Halloween is a fun holiday, and it can be even more so when you include your best furry friend. But all the elements that make Halloween great—scary costumes, trick-or-treaters and tempting treats—can be a nightmare for your pet. Prepare your lil’ pumpkin for the big night with these Halloween safety tips.
Make trick-or-treating a treat
If you’re planning on taking your dog trick-or-treating, you’re sure to run into all sorts of people wearing costumes that your dog may find threatening. Some trick-or-treaters may even want to pet your dog. Help prepare your dog for these types of interactions with obedience training, says Steven Appelbaum, president and CEO of Animal Behavior College in Santa Clarita, Calif.
A good Halloween pet tip is to “Get them used to walking in public on a leash where there is a lot diversity in what people are wearing, where they’re walking fast and slow, so they get used to a lot of situations and learn how to respond properly,” he says.
And the sooner the training begins, the better, Appelbaum says. Don’t wait until Halloween night and expect your dog to stop jumping on the man dressed as a giant waffle when you yell “Down!.” Train your dog early to make sure you and your pup have plenty of time to practice before the big day.
Most obedience classes include leash training, but if your dog is still pulling or lunging, try using a no-pull harness, a head-collar or a no-pull leash like the ThunderLeash Retractable Dog Leash. It stops pulling by applying safe, gentle pressure on your dog’s torso.
Be sure to praise and reward good behavior with a game of tug or something tasty like Blue Buffalo Halloween Boo Bars, the perfect treat for the Halloween season.
Prevent disappearing acts
With all the distractions and doors opening and closing during trick-or-treating, it’s easy for pets to slip out undetected and become lost. An important Halloween pet tip is to keep your dog on a leash at all times, and, if possible, ask another adult to care for the dog while you’re handing out candy.
“Use a level of control rather than trying to use one foot to prevent the dog from getting out while you’re trying to give out candy,” Appelbaum says. “The more pets are taught how to respond properly to a variety of distractions, the better. You might even find that after a number of visitors your dog may actually get used to it.”
And, just in case, make sure your dog is wearing an ID tag like Platinum Pets Pawsitively Safe Pet Finder Tag, which uses social media to help unite lost pets with their owners.
It’s also a good idea to practice Halloween safety for kids that are coming to your door and may want to pet your dog. Use your best judgement, Appelbaum says. If your dog is not comfortable with strangers petting him, it may be better to secure him in his dog crate (the Frisco Fold & Carry Double Door Dog Crate is a great option) or in another room. You can train your dog to get used to kids and people over time, but never force your pup out of his comfort zone.
If all that Halloween hubbub is still giving your dog a case of the willies, use a calming product to help soothe his nerves like the tried-and-true ThunderShirt Anxiety & Calming Solution for Dogs. Try aromatherapy with Thunder Essence Dog Calming Mist and give him delicious calming treats like Pet Naturals of Vermont Calming Dog Chews.
Dress for success—not stress
If you plan on dressing your pet in a costume, make the experience stress-free for both of you. When choosing a Halloween dog costume, or a costume for any pet, keep in mind these Halloween pet tips from Dr. Ari Zabell, DVM, of Banfield Pet Hospital in Portland, Oregon:
• Make sure the costume fits properly and allows your pet to breathe and see.
• Avoid costumes with choking hazards like rubber or elastic bands, bells or sequins.
• Do not leave your pet unattended in their costume.
“Many pets prefer to eat their costume rather than wear them,” Zabell says. Appelbaum adds that checking costume labels is also important, as some costumes contain dyes that can be harmful if swallowed.
Once you’ve chosen the costume, practice putting it on your pet so they’ll be comfortable wearing it on the big day, Appelbaum says. Put on a piece of the costume, leave it on for about 20 seconds, then remove it, praise and reward. Then put on another piece and so on until they’re wearing the entire costume. Do this three or four times a day for a few weeks, he says. This way, you’ll be able to train your dog to sport his costume hassle-free!
Shelve the sugar
Keep the candy for the trick-or-treaters out of the reach of your pets. Candy can upset your pet’s stomach and cause diarrhea or vomiting, Zabell says. Chocolate is an especially dangerous Halloween candy. It contains theobromine, which can be poisonous, and even lethal, to pets.
Toss any candy wrappers and lollipop sticks, as they can be choking hazards and cause intestinal blockage if swallowed.
Pet-proof your home
Like Halloween candy and wrappers, some Halloween decorations can be dangerous to your pet. Keep them safe with these tips:
• Use caution with candles in pumpkins and around the home.
• Secure electrical wires away from where pets can chew or become entangled in them.
• Hang fake spider webs away from your pet so they’re not ingested.
• Keep your pets from playing with motorized decorations that could injure them.
• Make sure fog machines use safe chemicals that are not harmful when touched.
With a little preparation and some helpful tools, you and your pet can enjoy all the treats Halloween has to offer without any unexpected tricks.