and caring for your dog
With Halloween just around the corner it's important to remember that strange little monsters knocking at the door, unusual noises and lots of tempting treats can all get a bit much for dogs. Whilst many dogs might usually enjoy meeting visitors, even the most confident, well-socialised dogs can find people in costumes unnerving.
What does it all mean?
Our dogs don't understand what Halloween is all about, so be aware of the situations that can confuse and make your dog feel uneasy.
Trick or treating
Your dog won't understand why your house is suddenly the most popular house on the patch, and could be concerned about their territory being under seige! The first instict for your dog when they feel that their space is being invaded is to protect their pack, so this can cause them to bark or feel anxious.
Although us humans often find Halloween costumes cute to look at, they can confuse our dogs. It is a human? Is it an animal? Is it a monster? Are they dangerous? If your dog is confused by what sort of creatures have moved into their territory then they're likely to assume the worst (that they are indeed dangerous monsters) and do their best to scare them off.
What happened to my humans?
You might think that popping on a fake nose and a wig is all fun and games, but with all the uncertainty your dog may be feeling at Halloween they'll look to you - their trusted humans for protection. If it smells like you, but doesn't look like you then your dog may not know whether they can trust you - and this in itself can be very stressful for your pup.
As with most food, pumpkins may attract your dog. But keep in mind that if there's a candle burning inside then it could cause a nasty burn to your dog.
Your dog may think that your new Halloween decorations are a haul of exciting new toys for them to play with, so keep in mind they could pose a danger if chewed or eaten by your pup.
Spotting signs of anxiety
It's important to keep an eye on your pup for tell-tale signs of anxiety during Halloween, so that you can adapt your behaviour as needed. Below are the main symptoms you may notice if your dog is feeling anxious:
- Refusing food
- Seeking comfort from you
- Yawning and pacing
- Licking their lips often
If your dog is prone to being sensitive about their space, trick-or-treaters may not go down well. Knocks and surprises, people having fun, going to parties, and being more noisy than normal could certainly be a cause for upset.
- For extra-territorial dogs you may want to consider whether a friend or family member (who is unlikely to have Halloween visitors) would be happy to be a safe place of solice for your pup for the evening.
- Pet Remedy is a wonderful, natural way to help calm your dog, it works with the pet’s own natural calming mechanisms by mimicking GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) which is a natural calming agent present in all mammals, reptiles, and birds. When a pet becomes stressed or anxious the Pet Remedy actives help trick red-up nerve cells into thinking they are getting a message from the brain to calm. This is why it starts to help instantly.
- You can consider using a dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) like Adaptil which releases a synthetic pheromone which replicates that produced by the mother after she has given birth. The pheromone reassured newborn puppies and actually calms them down and scientists have discovered that it also helps calm older dogs for a wide range of anxiety-related behaviour.
- If your dog is particularly prone to becoming very distressed, have a chat with your vet or dog behaviourist for expert advice.
Our top tips for a safe Halloween
- Although including your four-legged friend in your Halloween plans may seem a good idea, it's likely that'd they'd prefer to be at home having a snooze - so don't plan for them to be your cute canine sidekick for the night.
- Don't take your dog trick or treating. Even calm, confident, well-socialised dogs can behave unpredictably - and that's not a risk worth taking around children.
- Don't force your dog to wear a Halloween costume - it's already a stressful enough time for them, and wearing something uncomfortable that they're not used to may amplify any feelings of anxiety they may have.
- Keep all Halloween decorations (and pumpkins) well out the way of your dog to avoid any unnecessary injuries.
- Watch out for treats! Hopefully you'll already be aware that many human treats (like chocolate for example) pose a serious threat to your dog - so make sure to keep them well out of reach of your pup.
- Make sure to walk your dog during the day rather than in the evening where you may be unable to avoid excited children on their travels.
- Plan ahead and make sure your dog is fed before any expected disturbances, as they may become to nervous to eat. Feeding a natural diet free from anything artificial can help to reduce any hyperactive behaviour.
- Turn on on the radio, TV or play music to help drown out any unusual noises.
- Try making a den with old blankets for your dog to hide away in - you can encourage it's use by hiding treats and toys there, and once they're inside - don't try to coax them out. Wherever your dog settles (even if it is under furniture or a pile of old washing), let them be as it's important for them to feel comfortable.
- Try to act and behave as normal, as your dog will pick up on any anxious behaviour. Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog. Reward calm behaviour with dog treats or playing with toys of interest.
- Herbal remedies like Skullcap & Valerian or Bach's Rescue Remedy can help to calm your dog during distress.
- Make sure your dog is shut safely inside a room if you need to open any external doors to avoid them escaping in fear.