Halloween and Dogs: 10 Ways to Keep Your Buddy Safe

by Stan Morris e-mail | Twitter

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - While Halloween can be a fun time for people, dogs face stress and dangerous many owners may forget about.

With a little time devoted to planning, however, canines can have a comfortable, safe time.

"Halloween can be extremely stressful for dogs," said Kevin R. Cooper, a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and owner of Canine Connections in Bay, Arkansas. "Every November first, hundreds of dog owners have heartbreaking stories to share about their dogs - stories that could be prevented with a little planning and awareness."

Canine Connections recommends 10 survival strategies to dog owners in Region 8 to help have a safe and comfortable Halloween.

Top Three Obedience Commands

1.  Practice your "stay" command with your dog in the days and weeks leading up to Halloween. With ghouls and goblins coming to the door, this is a great opportunity to strengthen your obedience training. Remember to use a leash or a baby gate while practicing your "stay" command if your dog has not had enough practice.

2.  Teach your dog how to relax on command, with a word like "easy," "calm" or "chill." Use it to keep excitement levels down when trick-or-treaters come knocking.

3.  Make sure your dog has a solid "Leave It" command in place for the days that follow Halloween, when the ground is covered in candy, wrappers, and other goodies.

Seven Safety Strategies

4.  Expose your dog to costumes, masks, and people doing funny or lurching walks before Halloween. Watch your dog's reaction carefully to decide if he is ready to face Halloween revelers.

5.  Learn the signs and signals of stress in a dog, by remembering LAYS:

  • LICKING lips or LIFTING one paw
  • looking or trying to move AWAY
  • excessive or exaggerated YAWNING
  • sudden vigorous SCRATCHING, or becoming very STILL.

All of these signs are your dog's way of saying "I'm not comfortable with this situation." By learning to read these signals, you can interrupt or change the environment, and prevent your dog from escalating to a growl or a bite.

6.  If your dog is frightened or distressed, do not force her to continue putting up with Halloween activities. Provide her with a safe, comfortable place that will help her feel more secure amid the scary sights and sounds.

7.  Consider giving your dog a highly valued chew toy at least 30 minutes before trick-or-treating begins, which may help to keep her mind off the disturbance.

8.  Keep your dog inside, and attach a "house leash" to your dog, to act as an extra long handle, should your dog try to escape or run away. Make sure your dog is wearing proper identification in case she gets out the door.

9.  If your dog is frightened, do not comfort or "baby" your dog if he is afraid. Dogs take their cue of how to behave from their owners; if you are acting "strange" by offering soothing words and gestures, your dog may interpret it as praise for being frightened, or a confirmation that the costumes are truly scary. Instead, act as normal and as "matter of fact" as possible, to help your dog understand that there is nothing to worry about.

10.  Make sure your family knows that chocolate is toxic for dogs. Dark chocolate is the most dangerous, but all chocolate has the potential to cause nerve damage or even death. Learn the symptoms of chocolate poisoning:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive urination
  • Pupil dilation (look at your dog's pupil's now, to learn what "normal" looks like)
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Muscle tremors and seizures
  • Coma

Cooper reminds pet owners to NEVER feed their dogs  chocolate, due to the toxicity for dogs. If the dog ingests chocolate, he says you should immediately take the dog to the vet or emergency vet, and keep the numbers to said experts on the fridge or some other visible location.

"Halloween is a tremendous opportunity to help your dog learn how to be calm and obedient with high levels of distraction," said Cooper. "With a little preparation to keep dogs safe, and an understanding of how to help pets through their fears, dog owners can have a safe - not scary - Halloween celebration."

Canine Connections offers obedience and behavior modification throughout Northeast Arkansas and the Mid South.  Visit www.midsouthdogtrainer.com or contact them at (870) 897-7624.

Kevin R. Cooper is a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals, a group of trainers, veterinarians, kennel operators, dog walkers, retailers, and other professionals dedicated to the well being of dogs. Visit the IACP website at www.dogpro.org.