Halloween is often a terrifying time for dogs. Here are eight ways to ensure your dog is as happy and comfortable as possible this October 31
Halloween is often a terrifying time for dogs. Not only can fireworks overwhelm their sensitive ears, but the incessant knocking of trick or treaters at the door (not to mention the flicker of bonfire flames) can be extremely frightening.
Christopher and Bridgeen Hanlon, the duo behind Werewolf Food, Ireland’s first subscription-based dog food, have come up with eight ways to help care for your pet this October 31. With 20 years' experience in dog training and dog nutrition, there's no doubt they know their stuff.
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"Halloween anxiety in dogs in a very real scenario," says Christopher, "and although you’ll know when your dog is scared, unhappy or nervous, knowing how to handle it in the moment, or avoid it altogether, is key.
"Every element of the day – from the food to the fireworks – needs to be considered, but planning a little ahead should make for a relaxing evening," he says.
Walk them early
"Bringing your dog for a longer walk than usual, early in the evening or late in the afternoon before much of the madness ensues, will help to relax them as much as possible," he explains.
What's more, Chris advises keeping your dog on his/her lead at all times. Loud noises (such as fireworks) can sometimes spook animals so much that they dart away – and the last thing anyone wants is them running towards a busy road or bonfire.
Hide the sweet treats
"The next obvious risk to dogs on Halloween night is the sweet treats left for trick-or-treaters," says Chris. "These need to be kept out of reach of your furry friend.
"We all know our dogs will sniff out every human treat they are not supposed to have (and get up to all kinds of mischief in the kitchen when we’re not looking), so it’s worth being extra careful and leaving treats in high cupboards or locked away between trick-or-treater visits," he says.
Remember – monkey nut shells can be a choking risk, while chocolate and other sweet treats can be poisonous to dogs. Plan your sweets stash carefully.
A somewhat forgotten hazard: Halloween decorations.
"The number one risk is lit pumpkins," says Chris. "We all know our dogs are curious and as they aren’t used to lit pumpkins, keep them out of paws reach.
"Overall, my advice would be not to overdo it – the more the house appears to be unfamiliar, especially with scary statues and hangers, the more your dog will get riled up."
Chris also asks dog-owners to bear in mind that by wearing a mask, your dog no longer recognises you. Perhaps wait until your dog is out-of-sight before putting it on.
Stay with them
"It might seem like the practical option to keep your dog away from the noise in the quietest part of the house, but we can underestimate just how scary fireworks, spooky costumes and consistent unexpected visitors can be to dogs," says Chris.
"I suggest keeping them close, giving them their favourite toys to keep them as distracted as possible, and comforting them with affection as they need it.
"A handy trick is to turn on music or the TV to try and drown out external noise as much as possible," he says.
"You can leave a note on the door for trick or treaters to knock quietly so they don’t disturb your dog too much. Similarly, I always draw the curtains so our dogs don’t see them coming and going.
"The most important thing is to ensure your dog doesn’t come to the door with you," he says. If a firework goes off while your dog is near an open door, there's a risk that they will run out (and it's not a risk worth taking).
Make a den
Chris says, “Depending on their personality, some dogs will take comfort in hiding behind the sofa or a nook in the room. If you think from past experience that this might be something your dog will do, it’s worth creating a den a few days before so they know they have somewhere to go on the big night.
"Putting a kids’ tepee in the same room where you’ll be, or even a cardboard box, can do the trick," he says.
Know the signs
"Curiosity and worry reveal themselves very differently in dogs," explains Chris. "If your dog has heard a noise and is barking in response, don’t rile them more or give them additional cause for concern by responding too much to this. Similarly, a little whimper here and there is fine too.
"However, excessive panting, shaking and pacing are all signs that Halloween activity is affecting your dog more than you might think.
"It’s also very important to watch their evening food intake (and even the next day), as refusing their food is a good indicator of upset."
Ask a friend
Lastly, Chris advises not leaving things to chance. He says, "If you have a gut feeling that your dog isn’t going to react well, it might be worthwhile asking a friend in a quieter area if you can pop round for the busy times or even asking them to dog-sit.
"You can also consider a (trusted) boarding kennel in a rural area so you can have some peace of mind," he says.
Photo: Hollie Post
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