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Taming the Howls: Managing Your Dog's Fear on Halloween
September 22, 2023 (published)
Christine D. Calder, DVM, DACVB

 Border collie wearing cowboy hat
Image Courtesy of Pat Koven, LVT, KPA-CTP

October has rolled in, and with it comes the excitement of Halloween: a celebration filled with delightful costumes, pumpkin carvings, and of course, plenty of sweets. However, amidst the eerie music, doorbell rings, and groups of disguised trick-or-treaters, our canine companions can feel quite overwhelmed. Let's explore some ways to help our furry friends navigate this spooky season with ease.

  1. Understand the Fear

Before attempting any solutions, it is crucial to understand why dogs might be afraid during Halloween:

  •  New noises: The unfamiliar sounds of fireworks, doorbell rings, or even excited screams can unsettle our pets.
  •  Strange scents: With all the new decorations and costumes, a plethora of new scents enter their environment.
  •  Odd sights: Masks, costumes, and wandering kids can be unsettling. After all, it is not every day that your dog sees a walking banana or a tiny werewolf!

  2. Prep Your Pooch Early

  •  Window film: Apply film to street-facing windows to reduce reactivity.
  •  Safe haven: Designate a quiet room or space with their favorite toys, bed, and water where they can retreat when feeling overwhelmed.
  •  Boarding: If your dog is comfortable with boarding but uncomfortable with visitors, schedule a night away. Make your reservations early.
Dog in a lion's mane costume
Image Courtesy of Pat Koven, LVT, KPA-CTP

  3. Halloween Night

  •  Keep them inside in their safe haven: This not only prevents them from reacting to every doorbell ring but also avoids the risk of them bolting out the door.
  •  ID tags: In the event they do get out, ensure that their identification is up to date so they can be returned to you safely.
  •  Distractions: Consider giving your dog a new toy or treat to engage with during the busiest trick-or-treat hours.
  •  Calming aids: Discuss with your vet the possibility of using music, sprays, lickable treats, or even wearable items like anxiety wraps.

  4. A Treat for Them Too!

With everyone getting treats, it is a nice gesture to have something for your pup. Make sure it is dog-friendly and avoid any candies or chocolates which can be toxic. Consider making a special dog treat or buying them a new chew or puzzle toy.

  5. Be Cautious with Costumes

If you decide to dress up your dog:

  •  Ensure comfort: The costume should not restrict movement, vision, or breathing.
  •  Test drive: Let them wear the costume several times before the big day so they can get used to it.
  •  Always supervise: Never leave your dog unattended while wearing their costume.
Border collie licking a blue cup
Image Courtesy of Pat Koven, LVT, KPA-CTP

  6. Watch the Decor

  •  Avoid decorations that might be scary or harmful to your dog. Also, be wary of wires or small parts that they might chew on.

While Halloween is a time of fun and festivity for many, our four-legged friends might not always see it that way. By being proactive, understanding, and prepared, you can ensure a safe and comfortable Halloween for everyone in the household.

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