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Karen B. London
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Protecting Dogs on Halloween
Beware of chocolate, decorations and costumed strangers.
The devil's in the details for dogs on Halloween.

Halloween is a devil of a holiday. One the one hand, it’s among my favorites—parties, chocolate, creativity in dress and behavior, neighbors working together to create fun for all ages. On the other hand, there are hazards we all need to be aware of to make sure our dogs have a good day, too. There are three main concerns for dogs at Halloween.

 1) Chocolate is dangerous for dogs. Don’t let them eat the candy. It’s the perfect excuse to keep it all to yourself! This is another reason I love this holiday—more chocolate for me!

2) Not all decorations are safe. Dogs like to chew on things (Newsflash—you heard it here first!) so decorations should be kept out of reach to avoid choking or intestinal upset. Flames pose the risk of setting a dog’s fur on fire, so jack-o-lanterns with flashlights or other battery-powered light sources are a better choice.

3) Strangers coming to the door dressed up like every kind of weirdo, monster or freak is no fun for most dogs. Dogs don’t seem to understand that people in costumes are, well, still people. Many dogs are thrown off by small changes in people’s appearance—hats, beards or backpacks—so you can imagine how disturbing it is for them to see gorillas, Darth Vader, dragons, giant Q-tips or a bunch of grapes on their doorstep. If your dog can handle this, great! Make sure she continues to like having trick-or-treaters visit by giving her dog a high quality treat every time you open the door to any. If your dog freaks at the sight of trick-or-treaters, consider crating her or putting her in another room where she can’t see them, and preferably where the doorbell is not too loud. I actually know one professional trainer whose dogs react with excessive barking to visitors. She says that on Halloween night, they turn out all the lights and pretend that they are not home by hiding in the basement. This is a more extreme response to the holiday than most dogs require, but her dogs sure don’t mind Halloween the way some dogs do!

Check out the list of pet safety tips offered by the American Humane Association.

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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