Fall, the season of crisp air and changing tree colors, is a beautiful experience full of family gatherings, cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice, and for our dogs, loud noises and lots of anxiety.
All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween, is a fun night for children (and some adults, if we’re being honest) to dress up like anyone or anything. Halloween for dogs, however, can be a stressful time with strangers roaming the streets, knocking on doors, and ringing doorbells.
Your dog can express its anxiety in several ways. Some dogs will shake, whine or bark, or hide, while others, when their anxiety is severe, may try to escape, lose control of their bowels, or become destructive.
Why do they do this? As some dogs can be territorial, they can become anxious when they see Trick-o-treaters walking up to your door. This reaction may cause them to run around, bark their adorable little heads off, or lose control of their bladders.
If your dog isn’t territorial, the constant, loud ringing of the doorbell or knocking could make them anxious just like thunder or fireworks can, so they may bark out of fear, pant and drool, or hide.
If you try to take your dog for a walk on Halloween and see some early birds in their costumes, masks or costumes, especially those that make noises, can cause fear and anxiety.
Solutions for Halloween Dog Anxiety
While these anxious behaviors can be concerning or even annoying, it’s important to understand that dogs can’t always control their reactions, so you should never scold your dog.
No matter the stress level or the expression of that stress, when Halloween rolls around, there are a variety of methods you can use to calm down your dog, so you both can have a good night.
Exercise can benefit your dog just as it benefits humans. Exercising your dog can lower their blood pressure and ease chronic issues, like hip dysplasia, as they age.
In addition, the lack of exercise can make your dog more prone to behavioral issues like destructive behaviors and other anxious behaviors like you might see on Halloween. With exercise, these issues can be prevented or minimized.
Some pet parents choose to take their dogs for hikes, long walks, or even runs. Your dog can be your workout buddy, but you can also choose other daily activities like swimming, playing fetch or tug-o-war, or even play mental games like puzzles where they get treats.
On Halloween, make sure that your dog has a lot of exercise and playtime before the night starts. This will make them more tired, less prone to anxious behaviors, and more amenable to redirection.
Keep in mind, you should make sure you consult your vet about the proper exercise routine with your dog, as some are prone to issues like overheating.
Counterconditioning is a process often used for separation anxiety in dogs. However, it can be used for anxious dogs on Halloween as well.
Counterconditioning refers to a process where you can change your dog’s fear or anxiety by associating that fear or anxiety with something your dog loves. Oftentimes, this means your dog’s favorite snacks.
Before Halloween night gets into full swing, you can give your dog an interactive toy that you can put treats in. Make sure it’s a durable toy that can keep them busy for a bit and potentially distract them when trick-or-treaters start to arrive.
You can also give your dog a small piece of a treat (so you don’t overfeed) whenever the doorbell rings, someone approaches your house, or someone knocks.
The best counterconditioning practice will include using toys or treats that dogs only get when there are people visiting. So, once Halloween night is over, it’s a good idea to hide their toys until Thanksgiving or the next gathering.
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Desensitization is the process where dogs are gradually exposed to the source of anxiety. This can take a lot of preparation when it comes to holiday anxiety. This process would involve having friends or family members stop by every so often so that your dog can get used to people approaching your house or ringing the doorbell.
Plus, if the relative or friend is someone your dog loves, they may even learn that the doorbell brings good news, too.
For dogs that hide or are not interested in food, you might have to use other strategies than counterconditioning and desensitization.
Seclusion is what it implies, and it means keeping your dog away from whatever is making your dog anxious. Sometimes putting your dog in a secluded area can lessen the effects of noise on your dog’s senses.
A secluded area could be somewhere that’s calm and quiet for dogs, like a bathroom with the fan on, a backroom farthest from the front door, or some people choose to have a specialized indoor “dog house” that is soundproof and provides a safe place for your dog to hide.
If you’ve noticed your dog hiding, typically they will go to a place that makes them feel safest. Once you’ve found that spot, you can make it homier by filling it with toys, cuddly blankets, or treats.
Playing classical music is also a great addition to seclusion as it has calming effects on both humans and animals. You can even use counterconditioning techniques with seclusion.
The TTouch Method refers to a specialized series of circular movements applied by your fingers and hands like a massage. This is a good process for relieving dog anxiety, but it can also help you bond with your dog.
Before Halloween night, you can give your dog a comforting massage to help transform them from an anxious dog to a calm dog.
Pressure wraps are specialized blankets or even dog coats that use acupressure to calm your dog. Applying constant pressure can relieve stress for dogs similar to humans getting a friendly hug.
Created with patented technology, Thundershirt’s soft and comfortable fabric applies gentle pressure that has been scientifically proven to lower stress levels in dogs. It does not restrict movement or cause discomfort, but instead provides calming reassurance similar to being hugged. This hug-like pressure on the body is known as Deep Touch Pressure (DTP), and calms dogs who suffering from all types of anxieties such as separation anxiety, travel, noise, general phobias, panic attacks and more.
They maintained pressure gives your dog some consistency, which is comforting for your dog. Putting on a pressure wrap can help ease tension throughout the night.
For severe anxiety where your dog gets destructive or tries to escape, you might consider medications that can help keep your dog calm.
The best bet is to work with your veterinarian to find the best anxiety medication for your dog. However, there are some alternatives to choose from.
Some common alternatives are using CBD oil for its calming properties as well as essential oils. It’s important to note that you should talk to your vet or do proper research, as some essential oils can be toxic to your dog instead of calming for them.
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Other Ways to Keep your Dog Safe and Happy on Halloween
In addition to keeping your dog calm, dog safety is also important.
Chocolate is one of the most popular candies on Halloween. It is also one of the worst things for your dog to get into.
In addition, candies with sugar substitutes like xylitol can be extremely toxic. So, make sure you have your candies high enough that your dog can’t reach them.
If you have kids, make sure they are monitored as well, so your dog won’t be given the wrong kind of treat.
Also, be careful with decorations. A tipped over jack-o’-lantern can cause fire, and your dog could potentially be burned, though it is unlikely.
Decorations such as lights need to be out of reach, and inflatable or moving decorations should be minimal, especially if your dog is prone to anxiety.
Choose your costumes and your kids’ costumes wisely. Masks that hide your identity can make your anxious dog turn aggressive out of fear, and they may act abnormally.
If you wear a mask, wait until you leave the house to put it on. For dogs at Halloween parties at your house, seclusion might be the right choice for your anxious pup.
Final Thoughts for this Halloween
Halloween can be a source of stress for your pet, but finding the right way to keep them calm is essential.
A combination of these methods will most likely get you the results you want, and it may take some trial and error.
With time and effort, you can help your dog face their fears and become calmer even on Halloween.
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All information in the article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice.
Transforming anxious pups with her wealth of experience, holistic healing, and diplomas in canine anxiety & therapy.
Founder of Anxious Canine and proud CMA member.