Fright night can be a tricky time for puppies and dogs, so our resident experts have compiled some Halloween tips for dogs to help you minimise the scary for your hairy…

It’s vitally important that our puppies and dogs feel happy and comfortable around different people whether they’re wearing a witch’s hat or a regular hat so actually, Halloween presents a great opportunity for us to teach our canine companions a number of valuable skills and lessons which are relevant for their life as a whole, not just at Halloween.

Dealing with barking behaviours

Halloween brings more visitors to your door, so it’s important that our four-legged friends are able to cope with lots of doorbell rings and door knocking and know not to jump up or react inappropriately to strangers who come to call.

Of course, dogs often bark to a knock at the door but ideally, we don’t want them to react in this way, so here are a few ideas which you can use to help distract them:

  • Radio/TV
    Having the radio or TV on can mask the noise generated by people coming and going and can help your dog to cope better and not react to every noise.
  • Baby gate
    Putting up a baby gate or closing the door in the hallway can stop your dog running up to the door (whether they’re barking or not).  This also helps you to control them more easily if and when you answer the door.
  • Dummy runs
    Time invested in a few dummy runs where you ring your door bell and knock on the door can be really helpful and if/when your dog remains calm, you can reward them with a tasty treat. However, if they remain stressed with the doorbell ringing frequently, you could consider removing it or switching it off for Halloween.
  • Dog’s dinner
    Save your dog’s dinner and put this in a Kong to be given to them at key ‘trick or treat’ time so that they’re happily distracted by food.  You could also give them a chew during the time when you think you might have the most visitors.

Destressing dressing up Halloween tips for dogs

Children and adults enjoy dressing up for Halloween in a variety of costumes – the more outlandish, the better! Creepy capes, scary scarves, ghoulish gloves, horrid hats, macabre masks and frightening faces are all things that can be worrying for dogs, and especially puppies.

“In particular, masks and painted faces hide facial expressions and make the wearers look strange and different,” says our Puppy Co-ordinator, Abi.  “This is unexpected and can cause dogs to become nervous but there are things we can do in advance to help them cope on the night.”

  • If people in your household are dressing up for Halloween, encourage your dog or puppy to smell and investigate the costumes.
  • Put any masks on in front of them and turn the fact that you look strange into a nice experience by giving them a few treats.
  • Ask children or adults that are visiting not to stand over your dog or suddenly approach them as this can be intimidating and potentially stressful.

Door duty

When you open the door to trick or treaters, it may be a good idea for you to keep your puppy or dog away from the door, either behind a baby gate or in another room.  This brings down the risk of your dog running out and helps you to manage their behaviour.

If you do allow your dog to go to the door, pop their lead on so it’s easier for you to manage the situation and keep an eye on them if they seem tired, worried or are shying away from approaching people – if this happens, it might be time to call it a night.

Consider having a pot of treats by the door and if/when your dog does say hello to visitors nicely and happily, you could ask your Halloween visitors to give them a treat, if they’re comfortable doing that. If they’re not comfortable doing that, scatter some treats on the floor yourself.

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Don’t allow your puppy or dog to jump up at visitors. Practice and teach them that all four feet on the floor gets a treat or people to say hello and give them a fuss.  You might find it easier to actually stand on their lead while you’re at the door.

And finally…

Because Halloween means that the front door is opening more than usual, it’s really important to ensure that your pups and dogs are wearing an ID tag while in the house, because if your dog does escape it’s important that they can be identified and returned safe and sound as easily and quickly as possible.

Halloween means an excess of sweet treats and it’s hugely important to keep chocolate, sweets and their wrappers well away from your dog as many sweets, especially those containing chocolate or xylitol (an artificial sweetener), are toxic to them.

Agitated or excited dogs (and their swinging tails) can easily knock over a lit candle or pumpkin, so protect them from such items or, even better, consider using a battery-powered candle that does not burn.