Pet Parenting: Helping dogs handle Halloween

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Note from the Mamas: Denise, our faithful Pet Parenting expert, is in the running for a Pepsi Refresh grant that will allow her to offer professional pet training services tdenise-holmes.jpgo newly adopted animals. Her goal is to help ensure that the adoptions are successful and permanent. CLICK HERE to vote for Denise. You can vote once every day through the 31st. Help her help pets! Now on to our question of the month:

Q: Hey, mamas. Please ask Denise about taking your dog along for trick or treating or how to keep a dog from getting nervous about all the doorbell-ringing and little strangers wearing masks!

Dear Mama:

Halloween can be a really fun time, unless you’re a dog. Then, it’s a bit weird; it can even be downright scary. I mean, you smell human but you look like a weirdo. I myself LOVE Halloween and always try to be home for the Trick-or-Treaters, so I try to help my dog/s cope. I use two tricks. First, as usual, I recommend some Comfort Zone spray on a bandana around your dog’s neck (they really ARE going to have to start paying me for these endorsements!). Comfort Zone is a scent product that is an analogue of the scent produced by female dogs when nursing. It is very soothing to most dogs and may help your buddy feel a bit more at ease with all the activity.

The second trick I use is to avoid the doorbell ringing altogether. During the peak trick-or-treating hours, I actually sit outside with my bowl of candy. I’ve done this with several of my dogs and you can handle it a few different ways. You can have your dog outside with you, on a leash of course, and as children approach use the ‘say HI’ command to let your dog know it’s ok. If your dog isn’t afraid of the costumes or over-stimulated by all the activity, this is a fun way to handle things. When doing this, if kids want to pet my dog, and they are wearing masks, I do ask them to take the mask off first. Just to be safe. You must also remember that some kids will be afraid of your dog and afraid to approach with him sitting there, especially, if he barks. So be prepared to put him inside if need be or give the leash to a friend.

If your dog is afraid and not quite manageable, then the other option is to sit outside alone and let Rover stay in the house or in his crate if he has one. I have had a dog or two that began this way, behind me but in the house and watching. After a few visits, they got okay with things and quit barking as much and were even able to come outside with me. If your pooch is really crazy though, I’d just stick with a crate or putting him behind a closed door.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do to help your dog prepare for this. However, if your kids get their costumes early, you may want to let them play with the dog, in their costumes, both with and without masks, to help the dog begin to understand that there really is a person under there.

Good Luck and remember…no candy for the dog!

Denise Holmes is a local pet behavior counselor who owns Ain’t Misbehavin’. She trains animals and also answers pet questions sent in by local moms for us here on nwaMotherlode. Denise has been training for 25 years and is passionate about pets. To send her a question, email it to: mamas@nwaMotherlode.com.