Halloween can be spooky for pets

October 17, 2004

Every holiday requires some preparation and Halloween is no exception. For stay-at-home adults, there will be candy, cookies and apples to purchase. Some may want to decorate their porches with harvest festival motifs.

But for those with pets, there are a number of preparations for the holiday.

For those pets staying at home, it is best if they are kept in a quiet room away from the front door. A radio tuned to gentle music will drown out the sounds of the doorbell's constant ringing. This is especially important if the pet's owner decides to throw a Halloween party at the house, even more so if the guests are all young children. The laughter and shrieks can be very upsetting to dogs that have not been exposed to children playing and haven't been trained in proper behavior in a situation like this.

Puppies aged 8 to 11 weeks, and again from 6 months to 14 months are in critical fear impact periods. During these times any traumatic, painful or frightening experience will be impressed on them for the rest of their lives possibly producing fearful, unstable personalities. So these puppies should definitely be protected on Halloween night, fed early and confined in a quiet room with music or other "white noise," like a fan or other machine.


If the dog is to be dressed in a costume to greet the visitors that are "trick or treating," be sure to practice with the dog so wearing the costume is not frightening to him. Then after he has accepted the costume, expose him to small groups of children that he knows, first they should wear their play clothes. Then, on another day, they should wear their costumes and ring the doorbell as they cluster on the porch. The dog should be kept leashed at all times and be under the control of the handler.

I have noticed some adults taking their dogs with them as they accompany their children around the neighborhoods. If you are planning to do this, the preparation will include introducing the dog to strange costumes, flashlights that flash around in the dark and especially darting children as they run to the next house or jump off the porch to continue their rounds. Some dogs can get very excited about all this activity and all dogs out on Halloween night must have very secure collars and leashes and they must be controlled by someone strong enough to stop an unexpected lunge.

This holiday is supposed to be a "spooky" kind of party, but to dogs that have not been taught what to expect, it is frightening and will trigger either a flight or fight reaction. If you are determined to take your dog out, I strongly recommend obedience training as well as the specific training for the activities of the evening.

One last warning: Never feed your dog Halloween candy.


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