Do you think your dog has a hard time at Halloween? Depending on where you live, your neighbourhood and your family, each dog will have a different experience. Some dogs may be in the thick of it – having to deal with fireworks, excited kids, costumes and all the antics associated with this spooky day!
Whatever your Halloween looks like, something out of the norm will be happening. And even if you think your dog is okay and not affected, I advise you not to presume this. Extra care should be taken to ensure your dog is set up for success and not put into situations that could be problematic.
The stimulation and resulting stress or arousal can cause dogs to respond differently than they might typically. You may already take extra care at Halloween with things such as Trick or Treaters coming to the door or when your dog is around kids in spooky costumes. That’s awesome, as you can not predict how your dog may respond to these uncommon occurrences.
Go a Step Further
But I advise going a step further. Why? Because adrenalin and cortisol remain elevated in your dog’s system up to 72 hours after the causative event. If your dog is being exposed to multiple triggers over a week, those hormones could be putting your dog in an almost constant state of arousal.
Arousal, whether fear-based or excitement-based, influences behaviour in many ways – often unpredictably and in situations that are removed or unrelated to the actual cause. They will show fear or excitement around the actual triggers, but they may even react in familiar situations. This is why it is so important to take care of our dogs and pay attention to them when routines, environments and events are different. I receive so many calls after Halloween from distraught parents whose dogs have reacted unexpectedly. They feel their dog’s response was out of character and a complete surprise.
Those Darn Hormones
Here are some examples of how Halloween hormones can affect behaviour:
- your dog is fine with kids they greet on the street, but they reacted when a child approached them at Halloween. Was the costume the child was wearing the problem or was it the lingering effects of the fireworks from two nights ago?
- your dog usually takes meeting other dogs in stride but was grumpy with a dog they saw on the trail the day after Halloween. Did they meet the first dog they didn’t like or was it the tiring night of doorbells and visitors at the door?
- you may also notice changes such as being less tolerant of handling or touch, displaying behaviours you haven’t seen since they were pups or being generally less settled.
What’s the moral of this? Whether your dog gets emotional about everything, is a social butterfly that doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything, or falls somewhere in the middle – your dog will be dealing with emotions you are unaware of this Halloween. So use discretion and take extra care of them. Be the advocate your dog needs. Play it safe, and rather than presuming they will be fine, give them that bit of extra space, additional time or just say “No thanks.” It won’t hurt anything, but it could prevent your dog from being put in a situation they are not at their best to handle.
Stay tuned for more tips and ideas in our Halloween safety series. You can join our free group Positive Dog Life for more on this.