Most people think of Halloween as a day to dress up their pets. But many pets do not like being in clothes or being constrained in their movements. Halloween in general is traditionally scary and noisy and creepy but it can be very disturbing for your pets. It is often too loud, fearful, stimulating and distracting.
The Pet Partner (formerly Delta Society) animal therapy program does not permit full costumes on their animals while working. Not only may it influence your animal’s demeanor, but prevents clients from having access to the animal’s full body for easy petting. Costumes could become caught on something or a client could pull the outfit or get wrapped up in it. The animal may be uncomfortable and not their usual happy self. They may not want to be touched or be wiggling to get out of the outfit.
Rather than full costumes Pet Partners encourages fun decorative collars or bandanas. And once people have admired the new “look” those items can be removed from the pets before handling.
But regardless if you are going visiting with your therapy pet or just want to celebrate the holiday together, keep these tips in mind for a happy, safe Halloween:
- Bring your dog inside. The commotion of Halloween could be very upsetting and scary. Consider keeping your dog in another room during this very loud, busy time.
- Keep a leash handy at the door if your dog should become too excited with doorbells ringing and new people arriving so your dog does not fly out the door every time a Trick or Treater arrives.
- Reassure your dog if he appears to be upset that this is a normal day by keeping his routine as steady as possible.
- Keep candy away from your dog, especially those containing chocolate, nuts, raisins or the artificial sweetener Xylitol. Keep the wrappers out of reach as well.
- If you choose to dress up your dog in a costume, experiment first. Make sure he is comfortable wearing clothes and if he shows any resistance, switch to a bandana or other less constricting touch for the holiday. Never force your dog to wear anything he finds uncomfortable. A collar ruff is a great solution if your dog does not like wearing clothes. If you do put a costume on your pet make sure his mouth and limbs are not restrained.
- If you are dressing up in costume, try it on beforehand in front of your dog and see his reaction. He may become frightened with you looking different so get him used to it.
- Keep candles, pumpkins and other decorations out of reach. Dogs can be very curious about anything new, especially puppies, so these objects should be far out of reach.
- Make sure your dog’s identification is up to date. Have you moved or changed your phone number? Tags should be kept accurate should your dog run out with frequent door openings or if he is scared. Make sure your microchip is Also updated. Many people forget to do this as their contact information changes. .
- Think carefully before taking your dog out Trick or Treating with you. If you do take your dog with you, keep him on a short leash should people jump out and scare him.
- Make sure children or strangers ask before approaching your dog and encourage them to go down to his level before petting him.
My dogs don’t seem to mind dressing up and we often use clothes in our therapy sessions with children to practice dexterity and motions associated with putting on clothes, buckling, buttoning,. zippering etc. so we may take some photos and have them arrive in a partial costume but it gets removed before we start interacting with clients.
The holiday should be fun and safe for everyone, not a time to introduce your dog to new experiences that may bring on new fears and feelings of insecurity.