Wags & Kisses by Jill Murray

Happy Howl-o-ween!

Keeping our dogs calm and safe can be the scariest part of Halloween.

There is so much going on. Some dogs do not handle trick-or-treaters, costumes, bowls of candy and novel decorations well. Dogs can get scared and run away or eat things they shouldn’t.

How can we prepare our dogs so that we can both enjoy the festivities without all of the anxiety?

To begin, it is important to know what stresses your dog. If the stressors are managed, barking, pacing and unusual destructive behaviors can be minimized. Normal triggers can be doorbells, costumes, decorations moving with the wind and blinking lights.

Having a safe place for your dog to take cover is a great idea. When things get too much for them, they will know to take themselves to their crate, a closet, or maybe even the bathroom to decompress.

Desensitizing your pup to the sites and sounds of Halloween is also helpful. If your pup reacts to the doorbell, have a family member ring the doorbell while you calmly give your dog treats. Repeat this throughout the days leading up to Halloween.

To get your pup used to the novelty of costumes, play dress up; put on a silly hat or have your family model their costumes while you calmly treat your dog. 

Another thing to consider is how you will safely hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters that come to your door. Some tips to consider are:

• The candy bowl needs to stay out of your dog’s reach. Dogs and chocolate are a dangerous combination—chocolate is toxic to dogs.

• Keep your pup out of the doorway by using a baby gate or have them in another room when you answer the door. This will eliminate the possibility of your dog running out of the door and keep your trick-or-treaters comfortable. Not everyone loves dogs and may not like being greeted by your friendly, bouncy, furry friend.

• Have plenty of doggy treats around and use them to reinforce the behaviors you want from your pup.

• Employ your pup with a long-lasting chew, a frozen stuffed cone, a snuffle mat, or a lick mat. Chewing, licking, and sniffing are calming activities for dogs; these activities will give them something to happily occupy them.

Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” With a little prep, you can stress less and enjoy Halloween more. Happy Howl-o-ween!

Jill Murray, a certified dog trainer, operates Wags & Kisses LLC in Burgess. Contact Murray at wagsnxx@gmail.com.