Do Dogs Get Stressed on Halloween?
Halloween is fun for kids and adults, but can the same be said for your pets? If you have a dog, you might wonder if this spooky holiday can be stressful for him. Below is some information that can help you determine if your pet is anxious on Halloween, along with tips on how to help him relax as much as possible.
Yes, Dogs Can Feel Stressed or Anxious on Halloween
Halloween can be a busy day, especially if you have kids who are going to be dressed up, your family has a party to go to, and you’ll be answering the door for a lot of trick-or-treaters. All of that activity could make your dog feel confused, stressed, and anxious. And if your dog is the type that jumps up and starts barking whenever the doorbell rings, Halloween can also be stressful for you.
Even the simple act of taking your pooch for a walk can be difficult on this holiday, particularly if you do so while a lot of people are out. Seeing kids in scary costumes or being around too many strangers could make a dog feel uneasy. You might need to change your routine a bit so your dog won’t go for walks while trick-or-treaters are going door to door.
Put simply, Halloween can be a day when your dog’s routine changes quite dramatically. Your pet might feel distressed by a number of things, such as your neighbors’ frightening Halloween decorations or the amount of people outside and at your door. And, of course, if it’s a noisy day, filled with strange sounds that your furry friend isn’t familiar with, that can be stressful as well.
How to Tell If Your Dog Is Stressed
In addition to keeping an eye on your dog’s behavior to determine if he’s feeling frazzled on Halloween, you can look for signs of stress in his body language.
Your dog’s posture might change, he might tuck his tail, and his facial expression and ear position might change as well. For instance, his eyes might widen and his ears might pin back.
Also, your pup might try to run and hide, or he might start pacing, panting, and vocalizing. Extremely stressed dogs might even start trembling or shaking. And your pet might not be up for playing, eating, etc.
How to Make Halloween Less Stressful for Your Dog
There are steps you can take on Halloween to help your pet feel at ease, despite all of the increased activity and changes that he isn’t used to. Here are some things to consider:
Don’t force your dog to wear a costume or go trick-or-treating. While some dogs don’t mind being dressed up in funny costumes for Halloween, others don’t like it at all. If you’re thinking about putting a costume on your dog, try it in advance of the holiday. You might be able to get your pet used to it little by little, especially if you’re rewarding him for tolerating it. But if you find that your dog gets stressed in a costume no matter what you try, don’t force it. And the same goes for trick-or-treating. Although you might love the idea of taking your dog trick-or-treating with your family, if he doesn’t feel comfortable being around all of the people, costumes, and decorations, don’t risk him getting spooked and potentially running off.
Keep in mind that your Halloween costume might scare your dog. In the same way that you might get your dog used to wearing a costume, you can work on getting him accustomed to you being in your costume before the holiday arrives. That way, when you put it on for your Halloween party, your dog won’t freak out. Bear in mind that if your costume includes a mask, this could be terrifying to your pet, so you might want to avoid wearing the mask in the house if he doesn’t understand that it’s you behind it.
Get your dog used to the doorbell ringing more often. Even if your dog doesn’t get riled up when the doorbell rings, he might get frustrated by it ringing again and again. To get your pet used to what it will be like on Halloween, have someone ring the bell every few minutes for a short span of time. By acting out what it will be like on Halloween, you may be able to reduce the odds that he’ll become stressed that day. You can also use this as an opportunity to train your dog to not rush the door to ensure he won’t run out and get lost. Alternatively, to prevent the doorbell from ringing, have trick-or-treaters take candy from a bowl outside your front door, or simply sit outside to greet them.
Be mindful when decorating for Halloween. Does your pooch get frightened by certain types of Halloween decorations, such as those that make noise, move, or are really big? Even if you don’t put those up yourself, you might not be able to avoid exposing your dog to scary decorations when you take him on walks. Consider counterconditioning and desensitization techniques, whether you want to put up a lot of decorations around your own home or you want to be able to go on calm walks without your dog getting upset.
Keep your dog away from the front door on Halloween. If you’re concerned that your dog might run out the front door, or if he gets upset when he looks out the window and sees people near your home, consider putting him in a room where he’ll feel comfortable and relaxed. This might require some training in advance if he isn’t used to being in the room alone. Provide your dog with food, water, treats, toys, a snuffle mat, a lick mat, and maybe some calming music to keep him happy, and have someone in your family spend time with him so he won’t feel left out.
Use Products That Can Help Calm Your Dog
In addition to the strategies above, you can try products that are designed to help keep your pooch calm and relaxed during stressful situations. Examples include pheromones for dogs, flower essences, and calming treats. If you’re thinking about trying any supplements or herbal remedies, it’s best to consult your veterinarian first. Ask them for recommendations and guidance to be sure products are safe for your particular dog, especially if he has a medical condition and is taking medications.
Another option is the ThunderShirt® for Dogs. Available in multiple sizes and colors, it’s designed to fit snugly and comfortably, applying a bit of pressure to help your dog feel less anxious or fearful when exposed to stressors. You can use this item whenever your pet is likely to experience stress, not just on Halloween, and you can rest assured it’s breathable and machine washable.
Make Halloween a Relaxed Day for Your Dog
Halloween doesn’t have to be a terrible time for your dog. With a little effort and some strategy, you can plan ahead so your pooch will feel fine and enjoy the day.
Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.
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