Your dog, Lilly, hates Halloween, and honestly, who can blame her? You know you are partially at fault because you just love dressing her up in that bat dog costume, and you eat a pound of chocolate right in front of her. You also are “those neighbors” that have a house with twenty jack-o-lanterns, a robotic witch, and a smoke machine. You just love the holiday, but Lilly seems always to want to crawl into her crate and hide. You wonder if you should think more about Lilly’s needs during the Halloween extravaganza than you have in the past. How could you make her evening a little more comfortable and less spooky? You realize it might be time to stop taking her Trick-or-Treating.
The Root of the Behavior
If you think about it, there are a lot of things to be scared of during Halloween. Halloween also presents a change in Lilly’s day-to-day routine, uncomfortable costumes, treats that dogs can’t have and more. It’s one of those holidays that you as a human may love, but Lilly doesn’t quite get the hype and would rather take a nap with the lights off.
For starters, a lot of owners like to dress their dogs in silly costumes, and some dogs are not fans of putting on the bat dog cape, mask, and black boots. When they see the costume coming out, they want to run the other way because most dogs prefer their own fur. This is natural; a cotton cape is not. Costumes actually stress some dogs out, and they might be hot. Some costumes might even irritate Lilly’s skin or scratch her eyes. Costumes are definitely one root of this Halloween problem.
Halloween also has a lot of spooky stuff. I’ll be honest, some of those Halloween animated ghosts scare the daylights out of me, and I am a human, so they can certainly spook your jumpy dog. You know those robotic Frankensteins that pop up unexpectedly and make you jump, for a dog this is even more traumatizing; they don’t understand that Frankenstein is not real. Imagine if you thought Frankenstein was coming to get you. Animated freak shows are another contributor to Lilly’s Halloween madness.
Let’s not forget the abundance of chocolate, which is tempting for Lilly, but she can’t have any, and if she sneaks some, we have a whole other reason why she associates negativity with Halloween. Similarly, everyone keeps on saying treat, but your dog doesn't see unlimited biscuits. She, undoubtedly, is confused. To top it all off, your neighborhood is probably crawling with freaky costumes and masks, and other unfamiliar “beings”. And then there is the constant ringing of the doorbell. Lilly is so confused why you keep on opening the door for these intruders. She has no idea that ghost is your five-year-old nephew, Bart. From Lilly’s perspective, Halloween is just no fun.
Encouraging the Behavior
Although you don’t want to encourage Lilly’s hate for Halloween, you certainly want to find some ways to alleviate her anxiety around the holiday. One option is to skip the costume. Or, if you are dead set on that bat costume, keep it simple, and perhaps just put on the cape without the boots and mask. Or, if you are still set on the whole outfit because you want to update your status on Facebook, keep the costume on for a very short time, and then let Lilly get back to her fur.
You could also be that owner that chooses to skip out on Halloween. Turn the lights off and lock the door and watch a scary movie on low volume. This will prevent people from even coming to your house. You also would be making an effort to keep Lilly inside away from all of the chaos. But some owners love Halloween, so another option is to have Lilly go to the kennel for the night or a friend’s who is not a fan of Halloween either.
Another option is to shower your dog with pet-friendly treats while you choose to chow down on that Snickers. This will make Lilly feel special. You could also make an effort to provide her with some extra attention that night, so she starts to have more positive associations with the holiday that may actually stick in the future. Another option is to disarm the doorbell. Yes, this is more than possible, and for some doorbells, it only requires pulling one wire. Make sure you look at your doorbell manual before attempting this. Execute a few of these changes, and Lilly may not hate Halloween in the future after all.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Back to those costumes. Just be aware that some costumes are actually dangerous for dogs. They can be made out of toxic materials that are hazardous to your dog’s breathing and skin. And the masks can scratch Lilly’s eyes. Moreover, the boots can prevent Lilly from being able to scratch herself, or in a rare case, defend herself, if she is outside. Some costumes are even strangulation hazards; so if you choose to buy a doggy costume, make sure you find one with non-toxic materials, and think about skipping the accessories. Also, realize that if you take Lilly outside, you should keep her on a tight leash, and you should be aware of lots of cars and children, two things that Lilly may not be a fan of. Do not let your dog roam freely on Halloween; there are just too many vehicles, people, and creepy things for Lilly to be out there on her own.
Okay, so you now understand that Lilly’s bat dog costume could be toned down, and you are only going to make her wear it for a short time. You also have decided to disarm your doorbell and sit outside during the peak Trick-or-Treat times without Lilly who will be resting inside. You think you have made a good effort to accommodate both your and Lilly’s needs. You are so proud of yourself for going out and buying a variety of doggy cookies, so Lilly does not have to salivate as you eat your Reeses. Bone-Appetite!