Halloween is only a month away and if you love this time of year as much as I do, you’re already making plans. There are pumpkins to carve, costumes to make, parties to plan, and candy to buy. While you’re prepping for your All Hallow’s Eve fun, don’t forget the dog! It’s fun to include our pets in the celebration, but remember these tips to keep Fido safe:
1. Tricks (and treats) are for kids. Chocolate is a well-known offender (the toxic dosage varies from animal to animal, but it is overall A Bad Thing), but other sweets can cause tummy aches and vomiting. Candies containing xylitol are especially dangerous to our canine pals, this low calorie sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar that leads to seizures and even death. So keep your candy bowl out of reach and make sure none of your guests share their trick-or-treat haul with your pets. Candy wrappers can be a tempting snack for dogs (those of us with Labs know this), and they can cause choking and intestinal blockage, so make sure those aren’t left laying around, either.
2. Costumes are cute, but think them through. Who can resist a silly pooch in a costume? A DinoDog? A DevilDog? BatDog? Totally adorable. But are they comfortable for your dog? Keep in mind how the costume restricts movement and vision. A mask might be hard for your dog to see out of, and feel weird to them. Costumes that cover their paws can make walking treacherous, especially on hardwood floors. Is the costume tight, does it pinch or chafe anywhere? Are there small bits (sequins, googly eyes, buttons) that can be pulled off and swallowed? If you decide to dress your dog up, get them used to the costume before their big debut. Put the costume (or parts of it) on for gradually longer periods of time in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Reward your dog with praise and special treats when she’s wearing her duds, and take them off before she gets sick of them so that you’re ending on a positive note. If Buttercup decides that dressing up just isn’t her thing even after trying a few times, that’s okay. Everyone will think she’s plenty cute in her everyday wear.
3. Ding Dong Dash. If you’re passing out candy to the little ones, have a plan for where the dogs will be when you answer the door. It would be a disaster if Ginger barreled through the door and sent little vampires and cowgirls flying off the porch. Keep your dog in another room, behind a gate, or in her crate when you open the door to prevent her from making a break for it.
4. Party Animals. Hosting a Halloween party is a blast, and if your dog enjoys socializing it can be a fun night for him, too. If Chopper is more of a lone wolf, make him comfortable in another room with his blankie and a frozen Kong to keep him occupied while you play hostess. For dogs that haven’t quite mastered company manners, setting them up away from the party (in their crate or a dog-proofed room) is a good way to prevent your guests from getting their drinks spilled by Jumping Jack Flash, the bounciest dog in town. Having the dog in another room means that you can focus on your guests without worrying about counter surfing, door dashing, and general dog antics. Leave your dog a bowl of water, his Kong and something to chew on, and remember to give him a potty break.
5. Safe at Home. If you’re leaving Dusty at home while you and the kiddos canvass for candy, make the house safe and comfy for him. Inside the house is preferable to the yard, as pranksters sometimes use the holiday as an excuse to harass outside animals. Have a radio or TV playing softly to keep your pooch company and to muffle the sounds of revelers outside. Leave him a Kong or Nylabone to work on, and consider using Rescue Remedy, DAP, or Melatonin if your dog is sensitive to loud noises and unusual activity. If you chose to take your dog with you on the candy run, check that his collar fits correctly (martingale and buckle collars should be snug enough that only two fingers can fit underneath) and keep a tight hold on his leash. Keep an eye out for discarded candy or wrappers that your dog might pick up and eat. People in funny costumes and squealing, sugar-riddled kids can spook your dog, so if he’s not rock solid you might be best leaving him at home.
Enjoy your Halloween, eat lots of candy, and keep that dog safe!