Avoiding Those Ghoulish Halloween Mishaps

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Photograph of a pitbull dog in a Halloween costume laying next to a jack-o-lantern

Halloween is a spooktacular time for many. The most social dogs may love children and joyfully engage in goblin gatherings. No matter how social or timid your pet may appear to be, holiday precautions are always the sensible and safe thing to practice. Here are easy ways to keep your tail-waggers safe… and kids, too!

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Safe Places and Happy Bellies

Give Spot plenty of exercise on Halloween day to decrease any over-stimulation the night may bring. Recognize signs of stress. If your dog is uncomfortable, remove her from the situation and put her in a safe place.

Keep your pets calm. If Buddy is anxious around a lot of activity or strangers, put him in a quiet room during the peak trick-or-treat hours. Only the most social and stress-tested pets should be allowed in close proximity to children. Consider placing a barrier, such as a pet gate at the front door for extra precaution. And be sure all your pets are wearing their IDs and are microchipped in the event they decide to hunt goblins without your permission.

No sweet human treats! We love yummies and so does your best friend. But these can cause canine tummy distress or worse, a fatality. Chocolate is extremely toxic for dogs, and dark chocolate is the worst. Other ingredients like xylitol, found in many low-sugar candies, is a serious risk to your pet’s health. Keep candy out of Fido’s reach. Avoid the temptation to spoil him with a little nibble. Instead, have nutritious dog treats on hand or make homemade treats with dog-friendly ingredients.

If you like the idea of spoiling Champ with his own treats, consider some of the following ingredients: Oatmeal, peanut butter (free of xylitol), pureed pumpkin, apples, carrots, sweet potato, or wheat flour. Cranberries and blueberries are a yummy addition, too.

Jack-o’-lanterns can be easily knocked over by dogs or cats causing burn injuries. Keep them out of reach, even if you use battery-operated candles or décor. And while pumpkin is a good dietary supplement in many cases, it can still cause stomach upset. Check with your vet if you are unsure. Also, be mindful of wires or electrical cords, which are chewing temptations, especially for young pups. Avoid glow sticks! They can break with a bite and are very toxic!

Know the location and contact number of the local emergency vet and have the ASPCA Poison Control Center listed in your contacts: (888) 426-4435.

Considering Costumes

Benji might love dressing up for any occasion. Or, it might be downright stressful. Start with patience and try to understand your dog. Here is a little guidance:

Don’t wait to begin working with your dog. Even a month before the big day isn’t too soon, especially for the fur kid new to the whole costume gig. Most dogs are going to need some time getting used to being in a strange and amusing get-up.

Start with a lot of encouraging sniffing. Sit with the pup on the floor and allow her to warm up to the smell (washing it beforehand is probably a good idea). Little by little begin dressing her. Maybe just a paw for a few seconds and repeat. Lots of small treats for each little progression will help her overcome any ambivalence she likely has.

Continue a bit every day, increasing how the number of costume pieces with which you dress your dog. Then begin increasing the time, from mere seconds to building up to a minute or two at a time. 

When she’s decided she’s willing to humor you and participate in this odd human request, don’t wait until the big day for her to wear the costume for a long stretch of time. Do this days before…10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, and so on. And provide lots of yummy rewards along the way! Finally, she’s showcasing her way to becoming a grand prize winner!

That said, please be mindful that not all dogs have the disposition to wear anything but their birthday suit. Things to bear in mind:

  • Make sure the costume fits properly: It shouldn’t restrict movement or be so loose that they get tangled up or trip.
  • Be sure your pet can see properly, breathe easily, and bark.
  • Remove pieces that can easily be chewed off to prevent a choking hazard.
  • Look for small signs of discomfort such as scratchy tags. (We all know how annoying that can be.)
  • Most importantly, don’t force it. If Doodlebug hates it, let him sport a cute bandana, and give him a treat and a boop on the nose for still being the best dog, ever.

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