Howl-o-ween Safety Tips
by Valerie Broadway, the Canine Coach
It’s October, the time of year for Trick-or-Treating and Halloween parties. While tons of fun for people, these things can be quite stressful for most dogs. From a dog’s perspective, there are a lot more people in the streets and coming to the door than usual, and many of these people are wearing scary costumes. It’s a good idea for dog owners to think in advance about how they may need to prepare for Halloween activities.
It is best for dogs avoid interaction with trick-or-treaters. Keep them in the house, and away from the main door; place them in another room or in a crate. Play music or have the television on to drown out noises from outside. Give them a favorite toy or chew item to focus their attention on. For highly anxious dogs, check with your vet or pet supply store for calming treats or prescription medication. Another option is to have a family member stay outside and give out candy. This will avoid the constant doorbell ringing.
Leaving any pet outside on Halloween puts them at risk of being targets of abuse. Every year there are reports of horrible things that happen to animals at the hands of demented individuals. Other people may think it is funny to frighten dogs by scaring them with the costumes they’re wearing. Fear can cause dogs to bite; and if not the person taunting them, then they may be setting up the next person who comes along to be bitten.
For those are out and about and confronted by a dog that appears to be aggressive, simply stand still and avoid eye contact. If carrying something, they should place it between them and the dog. The dog might sniff the person, but if they don’t seem threatening the dog will move on. Standing still can be really hard to do, because everything inside is saying “Run!” but this is the best way to avoid being bitten. Most dogs need a reason to bite. Just looking at the dog or moving in the slightest, may be all the reason needed.
At Halloween, or any time of the year, parents or responsible care takers should always monitor dog- child interactions. Just as dogs can pose a danger to children, children can also pose a danger to dogs, and/or other pets. Pets are not toys for children to play with in any way they wish. There should be respect for the animal’s feelings and wellbeing.
Pets should be treated as though they are another child in the home. Most adult dogs have the impulse control of about a three for four year old child. At what point would a parent intervene if one child was picking on the other? What if one child wanted to play and wouldn’t stop pestering the other child who didn’t want to play? When would an adult step in? It works both ways, the child may be pestering the pet, or the pet may be pestering the child. In either case, an adult needs to intervene before someone reaches their tolerance limit and lashes out.
Dogs should have a “go-to” place that says, “I want to be left alone now.” and it should respected. The place may be a crate, a dog bed, or under a table. This is where they can take a chew bone or toy, or take a nap and be assured no one is going to interrupt them. When the dog is in one of these places it means they should not be bothered. In addition, sleeping and eating dogs should be left alone.
In the spirit of not being rude, sometimes we allow adults get away with picking on or frightening our pets. It may be done on purpose, or they don’t realize our pet is sensitive about certain things. In any event, we should step in and take up for our pet. Knowing that we have their back will mean a lot to them. After all, if we don’t stand up for our own animals, then who will?
Halloween Candy Warning: No matter how much they beg, please don’t share candy with dogs. Chocolate and some artificial sweeteners cannot be processed by a dog’s digestive system and can cause serious health issues, even death. Not sharing candy with your dog is an act of love.
Valerie Broadway, the Canine Coach, is a dog trainer and behavioral specialist. Contact: 919-542-4726 or CanineCoachingServices.com.