Settling the Spooks!
Welcome to part two of our Halloween Hassle advice blog.
In the first part, we covered the basics such as desensitising your dog to noises, handling visitors and how to prep a Safe Space for your dog. If you missed that first entry, you can find it here.
Following up on that information, we are going to jump right into part two, where we will focus on the different aids and methods to help your dog handle the hassle of the Halloween season.
As discussed in the previous entry, you can play videos of fireworks to get your dog accustomed to the noise and lights, however, this may not be as effective for every dog. The noise of fireworks tend to cause a lot of stress in dogs, most obviously seen with excessive panting/hyperventilating, heavy drooling, cowering/shaking, wide eyes and they can sometimes vocalise their discomfort by growling or barking at the source of their distress.
If your dog finds it very hard to settle because of the noise, you can purchase dog-friendly headphones to cancel out the noise. They are a viable option for some however I personally have not used them as I prefer the old-school method: socks!
That’s right, fluffy socks! If you have a small or medium dog or a dog with a pointed/skinny head such as lurchers, you can snip the toe off a stretchy fluffy sock and simply slide that over your dog’s head to flatten their ears and help to muffle the scary noises. For larger dogs, you can use fabric hairbands or a small scarf can also be folded and wrapped to help soften the noises. Not all dogs are comfortable with this though so do be aware before you try it. You know your dog better than anyone and know what they will and will not tolerate.
Distraction and redirection are excellent methods of softening the stress. If you find they are becoming anxious, you can distract them with a very high value treat that will take them time to get through. The more effort it takes, the more they must concentrate, and their focus then is fixed on the treat, not the scary things happening.
You can use a KONG toy filled with wet food or peanut butter (make sure there is no Xylitol/birch sugar listed in the ingredients) and this can also be frozen to maximise the challenge! Give them treats that take some work such as beef hips, pigs ears, etc but remember to never leave your dog unsupervised with any treat. Even if you simply use a slow feeder bowl, you can mix their dry and wet food and smear it into the little compartments to keep them occupied.
Natural remedies can be used to help ease anxiety in dogs. Essential oils such as lavender, cedarwood, chamomile and bergamot are all safe to use (in diluted/diffused form) around dogs. Remember if you are diffusing, to keep it well out of reach, in a ventilated area and never use more than 3-4 drops of oil for a limited time.
If you are unsure of how to use oils, then an alternative might be calming tablets or collars as these contain chamomile, lavender and other natural extracts to soothe your dog.
If you find that your pet is very distressed, then your best option would be Pet Remedy spray, a spray that contains Valerian root, sage and Vetiver.
Please remember to consult with your vet before administering any remedies and be aware of any sensitivities your dog may have.
In the day leading up to Halloween, make sure you give your dog plenty of exercise and stimulation/playtime. A tired, happy dog settles easily. On Halloween itself, it may be necessary to adjust your walking schedule and route so as to minimise stress. Try to avoid walking later at night as there will likely be people in costume and fireworks/bangers being let off. Be extra vigilant when walking. Keep your eye out for any sweets, sweet wrappers, bits of costumes or even remnants of sparklers or fireworks. These can be extremely dangerous for dogs if they get ahold of them.
For those dog owners with a garden, please do not leave your dog outside on Halloween. They are more exposed to the lights, noises and smells that can greatly upset them. Stressed dogs can scale walls, dig under hedges and even chew through fencing in their panic to avoid fireworks. Some dogs tend to “run to ground” which is when they break out and run, finding a small secluded spot to bunker down in. This can be a concern as some dogs who “run to ground” find it very difficult to come out of the fear-induced shock and will stay there regardless of food, toys or company offered. Fear is a very powerful emotion and can override even the most loyal dog’s obedience.
There are many hazards that an escaped dog can face such as bonfires, busy roads, other loose dogs and unfortunately, some unscrupulous characters who may try to take dogs for nefarious purposes. Hundreds of dogs every year go missing or escape at Halloween. The surest way to get your dog back home asap is to ensure they have their collar on with your contact details on the tag. Make sure your dog’s microchip is up to date. Take a photo of your dog, make note of any distinguishing features (for example, missing front tooth/all white toes on back right paw, etc) in case they do escape.
Halloween can be a night full of horrors for some, but hopefully the advice provided in these posts will offer some peace of mind and allow this year to pass by for your dog without incident.
Look out for our blog next week, which will teach you how to make special spooky goodies for your furry friends!
– by Peigí Conneff