We all know that some dogs find fireworks night scary – but have you ever thought about All Hallows Eve from your pooch's perspective?
We all know that some dogs find fireworks night scary – but have you ever thought about All Hallows Eve from your pooch's perspective? Strange little monsters knocking at the door, scary noises and lots of tempting treats to sneak… it can all get a bit much for dogs. Here are our top dog calming and safety tips for a happier Halloween for everyone.
Dogs don’t understand the wider context of holidays like Halloween, so though they may usually enjoy meeting visitors, familiar faces can become unfamiliar thanks to costumes, makeup and wigs. Even confident, well-socialised dogs may find people in costume unnerving or scary.
What’s more, changes to routine – and lots of door knocks – can be unsettling, and there are lots of opportunities for our dogs to help themselves to things they shouldn’t. So let’s take a few minutes to put ourselves in our dogs’ paws and think about how might Halloween feel...
Now you’ve got an idea of how your best friend might be feeling over Halloween, how can you spot when they’re feeling stressed or might be in danger? Here are some scenarios and tell-tale signs to look out for:
Is your dog often nervous or fearful?
It’s likely that they’ll find lots of noise, changes around the house and visitors stressful. Nervous dogs show their stress in a variety of ways including:
- Refusing food
- Seeking comfort from you
- Refusing food
- Yawning and pacing
- Licking their lips a lot
- Panting if they’re not warm
Can they be territorial or possessive of their home?
If your dog is sensitive about their space, trick or treaters may not go down well. As well as lots of knocks and surprises, people having fun, going to parties and being more noisy than normal might upset dogs too. Parties at home – even quiet ones! – can be stressful, so be aware that your dog might not welcome guests as warmly as you do.
Top Tip - If you have friends or family in a more remote location, it could make sense to let your dog have a little halloween holiday until things calm down at home.
Does your dog struggle with new things?
Did you know that puppies and dogs who don’t receive appropriate habituation to different situations and objects can develop what behaviourists call “neophobia” – that’s a fear of new things. You can help dogs who aren’t keen on new things by working with a behaviourist – and practically speaking, it makes sense to minimise decorations and keep them away from strangely dressed visitors. Starting early with a calming supplement like YuCALM Dog can be really helpful too.
Doggie dos and don’ts at halloween time
There are some dos and don’ts that apply to all dogs – nervous or not – for a safer, happier halloween. Here goes…
Raincheck on halloween party plans for pooches - Though you may like the idea of a canine sidekick to complete your halloween outfit – Wallace and Gromit, Dennis and Gnasher? – your pooch is likely to be happier snoozing on the sofa!
Avoid trick or treating with your dog - Even calm, confident, well-socialised dogs can find costumes, noises and lots of people scary, and scared dogs can behave unpredictably – not a risk you want to take around little ones.
Think twice about doggie costumes, even for confident dogs - Though some pooches may be OK with comfortable dog-friendly clothes and costumes, many more find dressing up stressful, adding pressure at an already tricky time for dogs. If you’re not 110% sure that you can read even the subtlest signs of stress, avoid the outfits.
Watch out for the treats! - Human sweets aren’t great for doggie digestion. Chocolate is poisonous, and these days, many sweets also contain artificial sweeteners. So as well as an upset tummy, you may end up having to make an emergency trip to the vets if your pooch finds their way into your Halloween candy stash. Same goes for decorations that may double as toys..
Got a nervous dog? Start dog calming prep now - If your dog is nervous or shy, now's the time to start working with them to make Halloween – and fireworks night – a less stressful time. We’d recommend talking to your vet or a certified behaviourist to work out a behaviour modification programme. This might include positive reinforcement exercises to build their confidence around scary or new things, or the use of calming medications and supplements like YuCALM Dog. YuCALM works by helping your dog feel more relaxed and happy, so on the day they feel better equipped to cope.
Get some ideas for dog calming - There are lots of ways to help anxious dogs feel calmer – so many that we’ve written a separate blog about about anxiety and dog calming here. From cuddles to extra exercise, there are lots of practical ways you can help.
Give them a safe space away from the human fun - Creating a calm, quiet den where your dog can retreat is a great idea over both Halloween and fireworks night. Set it up a few days before you expect your first Halloween visitors (or fireworks), and help your dog build positive associations by giving treats or stuffed Kongs in the den.
How to build a den…
- Choose the right spot – as far away from your main door as possible. A quiet bedroom, bathroom or utility room is ideal.
- Now make a cave – a large box or crate covered in blankets or duvets, or for big dogs, how about under the dining table!
- Bring in familiar things – move their bed to the den (don’t wash the bedding), and maybe add an old jumper or t-shirt that you’ve slept in for a few days.
Go for walkies during the day - Swap your evening walk for a daytime adventure to minimise the chance of running into scary people and unusual decorations. And when it’s time for a late-night toilet trip, be sure to keep your dog on their lead, even if your garden is fenced – if something spooks your dog, they may bolt. Scared dogs have been known to clear 6ft fences, so better safe than sorry.
Try some soothing sounds - Did you know that you can now get special CDs and playlists to calm excited or stressed pets? We tried (and liked) this dog calming CD and playlist – the profits go to Collie Rescue, too.
So that’s our guide to a happier Halloween for dogs and their people – what did you think? Does your dog get spooked at Halloween? Or maybe you’ve had some spooky, ghostly encounters together? We love to hear what’s happening with you and your best friends, so why not share your doggie ghost stories, feedback and ideas to help with dog calming in the comments below?