From trick-or-treaters to party-goers, Halloween is an active and exciting time for children and adults alike. While COVID has unfortunately resulted in a decrease in public Halloween activity over the last couple of years, many are eager to fully embrace their favourite Halloween activities this year.
With the high vaccination rate and low COVID case count in our community, we will most certainly see a surge in the number of trick-or-treaters this Halloween. This increase in activity will undoubtedly have an impact on our pets, especially dogs who are predisposed to stress and anxiety.
From the doorbell ringing frequently, to the spooky costumes, to the many unfamiliar noises, these elements can turn a fun evening into a night of tension and trepidation for our precious pets. However, with a little bit of careful planning, your pooch can breeze through Halloween in a relaxed and comfortable state. Let’s look at how pet owners can prep for a calm and safe Halloween.
Have a Safe Space
Creating a safe space in the home is one of the most important considerations leading up to Halloween. Whether it’s in the basement or in a bedroom, your pet’s safe space should be far away from the front door; putting distance between your pooch and Halloween stress triggers will make it less likely your dog will have negative reactions to spooky sights and sounds.
Under the cover of darkness and disguise, nefarious pranksters can do some truly cruel things to animals. It is not advised to leave your dog in the yard during Halloween, as dogs have been known to be subject to teasing, injury, and poisoning, and even theft. It doesn’t matter how secure your yard is, it’s simply not worth putting your beloved pet in a setting where harm may come their way.
This also applies to cat owners, especially those with black cats. Keep your kitties inside where it is safe.
Create a Distraction
Having the radio or television on is an ideal way to drown out the scary sounds coming from trick-or-treaters. There are even pet-specific calming videos on YouTube made specifically for situations like these!
Consider offering your dog an irresistible, long-lasting treat, like a frozen stuffed Kong, for example. This is the perfect way to help your dog focus their attention and energy on something positive and constructive. By providing this type of enrichment, your dog will be so focused on the treat in front of him, he will be unaware of all the stress-causing activity happening elsewhere.
For the most easily stressed pets, consider a natural calmer, like a high quality CBD oil, for example. This will help reduce stress levels without sedation. Alternatively, there are calming pheromone diffusers that plug into an electrical outlet, turning any room into a calm and relaxing space.
A tired dog is a calm dog!
On Halloween day leading into night, plan some added exercise and activity for your dog. Whether it’s going to the leash-free park to play fetch, or an extra long walk along the Bruce Trail, the more active your dog is leading up to Halloween night, the more relaxed he will be come trick-or-treating time.
Safety in the Home
Stress and anxiety can easily put many dogs into an instinctive fight-or-flight response, making them less likely to behave in their normally predictable ways.
When a dog is experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, their behaviour can become erratic, and this is where accidents can happen around the home; a dog may try to bolt out the front door to run away, whereas others may react aggressively towards people and pets. Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags with up-to-date contact information in the event they try to run away.
Stress-related behaviours in dogs include profuse salivation, excessive vocalization (barking, whining), chewing and eating unwanted items around the home, defecating indoors, shaking, heavy panting, and more.
It is also wise to keep your pets away from fire. From jack-o-lanterns, to decorative Halloween candles, many fires are started in the home because of a dog accidentally knocking something over.
To make sure your pets experience a safe and stress-free Halloween, be sure to give some careful thought and consideration in advance of the big night. Plan your safe space, and prep it ahead of time. Have those enrichment activities and treats ready to go, too!
Let’s all have a safe and happy Halloween!
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.