It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Halloween time! Well…wonderful for humans, that is. For the furry little fanged monsters living in your house, spooky fun can cause real fear. Here is the Halloween pet protocol you can follow to keep your gremlins safe and comfortable during spooky season!
Keep in mind: if it’s not fun for them, it’s not fun.
Including your pet in the festivities might sound like a great idea! I mean, what’s more fun than having your dog around? But while it might be fun for you, it’s important to keep in mind that your pet may have their own ideas. And the first rule of partying with your pup is that if they’re not having fun, it’s not fun.
Leave them out of the event planning.
Trunk-or-treats, witches’ nights out, and festivals are some of the best parts of Halloween. And let’s face it: your pet is the cutest pet on the block! So why wouldn’t you want to take the opportunity to show them off?
For a pet, there’s a lot to take in at events like that, especially at Halloween time. Not only are there crowds of people, including excited (i.e. shrieking and running… not to mention roaring, howling, cackling, etc.) kids, but they’re all dressed up in big hats and weird costumes.
What’s more, it can be difficult to leave an event if your pet is uncomfortable, especially if children are involved. Maybe you parked far away, paid to get in, or were especially looking forward to some specific aspect of the event and are reluctant to just bounce when it becomes apparent that Fido’s not having fun. If kids are involved, it’s even more complicated. Try telling a sugared-up six-year-old who has been practicing her Spider Man stance for weeks that she has to leave the party fifteen minutes in because the dog’s not feeling it. Yikes.
Keep their comfort in mind when selecting pet costumes.
Let’s be real. There are few things cuter than a pet wearing a little outfit. And on Halloween, your options are practically limitless! Do you want to make your Lhasa into a little lion? Would your greyhound make a gruesome ghost? Maybe your beagle would be a brilliant little four-legged Betty White. I mean, you can do all that any time you like, but in April… people would have questions. On Halloween, anything goes! … Right?9
Well… once again, keep in mind that your pet doesn’t understand what’s going on and doesn’t actually care how cute they look. I won’t say skip the costumes altogether, but keep their comfort in mind.
Some pets aren’t cool with being dressed up at all. If you’re raising a little nudist, respect that and either skip the costume altogether or go with something small like a decorative bandanna.
If your pet is a fashionista who doesn’t mind wearing clothes, consider their comfort level. There’s a difference between putting your pet in a sweater and adding elaborate, heavy, or itchy elements. Consider skipping accessories like hats, headdresses, shoes, or leg warmers, or putting them on for a quick photo and then removing them. As for the costume itself, is it bulky or heavy? Are there lots of dangly bits or weird appendages? Does it restrict movement? Does it not fit well and slip off when they walk? If any of those apply, it’s probably not very comfortable for your pet to wear.
Avoiding trick-or-treat trauma.
Maybe you and your pet aren’t social butterflies or events and festivals aren’t your thing. Halloween night will still come and, depending on where you live, your area may still fill up with trick-or-treaters! So how do you keep your pets safe?
Crack down on the rules.
Listen, I can be kind of lenient with my dog when we’re outside. She’s a creature of habit and not an adventurer, so I sometimes do things like let her run to the car with me or go out to greet a guest without a leash because I know I can trust her not to go anywhere. It’s not something I would really advise that people do, but let’s face it… a lot of us occasionally do similar things.
On Halloween night, you should be on high alert. Cats who are normally allowed outside should be kept safely inside. No, it’s not because of roving bands of mythical Satanists and has nothing to do with the color of the cat- it’s just because all the traffic, noise, and activity can scare a cat and they can get disoriented and have trouble finding their way home. It’s safer for them indoors. Dogs who are allowed a little freedom because they can be trusted to come when called or not to go anywhere should be leashed if they’re not in a fenced area and closely supervised any time they’re outside.
Double-check your security measures.
Kids are brilliant, but they do dumb and weird things all the time. That’s especially true when they’ve got a lot to think about and are in high spirits, like, say, when they’re trick-or-treating. They leave gates open. They unclip latches just for the heck of it. They grab stuff and throw stuff and press stuff and open stuff and chase or taunt things they shouldn’t.
Before letting your dog outside on and after Halloween, make double-sure that all gates are securely closed, anything that should be latched or locked is in place, and that the yard is safe.
Keep curious pets away from the door.
Depending on your neighborhood, your door may be opening and closing all night long as you greet a parade of superheroes, ghouls, and mythical beasts. That open door may be too tempting for an adventuresome pet, so it’s safest to keep them away from it. Shut them in a crate, bedroom, basement, or other quiet and comfortable area for the evening. If you’ve got an extra person at home, most pets who aren’t used to being crated or confined are more comfortable with a human buddy, so have one person on snuggling duty while the other hands out candy.
Keeping them safe all season long
Halloween is just one night, but the Halloween pet protocol can last a little longer!
Pay attention to yard decorations
We’ve all got that neighbor (or maybe you are the neighbor) who goes all-out with the Halloween decor. Life-size animatronic horror movie villains, 12-foot-tall skeletons, lifelike monsters, lights, noises, motion sensor triggers, gigantic inflatable cartoon characters, and so forth are all popular items… and, along with giving every Amazon delivery driver who comes by your house a heart attack, can really scare animals.
My fearless social butterfly of a dog, who takes fireworks, vacuum cleaners, men in hats, and pretty much everything else in stride, once balked at a large cut log at the side of a trail and refused to move until I let her run- tail tucked and trembling- straight back to the car. My super-outgoing office cat went into a panic over a balloon. Point being, you may not think your decorations are overly frightening, but you never know what’s going to spook a pet. Watch your pet’s body language and signals during walks for signs of fear or discomfort and choose how to proceed. You may opt to change your walk route or cross the street to avoid the house-sized swaying inflatable Pennywise your neighbor so loves or try to desensitize your pet using treats and encouragement.
Human treats are not dog treats
So Halloween is over… and your little goblins brought home quite the candy haul! Now you have to think about tummy aches, cavities, sugar highs, and… your pet.
Certain kinds of candy or ingredients commonly found in candy can be highly toxic to dogs. Keep your sweet stash put away somewhere out of your dog’s reach and be vigilant when it’s taken out. Or buy some Halloween/Fall themed pet treats so they can feel apart of the candy party. It just takes a careless moment- a bag or pile left on a table, counter, bed, or floor- for a snack-seeking dog to gorge themselves on something that can really harm them. Keep careful tabs on the candy, especially if your dog can be a little naughty around delicious things.
Are you spending your Halloween taking a tour of the most haunted places in America? Need someone to look after your pet while you’re away? We’re the pet experts at keeping your hairy loved ones safe when you can’t be there, whether it’s spooky season… or any season!