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Trick-or-Treating With Your Dog

I often hear comments from people about the great costume they got for their dog, and how they can’t wait to take him out Trick-or-Treating. I have several concerns about this practice.

First of all, how well do you know your dog? Is he calm, confident, and friendly? Does he like being around crowds of people, especially children in unusual clothing and masks who are overloaded on sugar? Is he comfortable walking around outside after dark? Can you tell when your dog is showing signs of stress, and are you willing, and able, to take him home immediately if he does?

My other concern is with the costumes. Contrary to what we may think is fun, most dogs really don’t like being dressed up. Some costumes will interfere with your dog’s ability to see and make him more nervous. Plus, most costumes will interfere with your ability to read your dog’s body language, and therefore your ability to interpret his level of stress.

However, in spite of these concerns Halloween can be a fun time for you and your dog. It can also be an excellent training opportunity, if you take the time to be prepared, and to put your dog’s needs first.

Before Halloween night, take your dog out for several evening walks, to be sure he is comfortable out after dark. And if you do insist on making your dog wear a costume, be sure it is a safe and comfortable fit. Have your dog wear his costume several times while playing, training, or getting lots of puppy treats, before taking him out Trick-or-Treating.

When you head out on Halloween night, pay close attention to your dog, and to your surroundings. Stay on the sidelines and out of the crowds to help keep him from feeling cornered or trapped. Also, take plenty of dog treats out with you, so you can reward good behavior, as well as desensitize your pup to any scary people, costumes, decorations, or situations. (If you are not sure how to do this, don’t take your dog out with you!) And again, be on the look-out for any signs of stress.

If you plan to stay home with your dog, please practice, practice, practice your “Wait” cue at your front door ahead of time. It’s easy to get distracted while handing out goodies, and door dashing can be deadly for your dog! As always, have plenty of yummy dog treats handy for rewarding good behavior, and for desensitizing to any scary visitors.

But really, the most comfortable and least stressful place for your dog to spend Halloween night is in a quiet back room, or in his crate, with the TV on or music playing in the background. And remember, while candy is not exactly good for us, it can be really bad for your dog!

So however you choose to spend it, with our without your dog’s participation, I hope you all have a fun, safe, and Happy Halloween!

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