A stress-free Halloween for your dog

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halloween dog

Happy Halloween! Depending on your dog or cat, this spooky holiday may be no big deal – or it might be a frightening and stressful experience.

Consider the following tips for keeping him safe and at ease this Halloween:

Costume cautions

• If you’re going to dress up your animal, make sure the outfit is loose and doesn’t restrict his movement in any way. He’ll have to walk, run and take potty breaks, so the costume must have room in the legs, it loosely around the body, and not get in the way when he has to go outside.

• The outfit should be easy on and easy off, preferably something with Velcro or pull away fasteners.

• Keep in mind that your companion is probably not used to a costume, so don’t leave him dressed up for too long. He could get uncomfortable and irritated and shred the costume or lash out with a bite or scratch.

• Doggy sweaters, coats and jackets are great for the outdoors, but don’t make your animal wear outdoor apparel in the house for very long. It can cause overheating.

• When you’re picking out a costume for your animal, remember this: if you wouldn’t wear it, don’t think your animal will feel any different. Many dogs and especially cats don’t like costumes and feel they’re being punished by being made to wear one. Laughing at them can hurt their feelings. When you put a costume on your animal, do it in a calm and light-hearted way to help him understand it’s an enjoyable adventure. The bottom line is to make it fun for your animal so he’ll remember it with good feelings, not fear. If he panics or struggles to get out of it, don’t force him to wear it.

• Look into your animal’s eyes and ask him if he’s okay with the costume. You’ll be able to tell from his expression, actions and demeanor if he’s enjoying the experience or feeling degraded, humiliated, scared or angry.

“Ding-dong!”

Another big deal is the doorbell. The constant ringing on Halloween night can drive your animal to distraction if you don’t take precautions. If he doesn’t like the doorbell, put him in a quiet room with the door shut until all the trickor- treating is over. It will help keep him safe and somewhat calmer. Give him his favorite toys and some treats to help him feel better and be sure to provide water and, if you have a cat, a litter box. You can also look into a natural remedy with calming herbs or a lower essence such as Rescue Remedy.

Even if your animal likes to greet everyone who rings the bell, keeping him away from the door is still a good idea. Be aware that those who show up on Halloween night can look very strange to your companion. Your dog or cat isn’t used to seeing people in masks and costumes and he can go into survival mode very quickly. He might bite someone or run out the door to get away from the visitors. I get many calls the day after Halloween about spooked cats and dogs who ran out the door between the legs of Captain Hook or Sleeping Beauty, never to be seen again. So please remember that what we see as fun, our animals might see in a totally different way.

In the same vein, don’t let your animal out alone on Halloween night. Dogs should be escorted into the backyard to do their business, and outdoor cats should be kept inside for the duration. Sadly, there are people who try to hurt animals on Halloween.

Treat him safely

Now that we’ve talked about the tricks to keep your animal safe, let’s talk about the treats. Chocolate, raisins and many other candy ingredients are toxic to animals, especially dogs. Sugar is not healthy for them either, so a good rule of thumb is not to give your companion any human treats. If you want to treat your animal, make sure it’s something safe and healthy, such as a natural biscuit, chew or tidbits of lean meat. Many dogs enjoy pieces of raw carrot, apple or other fruits and veggies.

Also keep candy wrappers out of your companion’s way. The smell of the candy will still be on the wrapper and many animals consume this non-digestible waxy or foil paper, thinking it’s edible. Throw all candy wrappers in the garbage right away.

Common sense is the key to a happy Halloween, along with an awareness of how your furry companion might be feeling about what’s going on around him. Keep his needs and safety in mind at all times, and you’ll get through the night without any frights.