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Posted on 10-28-2014

Halloween is a favorite time of year for kids of all ages, but it can be a scary time for your pet. 

Put yourself in their shoes.  It's dark, lights are down, strange noises and screams throughout the neighborhood, lots of strangers walking past the house, some in HATS!  There are people running up to the door and ringing the dreaded doorbell over and over again.  

Your cat will go into hiding mode and find a quiet dark spot under a bed or in a closet and become a little comatose.  Your dog however, wants to protect the house from these strange creatures even though their blood pressure is skyrocketing.  So they bark when kids get close or ring the bell.  Then once you give these little strangers a treat, they leave.  The dog thinks the barking scared them or warned them away.  But then comes another.  So more Barking.  Then another.  

Unfortunately, what can happen is that the dog can start to think that barking isn't enough to keep them away and they need to escalate.  So then they try to nip or bite at the offender.   The last thing you need on Halloween is real blood on your porch.  

Try these tips to make Halloween safe and fun for your pet too:

1.  SPEND A NIGHT OUT:  If you know your pet really doesn't like strangers and people coming to the door, then consider boarding them at your local vet hospital for the night- It's calm, peaceful and quiet and will give you ultimate peace of mind at home that no one will escape and your pet won't be stressed. 

2.  FIND A SECURE QUIET ROOM:  If boarding is not an option, find a quiet interior room of your house away from the door and the noise.  Set up a bed for your dog in this room and close as many doors as possible between him and the front door. 

3.  DISABLE THE DOOR BELL:  Turn off the door bell.  Or cover it up so no one rings it.  Or stand at the door with a bowl of candy.  Do anything to prevent having people ring the bell or knock on the door. 

4.  DISTRACTIONS:   Buy a nice big red Kong Toy for your pet and fill it with dog treats and cheese wiz or peanut butter.  Freeze it and give it to your pet right before the trick or treating begins.  I recommend having a second one in the freezer in case you need a back up. 

5.  SEDATIVES:  You know you are probably going to drink a glass of wine to help calm your nerves.  What about Fido?  How about calling your vet and asking about a prescription for a sedative like acepromazine to help tranquilize them and take the edge off that night?  Your vet can tell you what is safe to use for your pet and you can usually pick it up that day if your pet has been examined in the last year by your vet. 

6.  REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOR:  Reward your pet with treats when they are not barking and when they see people outside.  Ignore bad behavior and do not pet or try to calm them when they are barking or growling at people.  That only tells them that you approve of their behavior.  If you need to distract them from barking then try a little water and vinegar in a squirt bottle or squirt gun and spray them when they bark.   Then when they are quiet, tell them good girl or good boy and give them a treat for "No Barking".

Last but not least:  Keep the Halloween candy and Chocolates away from your dogs both at the door and secure it once the kids go to bed that night.   Too much chocolate, especially dark chocolates, can be bad for your pet.   Signs of Chocolate ingestion include Vomiting, Diarrhea, Trembling, Shaking, Hyperactivity and Seizures.  Seek Veterinary care if your pet gets into any candy or shows any signs.   Early treatment and decontamination can prevent major vet bills later on. 

~ Dr Jenny Schiebert

Shadowridge Veterinary Hospital & Creature Comforts Pet Hotel.

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