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Updated: Oct 29, 2022

All Hallows’ Eve is a day dedicated to remembering the dead. Recognized as a holiday, Halloween falls on October 31st in the USA. It is a time when we delight in trick or treating with children, throwing costume parties and dressing up to walk the town. The popular holiday promises lots of fun for us but not so much for our four legged puppers. While we get caught up in dressing up our dogs and including them on this day, let me just say if they could speak with words, they’d be calling the holiday “howl-o-ween” or “hell-o-ween”.

“Howl-o-ween” is a time when dogs are subjected to unforeseen events that range from frightening to even dangerous for them. The holiday is second to July 4th Independence Day, as a time when dogs end up in emergency clinics. Let’s make sure to protect our dogs from accidents and emotional distress. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Consent: Many of us buy costumes to put on our dogs so to include them in the holiday celebrations. This may not be something your dog likes. Every dog is different and allowing your dog to decide if they wish to participate in dressing up or not goes a long way in reducing distress. How will you know if your dog is okay wearing a costume? Well, while most are not and may be intimidated to comply, they generally either come toward you/costume or move away from you and the costume. Rather than force your dog to wear a costume, try a festive bandanna or collar. Less is more when it comes to dogs and wearing costumes.

Reduce Risk of Accidents: We can reduce the risk of an unforeseen accident from occurring by planning and management. Keep chocolate and choking hazards such as candy wrappers out of reach from dogs and children. Block access to the front door using a gate so to reduce the risk of your dog bolting out when opened for trick-or-treaters or house party guests. Keep a flat collar with dog tags that lists your phone number, make sure their chip is registered with your home address just in case your dog escapes. Contact your veterinarian and/or call poison control if you suspect your dog has ingested candy or a foreign body. ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 888-426-4435

Protect Your Dog Emotionally: If your dog is too excitable or nervous, refrain from bringing them out with you on Halloween night where they will most likely encounter loud noise and odd looking humans dressed up in costume. While you may shrug it off, know most dogs are not resilient to strange encounters and become confused and distressed leading to reactive behaviors. If you’re planning a house party or taking a walk in the neighborhood in costume, keep your dog safely at home in a separate room. Provide them with enrichment including soothing music, safe puzzle toys and yummy chews. If your dog is or you expect your dog will become extremely distressed by loud noise speak with your veterinarian.

Personal bubble: If you decide to take your dog with you on a trick-or-treat walk or costume parade, know they like us need personal space. Regardless if you or another owner/guardian gives permission to touch a dog, it is always best to allow the dog to decide. I’ve met many a dog at Halloween costume walks, at parks, on city streets and when working with clients to know some just don’t feel like being social (approached) even with their owners/handlers insist they love people. Allow the dog to make the decision to move closer not the other way around. Dogs approach things (dogs, people,other) they like and move away from things (dogs, people, other) that make them nervous. While some behaviors may be overt (growl, bark), others are more subtle. Look for a lip lick, yawn, or a side look away. If the dog turns heir head away or, moves away they are communicating they’ve had enough. A head turn, yawn, lip lick are low level stress indicators. A stiff body or total body turn informs us the dog is moderately stressed and its best not to engage.

Whether your single or have a family with children, let’s ensure Halloween is an enjoyable experience with little to no distress for two and four leggeds. Hope this was helpful and enjoy your howl-o-day!!

Woof woof!

CCBS Research Associate


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