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A collage of a pug dressed as three different Halloween characters: a pirate, a cowgirl, a princess


5 ways to keep your dog safe and happy this Halloween

Including pointers for Halloween costumes for pets.

It’s the spooky season — the time to dust off your ghoulish decorations, bust out the buckets of candy and pick out this year’s iconic costume for your dog. But Halloween, with all of its chaos (imagine: non-stop doorbell ringing), costumes and loose candy, can sometimes cause anxiety or even health issues for your pup. 

This holiday, leave the scaries to the costumes and decorations by following these pet-safety tips. 

Keep the candy out of paw’s reach

One staple of Halloween is the (literal) bucket of candy your kids bring home from your sweep around the neighborhood — or the bucket you have waiting by the front door for little goblins and ghosts. But you should keep these candies away from your pets, especially treats like chocolate or marshmallows

Chocolate candies, regardless of what type, are always a no-go for dogs because of the ingredients found in cacao, which dogs can’t metabolize the same way humans do. Marshmallows are a risky treat, too, because some forms contain xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener that can cause damage to a dog’s liver and decrease blood sugar levels. 

If your drooling pup sits at your feet while you enjoy your candy bounty, don’t fret about leaving them out of the fun. Instead of sweets, feel free to include them in the holiday theme by serving plain pumpkin or something sweet like fresh fruit (including raspberries, watermelon and peaches) as pup-friendly alternatives. And if you wanted to put on your chef’s hat, we won’t blame your dog for drooling over these peanut butter pupcakes.

Bring the right accessories if you plan on your dog trick or treating

Your dog might want to be included in the trick-or-treating action. If you plan to bring your pup along for the adventure, ensure you have the right accessories to help them feel comfortable. 

For example, if you have an older dog or one who doesn’t do well on long walks, you might consider breaking out their stroller or purchasing one (this New York City-based pug thoroughly enjoys hers). However, don’t wait until Halloween Eve to introduce your dog to their stroller. According to Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, you should start slowly by letting them approach it on their own in a room and then gradually increase the amount of time they ride in the stroller on walks. 

And for all of the pro-walkers out there, they should wear a harness or collar to prevent them from running off — especially on Halloween when there’s a lot of action, and it’s likely dark outside. Deciding which version is better for them depends on what type of walker your dog is. However, harnesses are usually the best option. 

“Generally speaking, a harness is our go-to choice for walks and outdoor adventures,” Sarah Fraser, certified dog behavior consultant and co-founder of Instinct Dog Behavior and Training, says. “A well-fitting harness that keeps pressure off a dog’s throat and doesn’t impede shoulder movement protects our pups’ physical health and helps ensure they have a comfortable walking experience.”

RELATED: How to keep your dog safe on the Fourth of July

How to stop your dog from barking at trick or treaters

On Halloween night, you’ll likely have a lot of people ringing your doorbell for candy. And unfortunately, even if your dog is the friendliest pup you know, they might not appreciate the constant dinging and will express themselves through barking. Chances are, they’re probably trying to get your attention, but there are some things you can do to help limit their barking. 

Before the big evening, ensure your pup has enough mental and physical stimulation. Often, dogs bark because they're bored. A big day at the dog park or a lot of playtime with their favorite toys or food puzzles can help tire them out before the commotion begins. 

If the doorbell sound triggers their barking, you likely won’t be able to prevent them from hearing it. However, it might help to move them away from the front door or your windowed rooms as the stimulation could cause them to bark more. 

Don’t let separation anxiety in dogs stop the Halloween fun

Some pups might not appreciate being left alone on Halloween or at any time.Separation anxiety, when pups show signs of stress after being left alone (like howling, being destructive, pacing or going to the bathroom inside), can be difficult for dogs, especially on Halloween. Ask one of your family members to stay home with your pup — especially if you're expect many trick-or-treaters. 

However, if your whole family plans to attend the trick-or-treating adventures, there are ways to help with your dog’s separation anxiety. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Avoid leaving your dog in rooms with windows or doors, as this stimulation could make them more anxious. 
  • Meet your dog’s basic needs by ensuring they’ve had enough exercise, attention and mental stimulation (for example, sniff walks, where you take your dog to a new area) before you leave. 
  • Get puzzles or toys that dispense treats to keep your pet occupied. 

Find the right costume for your pup

You might be inclined to pick out a Halloween costume for your pup. But before making the final purchase, you’ll want to ensure that your dog is tolerant of clothing or costumes. Some pointers from Dr. McCullough on dog clothing: If your pup refuses to move while wearing clothes, runs away from them or chews at their outfit, they likely aren’t a great candidate for a costume. 

However, if they’re comfortable with dressing up, she has some tips on what to look for: 

  • Avoid costumes with small parts or pieces that can be chewed off or swallowed (think: fringe, feathers, loose buttons or fluffy decorations). 
  • Bring your pup to the store or have them try it on before buying it. Their outfit shouldn’t restrict their movement, vision, vocalizing or breathing. Keep in mind that costumes that aren’t the right fit can shift around and potentially cause injury by twisting or irritating where they’re not supposed to. 
  • Choose light fabric that won’t cause your pup to feel overheated. It also helps to check the weather to make sure the temperatures aren’t too hot before dressing them up. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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