CANINE CONNECTION: Oct. 31 dogs and don’ts from a Halloween Grinch

Halloween has become quite the event over the last few years. With entire neighbourhoods decorating their homes to resemble haunted houses and ghoulish costumed festivities for both children and adults, it is giving Christmas a run for its consumerism money.

I personally am a Halloween Grinch. I dislike the whole idea of Halloween from the costumes, the fireworks to the idea of handing out diabetes to children and I especially dislike how it affects our dogs.  Boo-humbug!

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Halloween candy, or any candy for that matter is not meant for dogs. Chocolate is toxic to dogs because they cannot metabolize theobromine which is a chemical found in chocolate.

Although ingestion is rarely fatal, it can result in serious illness and possible seizures or stroke.

A new hidden danger for our dogs when it comes to human sweets is xylitol. Many candies are now sweetened with xylitol, which can cause seizures, rapid drop in blood pressure and acute liver failure in dogs. Basically it can kill a dog very quickly.

Keep all Halloween goodies out of Fido’s reach and curious nose.

Having people constantly ringing a doorbell or knocking on the door can drive any dog a bit koo-koo, but if you already have a dog that is reactive to the doorbell, the Halloween tradition of soliciting treats door to door can send them over the edge.

In a perfect world, having people repeatedly come to the front door would be an opportunity to train a nervous dog but unfortunately the sugar induced, frenetic energy of Halloween trick or treaters is not the best environment for positive and productive training.

It is usually best to segregate Fido to a quiet spot in the house, maybe with some background music playing and have him sit out the haunting festivities.

Placing puppers outside is not a good idea either. Besides the fact that the neighbourhood is far from quiet during Halloween night with the hooting, hollering and fireworks, there are some nefarious pranksters that seem drawn to harm pets by teasing them, injuring them or even stealing them. Keep your pets safely inside.

Including Fido in the festivities by taking him around the neighbourhood to participate in the act of begging for junk food may sound appealing, but if your dog is not used to walking in the dark and coming across humans of all sizes dressed up as scary things like ghosts, monsters and vampires, it might be best to leave your dog at home.

However, if you tend to walk your dog at midnight and come across werewolves and zombies on a regular basis then bringing Fido along might be fun.

If you have determined that your dog is capable of remaining calm, confident and social during a spooky walk through the neighbourhood and choose to dress them up, make a point of putting their costume on a few days beforehand and allow them to get used to it. If your dog does not want to wear the costume, please don’t force them.

Remember that Fido doesn’t care if he has the best superhero costume, he is just probably happy to join in on the walk.

An alternative to a dog costume would be a fun seasonal bandana, jacket or even a cape can be a simple way to include your pup without causing them undo distress.

How about purchasing a high-visibility night walking vest and telling people your dog is dressed up as a crossing guard or a road construction flagger – both are superheroes in their own right!  Or how about getting a high-visibility blinking collar and saying your dog is a Christmas ornament? That way you can get use out of these practical purchases throughout the year instead of just one night.

When out on the walk, please keep your dog leashed. Even the most easygoing dog can get spooked by a six-foot zombie oozing blood and brains from its head and dash off, only to get lost or run into traffic, so make sure your pet is wearing ID and the information is current just in case the worst case scenario happens.

Halloween is a fun time for kids and some adults but your dog may not be very impressed so do your best to keep Fido safe and remember, my house is the one without the lights or glowing pumpkins.

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at


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