Halloween with your puppy
(The socialization advice is for puppies under 4 months old. Safety advice applies to all dogs.)
Halloween can be scary for dogs. You have an excellent opportunity to socialize your puppy to Halloween this year to make sure it is an enjoyable experience for years to come. The most important thing is to take things at your puppy’s pace and watch him for any signs that he may be uncomfortable. Remember: new or scary stuff = treats!
Watch out for:
- Candy – Chocolate is toxic to dogs and the wrappers can also be a problem if ingested! Halloween is one of the busiest time of the year for calls to ASPCA’s poison control hotline. Avoid problems with careful management of your puppy! You can also stop problems before they start by setting up your environment for success like making sure the candy bowl is beyond the reach of your puppy.
- Candles – we often put candles inside pumpkins. Make sure your pup doesn’t accidentally knock one down and start a fire. LED lights inside the pumpkin can be an alternative.
- Lost puppies – Keep collars and tags on your puppy and make sure your microchip information is up to date. Halloween is a time that many dogs get lost. There are many spooky things that can cause a dog to panic and wriggle out of their collar or harness. People are also opening doors multiple times per night to greet trick or treaters. This means puppies have more chances to escape out that open door while you are distracted.
To ensure an enjoyable experience:
At the door
- Keep your puppy on leash
- Have a bowl of puppy treats handy for greeting trick or treaters
- Keep your pup from harassing trick or treaters (some kids are scared of dogs!)
- Crate your puppy if things get too busy or you are unable to pay attention to them.
Taking your puppy trick or treating:
Trick or treating can be a great experience for your pup if you follow a few rules.
- Take a treat pouch with you! Easy access to some delicious treats will make everything easier. There will no doubt be things your puppy finds new or scary on a Halloween outing. Costumed people predict treats. We are going for happy, not just tolerant.
- Make sure to keep the experience fun! If your puppy starts to tire, carry them or bring them home early. The excitement and constant bombardment of new people and things can be exhausting. Just like little kids, puppies can get overtired and cranky!
- Make sure your puppy is visible to cars! Attach a led light or reflective strip to a collar.
- Protect your puppy! If your pup has had enough or at any time moves away from someone, stop that person from making contact. Be polite but firm. It is hard to say no to a child who wants to pet your puppy, but a lifetime of happy encounters takes priority. You can always encourage your pup to play the game and interact but never force them.
Halloween is a great time to get your puppy used to wearing different things. You never know when you might need to put a coat on your dog or have him wear bandages in the future. It also allows you to practice body handling while getting them dressed up. Make sure any dog costumes are comfortable to wear, allow your puppy to move freely, and you are watching your puppy to make sure they are enjoying themselves. The absence of stress signals is not enough – your puppy should be having a great time in costume. Extra treats and attention is key! If your puppy is likely to get cranky, take off the costume before they start having a bad time.
Be careful meeting other dogs while in costume – they may be scared of your dog in costume or not be able to read their body language well if the costume obscures parts of their body or adds extra appendages.