Safety tips for dogs on Halloween

By Christy Howard
October 18, 2010

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The ringing of the doorbell at our house incites a ruckus greeting from our crew of four-legged friends. Come to think of it, you don't even have to ring the doorbell to get them wound up. Just somebody new at the door means that five mastiffs (six if our deaf foster sees the others heading for the door) assume that person is here just to see them. Throw in a bunch of kids wearing costumes saying "trick or treat" and you can have one long night.

This is one of the most exciting times of the year for kids, but it can be one of the scariest - and potentially dangerous - times if you are a dog. Halloween doesn't have to be the worst day of the year for your dog. A few simple tips can make it an enjoyable experience for your dog as well.

If your dog is staying home to "help" you hand out treats, even the most laid back dog can get anxious when kids dressed in a costume are at the door:

1. Keep your dog in another room during trick-or-treating hours. As I noted above, if I let ours greet every kid for three hours, they would be so tired they probably wouldn't get up the next morning.

2. Turn on a television or play music to drown out the sounds of trick-or-treaters.

3. Give your dogs a new treat or toy to occupy their time; you don't want the dog to feel like they are being punished.

4. If you have a lot of trick-or-treaters, you may want to sit on your porch and pass out candy; this way the dogs don't get excited every time the doorbell rings.

If you are dressing up your dog in a costume, it can be fun for you, but make sure it isn't torture for them:

1. Just like a collar, make sure you can slip two fingers around the neck and arms if the dog has to step into the costume.

2. Make sure the dog's vision is not impaired while wearing the costume.

3. When a dog has a costume on, they should be able to walk without any interference to their gait. This also means you need to be able to put a leash on the dog. You have to watch that the costume doesn't interfere with the collar or leash area.

4. If your dog doesn't normally wear clothes, try the costume on several times before Halloween; this will allow your dog to get used having something on.

5. Also take into account your dog's body temperature in a costume. I recall a few years back, it was still in the upper 80s one Halloween. Several hours of walking in a costume could overheat your dog (and your kids, too, for that matter).

If you are taking your dog out trick or treating:

1) If you normally walk your dog and he or she is friendly, Halloween might not be a big deal.

2) If you don't normally walk your dog, then Halloween might not be the night to start walking them with all the activity.

3) Make sure you watch your dog so they don't ingest any dropped candy or that people don't feed your dog candy. Aside from the fact that chocolate is toxic to dogs, the wrappers of even candy without chocolate can be harmful if ingested by your dog.

4) Having current tags is crucial if you are taking your dog out with you. If they get separated from you, the chances of their safe return increase greatly if they have identification on them. Additionally, your dog should be micro-chipped in the event they were to lose their collar.

Halloween treats for your dogs or for dogs that come trick-or-treating:

1. Halloween candy can be tempting for dogs. They are just like kids: it always seems they want things they can't have, only twice as bad. Make sure your dog doesn't have access to any candy. That goes for not only the candy you are giving out, but also the candy your two-legged humans bring home from their outing.

2. Keep dog treats on hand for any trick-or-treaters who come to your house with a dog. It is a nice gesture, and I am sure the dogs will appreciate it after they were such good sports to dress up like the kids.

Halloween can be a stressful time for dogs. But if we do a few simple things to ensure their safety (and sanity), it can be a fun and rewarding time for the family and dog alike.

Christy Howard is active in the animal rescue movement, a guest blogger for the Dallas Moms blog, and the owner of Three Dog Bakery in Southlake, Texas (find her bakery on Facebook here and here). She is married and has two stepchildren.