Halloween Hassle – Part 1

How to Handle Spooky Stress.

Halloween is a fun time of year, where sweets, spooks and spirits abound. However it can be very distressing and frightening for our furry friends.
The fact is that the likes of fireworks seem to be starting up earlier and earlier each year, which can make things even more difficult.

 

The following are just a few handy tips that can be implemented in the days and weeks leading up to the spooky night, and can help make this time a lot less stressful. This blog will be split into two parts, as there is a lot of helpful information to cover! Make sure you check back next week for part 2!

 

One of the best ways we can prepare our pets for the busy noisy season, is by desensitising them ahead of time. You can do this by playing videos and sounds of fireworks. Reassure your dog and distract them with a toy if they bark or react. Our goal is to redirect their anxiety and reactions away from the noise, onto something fun instead.
You can make this more challenging by closing doors loudly or shutting a cupboard door sharply, to mimic the banging of a firework. This will accustom your dog to the sudden loud noises and reduce their reactivity.
You can also use a lullaby playlist and switch to that after playing firework noises. Your dog will then begin to associate the calm, soothing music with relaxation time.

 

When it comes to Trick Or Treaters, a lot of dogs exhibit anxiety around the door. Considering there is a ready stream of strangers appearing in costume, we can’t blame them for being on edge. This can be helped by practising with family members or friends. Get them to practise knocking at the door, loudly saying “Trick or Treat” or even have them wear a mask or face covering to mimic a costume. If your dog reacts, just ask them to sit and then have the visitor talk to them calmly. Then reward the dog with a special toy or treat, to help them see that there is nothing to worry about.

 

If your dog tends to be a bit protective or anxious about the door in general, this can increase around Halloween.
With that in mind, it is advisable to create a safety vacuum, to prevent bolting. An ideal scenario would be closing the sitting room/kitchen door and also the hall door. Not only will this help muffle the noises of visitors, but if your dog manages to zip past you at one barrier, you have the reassurance of the second door.

 

Another good idea is to borrow a baby gate from a friend/use your own. This can be put at one of the barrier doors, for example, the kitchen door. This allows your dog to still see what is happening down the hall at the front door, but can drastically reduce the risk of them getting out. If your dog is the type to hide upstairs during this time of year, then it is advisable to have the gate at the bottom of the stairs. You can also get dog gates that are easily adjusted and tend to be bigger to cover larger areas, giving your dog room to roam but also restricting their movements to one particular area.

 

Ahead of time, you can prepare a safe space for your dog, somewhere they feel secure and know they can go to if they feel overwhelmed and scared. A washroom/utility room, downstairs bathroom or even the spot under the stairs if they are open, can be an ideal spot. It needs to be somewhere that has enough space to help them feel safe, but also enough room for them to lie down or stretch out in. If it is too open, it can sometimes make anxiety worse. Some dogs when anxious, prefer to be close to you while others prefer to be left alone. It’s important to understand what your dog needs, and don’t be afraid to try a few different spots as it may take a few tries for them to pick a place that helps to relax them.

 

In the safe space, you should make sure there is plenty of water, as well as a favourite toy or comfort item. If they sleep on blankets, it can help if you put one from their bed in there too as the familiar scent will offer comfort.
Even if you wear/sleep in a t-shirt for two or three days/nights and put that in there too, your own smell will allow your dog to settle.

 

It might be a help to also have a crate for your dog in this space. Half cover it with a blanket (this will help to muffle the sound of fireworks) and leave the door open so that your dog can choose when they want to go in. The blanket can also be one from their bed, again, offering the comfort of a familiar scent. You can spray lavender room spray or even wash their bedding with a lavender detergent as it is believed to have calming properties.
Not every dog enjoys a crate or will make use of one, however for those that do use them, they can be a massive help during a spooky time of year.

 

These are just the tip of the iceberg in relation to easing dogs during this stressful time. Next week we will be covering some other handy tricks to make life easier for everyone, including how to further muffle scary sounds, walking safety, garden security and remedies to help with anxiety, among others!

 

Рby Peigí Conneff
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