We’re coming up on one of my favorite holidays. That’d be the night all of the little ghosts and goblins and football players and television characters show up at our door in search of good treats.
But when those creatures show up at my parents’ house, on the other side of the door is 40 pounds of love (not including the humans) with a deep, intimidating bark that by no means is an indication of his zest for life. Sam thinks everyone who visits is coming to, well, visit him and he greets them with a huge welcome that has the power to knock over or scratch a little child.
For other dogs (and other pets for that matter), Halloween can be downright scary. After all it is not every day when the door bell rings every few minutes only to have it open to strange looking creatures who are unfamiliar and pretty intimidating. Even a dog like our Sam who takes great pleasure in greeting new guests can be over stimulated by so much commotion.
And, if your dog is outside on a leash without opportunity to escape and is suddenly confronted with these sites – possibly when it is even dark outside, it may not take a whole lot to reach your dog’s breaking point.
Cats and parrots can become stressed and find themselves in unsafe situations also.
That being said, I like to err on the side of caution with my pets as I am always looking to set them up for success.
I’m including a list of some of my top tips for keeping pet dogs, cats and parrots safe from harm’s way this Halloween.
1. Please keep jack-lanterns away from pets. While the pumpkin itself may be relatively nontoxic, in large doses it can cause problems. (Actually, that being said, if you have carved your pumpkin well in advance, it more than likely has grown lots of bacteria so it very well may be toxic but note that I am not a veterinarian.) Not to mention the candle inside can be very dangerous if knocked over.
2. Speaking in terms of food, please keep plastic wrap, chocolate and other candies out of reach. While I very much value our great veterinarians, I’m sure they would agree with me that they would rather have your pet safe and healthy than in their waiting room for an emergency visit the day after Trick-or-Treating.
3. Please do not use fake spider webs (and ALL Halloween decorations for that matter) anywhere where pets can get to them. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if my birds got entangled in one.
4. A note about costumes: If you dress your dog in an outfit, please make sure your dog is comfortable. Your dog will communicate that with his body. Some signs of a happy dog are: a relaxed body; fast, vigorous tail wag; loose lips or even open mouth with loose tongue; rhythmic panting.
If wearing an outfit causes your dog to feel stressed, he may be more likely to become reactive – especially when on a leash, in the dark, with so many strange sights and sounds and kids running around.
Watch your dog’s body language. Some signs that your dog is not comfortable include: his tail may be down, his body may be tight, he may have a tense mouth, you will see the whites on the sides of his eyes, his ears may be back, he may yawn or lick his chops. Please click here and here for more body language signs.
5. Exercise your dog well BEFORE Trick-or-Treaters arrive to raise the value of rest and lower the value of excitable behaviors. And during Trick-or-Treating, offer your dog fun enrichment toys.
6. Please do not leave your dog (or cat) outside even if in your back yard as the noises in the darkness still may cause him to become reactive. Instead, provide your dog with a safe, quiet place to be during the couple hours of Trick-or-Treating, and close the shades of that area. Birds should be kept inside their cages that are away from the door.
7. Consider sitting outside with your treats instead of having guests ring your doorbell.
8. Unless you know in advance that your dog will not be afraid of the sites and sounds of Halloween, please leave your dog at home.
So, now that I’ve got that out of the way. I want to wish you the very best Halloween ever. Be safe…but go have some fun!