Like any other holiday, Halloween can be a frightening time for a pet. There are scary noises, loud, laughing children, and constant comings and goings. But there are ways to enjoy safe Halloween fun with pets.
THE HALLOWEEN SAFETY WARNINGS FOR YOUR PET
There are several possible dangers to pets on Halloween. The doorbell is ringing constantly, and, when the door is opened, there are usually a bunch of children in unusual costumes. Many pets will be startled by this, especially if this is their first Halloween. A rescue dog or cat, who may not have had a consistent, calm home before coming to yours, may be doubly terrified.
Major pitfalls are:
Each time the door is opened is another chance for a frightened animal to bolt out into the dark. Particularly if you have a new rescue pet, who has not yet accepted that this is “home”, a terrified dog or cat will often run off rather than retreat inside the home.
If your pet is new to the home, or anxious, your best bet is to crate them during the height of Trick or Treat. Or, you can turn off your lights and not answer the door. If you continue to allow Trick or Treaters even when your pet is terrified, you run the risk of a lost animal, or a child being bitten. I always allowed Trick or Treat when I had my first two dogs with no problem. Then I adopted a Min-Pin, and had to stop participating altogether. He (all 12 pounds of him) would have been the one to take a chunk out of a toddler.
Know your pet, and remember your first obligation is to protect them – the neighborhood children can get their candy at another house.
Most of us know that dogs can’t eat chocolate – they also shouldn’t have anything with Xylitol in it (diet candy, gum, etc.) Even if the Halloween candy isn’t actually poisonous to them, it isn’t healthy for them (or you, but that’s another story). So, keep a close watch that your pets don’t get into the Halloween treats.
The good news is that pumpkin is wonderfully healthy for dogs. Plain canned pumpkin is recommended as an additive to your dogs’ food, for all sorts of reasons. Loaded with Vitamin A, a good amount of potassium, and lots of fiber, pumpkin will ease constipation, maintain good eyesight, and give your dog a healthy coat. Add a little (a tablespoon or so) to your pup’s food – they love the taste, and they will be getting great nutrition.
NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF!
TRICK OR TREAT FOR PETS INSIDE YOUR HOME
Do you have a dog or cat who enjoys visitors and is happy to greet every goblin and ghoul who shows up? Don’t make them just watch while the kiddies get treats. Get a separate, brightly colored bowl and fill with pet treats. Give one to your dog or cat every time your doorbell rings and you give candy to the neighborhood kids. They can have the excitement of greeting newcomers, and the fun of getting something tasty themselves.
Even your shy or anxious pet who is crated for their safety, will enjoy a particularly tasty treat. This may even make the holiday, if not fun, at least bearable for them.
TRICK OR TREAT OUTSIDE THE HOME
There have always been dogs (although I’ve never had one of them) who love nothing better than a bunch of noisy kids. These dogs will happily tag along with the neighborhood trick or treaters as they ring doorbell after doorbell. Keep them leashed, make sure they’re not being handed candy when you’re not looking, and let them have fun. Just don’t let the kids sneak up on them and both they and the children will have a blast!
HAVE A PARTY!
If you have friends with dogs (this doesn’t work very well with cats), invite them over for a Halloween backyard party. Have a cookout or buffet for the humans, bowls with dog treats for your canine guests. You can hold best dressed contests if you’re going for a costume party. The dogs will play and wear each other out, and you’ll be able to socialize on Halloween without worry. Just don’t have many loud noises or scary surprises and everyone should have a wonderful time!
HALLOWEEN COSTUMES FOR DOGS
DRESS THEM UP!
This is an individual thing. Some dogs and cats love to get dressed up. Some tolerate it. Many absolutely despise it. You’ll only know which you have if you try. Find a costume that doesn’t pinch or limit movement and give it a shot. Your pet will tell you pretty quickly if this is a good idea.
If your pet is fine wearing a costume, there are lots of ideas to choose from. For example:
Chubby little dogs (pugs, Boston terriers) make adorable bumble bees
Hairy little dogs (shih tzus, Lhasa Apso) turn into fantastic Yodas.
Long dogs (dachshunds, corgis, bassets) are cute hot dogs, complete with mustard.
Golden retrievers make great lions
Puppies are too adorable as Pikachu or a teddy bear
Hounds look great as Eeyore
My absolute favorite Halloween costume for a dog is shown in the YouTube video at the link below. This is funny to watch – but I’m sure it wasn’t that amusing for the people involved. At least not at the time! (If you want safe Halloween fun with your pets, please stay very close if you want to try a trick like this one. Frightened people may do harm to your pet before you can intervene.)
PET SAFETY WHILE WEARING HALLOWEEN COSTUMES
Here are a couple of ideas to keep your pet happy and safe while wearing a costume:
- Make sure the costume isn’t too restrictive. You want your pet to enjoy wearing it, not to be uncomfortable.
- Place all candles and candle-lit pumpkins away from pets wearing costumes.
- Never leave a costume on your pet while he’s crated.
- Make sure there aren’t removable items that can be swallowed. (This is particularly important if you have a “garbage hound” who will eat anything!)
HALLOWEEN COSTUMES FOR DOGS AND OWNERS
If you’re really into the spirit of Halloween, you can go one step further and go with a “couples costume” for you and your dog. Some ideas:
Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles
Hagrid and Fang from the Harry Potter series
Ellie Woods and Bruiser from Legally Blonde
Little Orphan Annie and Sandy
Agent K or Agent J and Frank from Men in Black
Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz
Halloween isn’t just for the kids, or even for the adults who “liberate” some candy from their little ones. The whole family, including the cats and dogs, can be included. Hope these pet safety tips for the holiday help this October to be your most memorable Halloween yet!