. This REWARDS your dog’s fear! Allow the pup to investigate at his own speed and make it a happy time. If the costume is too complicated for this, have the children wear over-sized shirts and shoes and large hats. Start with short introductions to the ‘monsters’, one child at a time. Have the child quietly sit on a stool and allow the pup to approach on his own. Start slowly at first. Gradually increase the number of children and the duration of exposures to the costumes and noises. Be reasonable about the amount of noise and activity. The idea is to get the pup accustomed to all of the excitement, not to traumatize him
Dogs are often locked away from the excitement on Halloween. For some dogs, this is a good idea. For others, it is not. How do you tell the difference?
If your pup is shy and fearful, or a barker, restrict him to a warm, cozy room. Your bedroom is probably the most comfortable for him. Be sure he has many toys. especially food delivery toys like KONG toys and the CANINE GENIUS LEO. Confine him to an area that is safe and non-destructible. Put the TV on a ‘soft’ channel like KPBS or the Oldies station. The room should be away from the outside door and the TV should be just loud enough to keep your pup entertained but not so loud that you can hear it at the front door.
If your dog is a confident, non-barking, SAFE dog, he should be IN HIS CRATE near the door where he can see the action. Dogs are members of a working species. Were they still feral, and living in the wild, they would each have a specific ‘job’ to perform and would be required to perform it in order to remain in good standing with the family. Remember that the ‘Safest’ dog can become unsafe when agitated or frightened.
Your dog’s ‘job’, in your ‘family’, is to let you , the family leader, know when intruders are about. When a confident dog is locked in a back room, she is prevented from doing her job. This ‘isolation’ can be very frustrating to your pup and she may act out those frustrations in a number of destructive ways, including excessive barking and/or tearing up or soiling the area in which she is being isolated.
Here are some suggestions to take the trauma out of Halloween for both of you:
- LET YOUR DOG DO HIS JOB. Don’t isolate him from the activities if he is able to handle them. Allow him to be in the same room as you, IN HIS CRATE. This will insure that he is not able to run out the door into the street or jump on a Trick or Treater. If you do not have a crate for him, get one or keep him on a lead or behind a baby gate that he cannot jump.
- ALLOW YOUR PUP A SOFT BARK OR TWO when the doorbell rings. Praise her for telling you that someone is at the door, then tell her to “Shush”. When she is quiet, praise her with “good quiet”. When she remains quiet for ten seconds or more, praise her lavishly, softly, and give her a doggie treat. You do not want to stimulate her to bark again, so do not give the treat until she has remained quiet for at least ten seconds. Do not shout at your pup to be quiet. To do so ‘tells’ her that you are JOINING in the alarm and she will continue to bark.
- BE VERY CAREFUL TO KEEP YOUR PUP AWAY FROM THE CANDY. Ingestion of chocolate and raisins can be FATAL, and other candy can cause a tummy ache and diarrhea.
- BE SURE THAT YOUR PUP’S LICENSE AND IDENTIFICATION TAGS, WITH YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER, ARE ON HIS COLLAR. IF HE IS NOT MICRO-CHIPPED, HAVE IT DONE THIS WEEK, in case your pup has to spend the night in ‘jail’. Halloween is one of the busiest nights for Animal Control and, unfortunately, many pooches who aren’t street smart do not survive the night.
- BE SURE TO KEEP YOUR CATS, ESPECIALLY BLACK CATS, INDOORS FOR A WEEK BEFORE AND AFTER HALLOWEEN. (And, of course, on Halloween night). The Humane Society of the United States, and ASPCA, advise that every Halloween cats, especially black cats, are tortured and killed in devil-worship rituals. PLEASE do not put your kitty at risk.
- AT THE END OF THE EVENING, take your dog for a short, happy walk around your yard and let your pup see that there are no more ‘intruders’ in your yard.
- LEAVE YOUR DOG HOME. If you are going Trick or Treating with your children, LEAVE YOUR PUP HOME. No dog is 100% trustworthy or predictable. Even the best socialized and trained dog will bite if the circumstances are right. What those circumstances are varies from dog to dog and situation to situation.
Remember, your dog does not see the world the way you do. YOU may not think that a certain situation or costume is a threat to your safety, but your dog does not understand Halloween, and may see things differently. Be safe. LEAVE HIM HOME!
- HAVE A VERY HAPPY AND SAFE HALLOWEEN!!