October 26, 2018

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. Our furry friends don’t understand the wider context of holidays like Halloween, so whilst they may usually enjoy meeting visitors, even the most confident, well-socialised dogs can find people in costumes unnerving.

Along with this there are changes to routine including lots of door knocks which 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 Halloween might feel:

Dog care at halloween

Tell-‘tail’ signs that your dog is experiencing anxiety

Now you’ve got an idea of how your best friend might be feeling over Halloween, you might be wondering how you can spot these feelings in practice. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Hiding
  • Shaking
  • Refusing food
  • Seeking comfort from you
  • Yawning and pacing
  • Licking their lips often
  • Panting if they’re not warm

Look out for your dog’s territorial side

If your dog is sensitive about their space, trick-or-treaters may not go down well. Knocks and surprises, people having fun, going to parties, and being more noisy than normal could certainly be a cause for upset. 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 or somewhere that doesn’t celebrate Halloween, it may make sense to see if they could look after your dog until things are a little less spooky at home.

Doggie dos and don’ts at Halloween time

Did you know that puppies and dogs who don’t receive appropriate habituation to different situations and objects can develop what behaviourists call “neophobia”? The fear of new things. You can help dogs who aren’t keen on new things by working with a Clinical Animal Behaviourist and starting your furry friend on a calming supplement like YuCALM Dog can be really helpful too. Anxiety treatments can be different for every individual dog, but there are some ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ that apply to all dogs – nervous or not – for a safer, happier Halloween. Here’s the Lintbells advice:

The ‘don’ts’:

  • Take a rain-check on Halloween party plans for pooches
You may like the idea of a comedy canine sidekick to complete your Halloween outfit but it’s likely that your pooch would be happier snoozing on the sofa away from the party.
  • 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. This is a risk that’s not worth taking around little ones.
  • Think twice about doggie costumes
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.
  • Minimise exposure to decorations and human costumes
Practically speaking, it makes sense to keep your dog away from rooms with decorations as he or she may be disoriented by new surroundings, (not to mention that your decorations may end up as chew-toys!).
  • Watch out for the treats!
Human sweets aren’t great for dog digestion. Chocolate is poisonous, and these days, many sweets also contain artificial sweeteners and can be a doggie choking hazard, 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.)

The ‘do’s’:

  • Start dog calming prep ASAP

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 decipher a behaviour modification programme. This might include positive reinforcement exercises to build their confidence around new and potentially scary things and the use of calming medications and supplements like YuCALM Dog. The clever combination of triple action ingredients work on the calming pathways in the brain to help reduce stress and support dogs towards feeling better. YuCALM is newly available in a convenient chewable format, ‘YuCALM One-A-Day’, for smaller dogs who are stressed or nervous. Start your best friend on YuCALM at least a week before the potentially distressing event, but remember that it may take up to 6 weeks to see best results.

  • 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 offering treats or stuffed Kongs whilst they are in the den.

  • Go for walkies during the day

Swap your evening walk for a daytime adventure to minimise the chance of running into people in costume and unusual decorations. 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 as they may bolt if spooked. 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 down excited or stressed pets? We tried (and liked) this dog calming CD and playlist – the profits go to Collie Rescue, too.

  • Tips for keeping your dog calm and content all year ‘round

There are lots of ways to help anxious dogs feel calmer – so many that we’ve written a separate blog about anxiety and dog calming here. From cuddles to extra exercise, there are lots of practical ways you can help.

Does your dog get spooked at Halloween? Or maybe you’ve had some spooky, ghostly encounters together? We love to hear from you and your furry friends, so feel free to share your experiences and advice in the comments below or join our pet-loving community on our Facebook and Instagram pages for the latest tips, competitions, giveaways and more!