October is a fantastic time of year for dogs and their humans. The air is cooler, changing leaves make for lovely walks and of course there is Halloween. If you’re the kind of human that makes Halloween about your dog, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind regarding your four legged friend.

Dog Halloween Costume

Costumes for Dogs

We’ve all seen adorable dogs dressed up as Teddy Bears, Chewbacca from Star Wars, dachshunds as hot dogs and the old reliable ghost costume. We humans love dressing up and many dogs take to costuming with an attitude of inevitable submission, albeit while looking mournful. Others romp about and ham it up for the camera while a few resist with every fiber of their four legged beings. Keep in mind, dogs don’t understand the holiday or think the same way people do. If your dog isn’t used to wearing sweaters, bandanas and such, randomly putting him in a bear or lion costume might not go over well.

  • Begin costume wearing weeks before the holiday.
  • Start with a minute or two daily and work up to 30 or 40 and involve lots of treats.
  • Don’t expect your dog to stay costumed for hours on end.
  • Make sure the costume is safe – no choking hazards or tight elastics.
  • Never leave a costumed dog unsupervised to chew or choke on his ‘lion’s mane.’
  • Use reflective materials and/or a reflective collar and leash.

Costumed Humans & the Doorbell

To a dog, Halloween is a cacophony of doorbell ringing with the added bonus of strange creatures yelling, “TRICK-OR-TREAT!” He will detect the scent of well-known neighborhood kids but the familiar scent is mixed with an avalanche of additional scents and sights. Kids clustered on the doorstep in various costumes smelling of face paint, fabric glue and candy can be overwhelming to any dog. In some cases, it brings out aggression never detected prior to Halloween.

  •  Consider keeping your dog on a leash during trick-or-treating.
  • Have his favorite treats on hand to distract if necessary.
  • Give extra praise when he stays calm.

Halloween Decorations

Halloween recently surpassed Christmas in money spent annually for decorations. However, for homes with dogs, Halloween can be hazardous. Excitable pets with wagging tails and candles aren’t a good combination. It only takes one game of chase-the-cat to send pumpkin scented candles flying. Because of candles and jack-o-lanterns, the number of house fires on Halloween is typically higher than any other night of the year.

  •  Use flameless candles or keep real burning candles well out of reach.
  • Never leave a pet alone in a room with burning candles.

Halloween = Candy

We all know by now or should, that chocolate is bad for pets. It can cause tremors, vomiting and diarrhea, rapid heartbeat and in extreme cases, death. But many are unaware that xylitol, an artificial sweetener in sugar free candy, is also highly toxic to animals. Xylitol causes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure in both dogs and other pets such as ferrets.

  •  Give love to your pets, not candy. Make sure kids do the same.
  • Have special pet treats on hand for four legged trick-or-treaters.
  • Make sure packaging is clear for human versus pet consumption.

The Sad Side of Halloween

Halloween can bring out pranksters and while most of it is good fun, there is a sinister side to the holiday. Every year, animals are at risk for cruel treatment by a few sick individuals. Many pet adoption and humane society groups won’t allow the adoption of black cats around Halloween because of the way they’re used in pranks and/or haunted houses.

  •  Keep pets safely indoors unless on a leash or in a crate.
  • Always supervise pets but be especially diligent on Halloween.
  • Do not allow your dog or cat to be used to frighten others.

With common sense, a little caution and the bonus of a few pet treats, there is no reason Halloween can’t be a fun event for you and your dog. If you do happen to see or suspect any act of animal cruelty, please don’t hesitate to call your local shelter or Sheriff’s department to make a report. Have a safe and Happy Halloween.



With 7 years of small animal practice, Dr. Eloise Bright came to Love That Pet as animal lover and advocate for all animals from baby birds to stray kittens. With two sons in tow and hubby, Eloise mainly practices in Sydney, Australia. She has a dog, Duster, and a cat, Jimmy.

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Filed under: Dog Care

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