What has gone from a night where the end of the ancient Celtic year was celebrated has become a night of parties and activities for many. However, what is Halloween like for our pets?
If you take your two-legged creatures on a candy hunt, leave your dog home. Very few dogs truly enjoy Halloween. Screaming and running children, elaborate displays at houses, the sounds, sights and smells may prove too much for many dogs to handle. It is not uncommon of stress signals to be mistaken for excitement. A wagging tail does not always mean happy. If you keep piling on stress, eventually the dog may break and act in ways people do not like. By the end of the evening, as the last kiddos trickle through, it is not uncommon for me to see a dog or two, hauled along for the night, absolutely stressed out.
Keep pets indoors. If they must go out, watch them so they do not become victims of those with harmful intent. Your indoor-outdoor cat can cope for one night without a prowl. If you have animals that must live outdoors such as horses and chickens, make your property less attractive to pranksters. Lights with motion detectors, gate alarms, security cameras and signs announcing the presence of security can help keep your animals safer.
Doors where children will gather must be off limits during Trick or Treat hours. Scared cats may slip out. Dogs lacking door manners could cause mayhem if they bark wildly and/or attempt to dash out. Even with a well-mannered dog, the bravest super hero may become frightened, step back and even slip down your stairs. It does not matter how sweet your dog is, to a fearful child, he is “Cujo.”
To limit chaos, exercise your pet before goblins are due to roam. Then confine to a safe room with various toys and a radio or TV turned on. Food releasing toys are great to help entertain Sparky and Spooky while they are confined. Please read this blog entry for more information.
Make sure all pets have a permanent ID such as a microchip in case there is an escape. Use a collar with tags as a back-up just in case something happens and your pet gets loose.
Found pets are not yours to keep or give to someone else. “Animals that have been found by a resident must either be turned over to the Animal Shelter or a found report must be placed with the Shelter (per state law 3.2-6551)” – Prince William County, Virginia Government website. There are similar laws in various regions. Currently (as of Oct 2015) there is a case in Virginia where a found dog was turned over to a private rescue instead of animal control. The rescue group refused to return Max to his owner. The group sent the dog out of state instead. Had the finder gone to animal control (where many owners check) the dog could have been reunited. Many animal control departments work with rescue groups that are allowed to pull animals after the mandatory hold is over.
If your dog becomes a maniac when a little hobgoblin comes to the door, a positive trainer can help you change that behavior. Do not wait until October 30 to address the behaviors though! No-bark collars increase stress, avoid them. You do not want your dog associating people at the door instead of the bark with a painful shock or startling spray! If you do not have time to train before Halloween, ask a trainer to advise you on a management protocol. Starting November 1, begin working with that trainer to teach your dog calmer behaviors when the doorbell rings.
Now on to the fun – FOOD! Chocolate, macadamia nuts, xylitol (sweetener), raisins and such can make pets sick. Xylitol can be fatal in small amounts. Keep the treats out of reach. I keep all candy in our pantry. There is far less risk of a critter binging and my facing a vet trip! Make sure you know the number of your local emergency vet clinic just in case.
If you are hosting a Halloween Party, keep pets away. The festivities combined with costumes could be more than your pet can handle.
Watch decorations. Candles, cobwebs and other things can be dangerous to your pet.
One last thing I will mention: pet costumes. Not all pets like costumes. Some are restricting and uncomfortable. Unless you pet likes wearing clothes, skip the costumes. I see too many dogs and cats exhibiting stress behaviors when forced to dress up. Stressed pets are more likely to react to other stressors faster and in ways we may not want.
Just because we may love Halloween, does not mean our pets will share our sentiments. Keep them safe. Keep things safe for your pet and the little goblins that prowl!
A shortened version of this was in Northern Virginia Today Oct 2014 and another one will be published in 2015.