Costumes and candy and doorbells—oh my! A dog’s-eye view of Halloween

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by Betsy Lane, MA

Ghosts and goblins, capes and masks, and bowls of chocolate—it’s not a holiday for the dogs!

If you have one of those super-easy-going dogs that trainers sometimes call “bombproof,” feel free to stop reading now and go get a Pumpkin Spice Anything at a quaint sidewalk café, your beautifully calm dog relaxing by your feet.

For the rest of us, it takes some care and forethought to keep our pups safe, happy, and healthy on Halloween. Let’s start by looking at things from Fictional Fido’s perspective on Halloween—perhaps the most confusing holiday in a dog’s year:

I know you humans love your holidays, but this one is a little scary.

First, my human family puts on odd costumes. It’s fun, sure—but I sometimes wonder where my normal humans went!

In all the extra excitement leading up to a holiday, I don’t always get my regular walks and napping done. Both of these are Very Important Activities to us dogs!

And then my humans want me to walk WITH them and the costumed kids, in the dark, with all those OTHER excited humans in THEIR weird-looking outfits? Yikes! I’d rather stay home, thankyouverymuch. (Besides, that’s where the big bowl of peanut-butter cups is!)

But at home, the doorbell rings every two minutes, and we’re greeted by ghosts, goblins, superheroes, princesses, and giant black cats shouting, “TRICK OR TREAT!!!” And my humans keep giving THEM treats out of the big bowl, but never give ME any of them. I missed my walk, my nap, and my dinner, and now you deprive me of TREATS?

It’s just not fair. I see the grown-ups sneaking piece after piece of chocolate, making those enticing crinkly-wrapper sounds. Human food = yummy food, so….  I’m just going to have to help myself! I’d better scarf down as much as I can before they stop me!

Uh-oh. Now I feel really, really icky and my humans are talking about a trip to the vet. This is not what I signed up for. I think I need to throw up now… sorry about the rug, Mom.

Poor Fictional Fido! Here are a few tips to help ensure your pups have a much better Halloween than he’s having. And they might just keep you away from the emergency vet and the local hardware store to rent a carpet shampooer.

Keep all candy (not just chocolate) safely out of reach of your pets. Chocolate is especially dangerous because dogs are much more sensitive to methylxanthines than humans. For a good idea of how little it takes to make your pup dangerously ill, check out this Chocolate Toxicity Meter

What goes in, must come out. Those high-fat, high-sugar treats can exit the system rather more quickly and unexpectedly than your dog’s normal, nutritionally balanced food. Just sayin’.

Keep pets away from doors (use a baby gate, or put them in another room with a special, dog-appropriate treat). Don’t take dogs trick-or-treating with you—for their safety and comfort, and that of other trick-or-treaters. And stick to their normal routine as closely as possible; routines are reassuring. (Check out Erin Schneider’s wonderful blog with practical safety tips for Halloween here.) 

Finally, you might LOVE that irresistibly cute dog costume, but your dog doesn’t. (They may tolerate it because they’re good dogs and they love you, but they won’t like it.) If you want to do something festive that isn’t going to make your dog miserable, try a fun seasonal bandanna, non-toxic chalk tattoos, or black-and-orange nail polish, available at the PetSmart Grooming Salon.  

This is a difficult holiday for many dogs, for many reasons. Let’s do what we can to ensure everyone has a safe, fun, happy Halloween! Aw-woooooo!

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