For as many pet parents out there who like dressing their dogs up for Halloween, there are equally as many dogs who truly do not like the idea of getting all decked out for this spooky holiday us human folk celebrate. I know my dog is content to wear a coat laden with mud more than he is a blingy costume of black and orange. Times have changed. There are many do’s and dont’s these days.
Growing up, I have not one memory of dogs getting dressed up for Halloween to either go trick or treating with the family or to enter such a thing as a dog photo contest. I am not that old (yet), but I was a teenager in the 80’s and people just didn’t humanize their pets the way we do nowadays. Dogs were pretty much that: A pet that you fed whatever leftovers were available or for those lucky ones, store bought bagged or canned food. Times have changed.
Whether or not you embrace celebrate holidays with your dog by engaging in contests, costumes, and all the regalia associated with them or not, the bottom line is that millions of people will and do, myself included. I have one rule of thumb: If my dog is outwardly unhappy, uncomfortable, or otherwise shows signs of not wanting to engage in something, I won’t put him through it.
However, there are people out there who take the whole “my dog is a superstar” thing to a whole other level and that is where I cringe, want to cry, raise my fists to the rafters, and cyber scream at that. Some dogs do not like clothes: So please don’t dress them up. Some dogs are not into wanting to to tricks, even if they are for treats, so knock it off. I know I can’t change the mindsets of certain folks, so I stopped trying long ago.
Maybe, however, through my writing and teachings I can educate people what to watch for, how much is enough, and what dangers exist when it comes to Halloween and other holidays. With that, here are 13 do’s and dont’s we’ve learned over the years as pet parents, pet educators, and in working with pet behavioral experts.
Fidose of Reality’s 13 Do’s and Don’ts for a Safe, Doable Halloween for Dogs
13. Costume Terrors
If your dog does not like clothes, wearing clothes, and tends to either freeze in place, act like they were lathered in glue, or otherwise is unhappy about apparel: Please for the love of Lassie, don’t make them wear clothes. You can still have fun: There are so many fun leashes, collars, and bandanas on the market these days that you don’t have to feel excluded.
Do keep things like chocolate and anything Xylitol-based away from dogs: Nothing ruins Halloween fun like a trip to the emergency vet. Xylitol is found in products like sugar-free gum and mints, and if you didn’t read the story of Boomer and his near-death experience with Xylitol, <—– there it is.
11. Bolting Alert
Bolting, and not as in the bolts from Frankenstein’s neck, is of utmost concern this time of year. Think of it from the dog’s perspective: Strange kids in costumes come knocking on the door to their house and want something: they want in, they are intruding, they are ringing doorbells and for all intents and purposes: Strangers. Keep dogs secure at home in the event the welcome mat is being rolled out to costumed kids. Children in strange apparel might frighten Fido and dogs tend to bolt in these situations. Our heart breaks with the numbers of lost dogs reported around the fourth of July and Halloween. Be careful.
10. Prying Eyes and Mouths
If you do take your dog out for Halloween, ensure he doesn’t get loose to roam with all the strange sights, sounds, and sniffs of Halloween. Candy and treat wrappers do not belong in Fido’s mouth, so proceed with caution. Walk dogs before the ghoulies and goblins emerge.
9. Who Are You?
Identification tags should be current and having Fido in something reflective while you do the same are keys to having fun while keep safe. If you have your dog microchipped, which is highly recommended, be sure the information on file with the microchip service is current. Did your phone number change? Did you move? Have a new email? Make sure all information is current.
8. Costume Kings
If your dog can tolerate wearing clothing, ensure there are no elastic sections that can cut off circulation or cut in the dog’s skin. Do not put anything extra bulky or heavy on your dog. This is something to really pay attention to, as dogs can overheat easily. Please ensure your dog’s costume is not too bulky or heavy. October temperatures can be warm or chilly, depending on the part of the country. Dress with Fido’s best needs in mind. For those whose dogs aren’t into costumes, try an LED collar and/or festive leash. to ensure your pup’s safety while canvasing the neighborhood with you.
7. Stranger Danger
Beware of humans. With mischief makers and pranksters increasing this time of year, dogs are at risk for the ill intentions of some people. Keep dogs indoors and supervise any interaction with people. I never let strangers give my dog treats.
6. Out of Bounds
Keep wagging tails and prying noses away from Jack-o-Lanterns and candles. While adorable, they pose a safety hazard and fire threat with curious canines abound. You don’t want a lit candle to get knocked over nor a dog to bite into an electrical cord. The outcome can be fatal, so be aware of anything dangerous from a dog’s vantage point or a tail’s line of fire.
5. Greeting and Meeting
If your dog isn’t fond of meeting new people and pets, by all means, don’t participate in an in-person costume contest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a parade or Halloween costume event and there is always at least one or two people who bring scared dogs or barks constantly at strangers dogs to the meetup. Just don’t do it: It stresses the dog and everyone else and is really not fair to anyone. If participating in a Halloween costume contest, make sure Fido is accustomed to being around strange dogs (who will look even stranger in ghoulish garb).
4. Pumpkin Eater: NOT!
Yes, pure canned pumpkin is used for digestive issues in dogs, but pumpkins in general can cause major problems. Not only can intestines get blocked if larger pieces are swallowed, but you will have one sick puppy on your hands if they eat a pumpkin. And yes, dogs do eat things like pumpkins, cornstalks, and all those other attractive but “do not eat” items that blanket homes and apartments this time of year. Similarly, candy wrappers can cause intestinal damage and blockage, so be on the lookout.
3. Black Cats are Pets, Not Halloween Decor
If you have a black cat (or any cat), please pay extra attention to them near open doorways and windows, especially at Halloween. Black cats are used by horrible people in satanic (and other) rituals, so if you are a dog household that has a black cat, keep them safe and sound.
2. Photo Shopping
I know this isn’t a pet hazard, but it is a major source of frustration. If your pet isn’t fond of in-person costume contests but does tolerate wearing apparel, participate in an online costume. There are many out there for the asking, but we who run them have one request: Don’t photoshop. Have fun, don’t put your dog in danger, but just say no to Photoshop. Most judges eliminate the photos that are clearly altered in some way.
1. Emergency Situation
In the event of an emergency, have your vet and/or nearest emergency vet number plugged into your phone and know the route to the clinic ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is get lost en route to an emergency center when seconds or minutes count. Plug the addresses into your GPS ahead of time. No one wants to be in an emergency situation, but just in case be prepared.
So there you have it. This is list in no means meant to scare you away from having fun with your dog, but rather to inform, educate, and prevent catastrophe. Have fun and get your Halloween spirit going!
Got a Halloween tip I missed? Any of you getting your dogs dressed up for the holiday? Bark at us below in the comments.