Keeping Your Dog Calm During Halloween and Fireworks Season
by Tudor Nikolas on Oct 28, 2023.
For some of us, Halloween is the most exciting time of the year. The trick or treating, festivities, costumes, dressing up and the fireworks can be something to look forward to.
But does your dog agree?
Unfortunately, this holiday period can be a source of anxiety and distress for our furry friends. The unfamiliar sounds, sights, and smells can be overwhelming for dogs, regardless of the dog breed. It could even be the most anxious time in the whole year for your dog.
So what can we do to make sure that our dogs don’t get more anxious around this time of the year?
Here are some of my tips to follow, that are known to work from my five years experience of being a dog behaviourist.
Create a safe space
If your dog already has a safe space in a quiet room or a corner where they can retreat to, that’s great. This might be their usual bed, a separate room, or a quiet corner with familiar toys and blankets.
Although you may want to decorate the rest of the house, try to keep your dog’s “safe area” consistent. You may also want to play some relaxing music for your dog, especially around the busier periods. This could be late at night on Halloween, or anytime if there are loud noises or fireworks.
The constant door bell if in a popular area for trick or treating could also make your dog anxious. Even using a white noise machine can help mask the sound of fireworks and the door bell.
Use calming aids
Calming aids for your dog come in various forms.
At Fetched, of course we have our dog calming supplement which you give to your dog once a day. This can be sprinkled over their main meal or given with their treats.
The other alternative is to get them something like a dog calming vest. These are weighted vest and function in a similar way to how weighted blankets can help us humans. The gentle pressure, similar to swaddling a baby, can help reduce anxiety.
If you do decide to go for our all natural supplement, you can use discount code “halloween20” for 20% off your order until mid November.
Fireworks/ Door bell desensitisations
A bit too late for the current season, but here is something you can try for next year.
In the 3-4 weeks leading up to Halloween, you can play recordings of fireworks or other loud noises at a low volume, gradually increasing the volume over time. This may just help get your dog used to these sounds and reduce their anxiety when they occur for real.
Keep them indoors
Not all the time of course, but during peak trick or treating season or when fireworks are expected. You don’t want your dog to get caught off guard if hundreds of fireworks start lighting up the sky around them. Burning smell from the fireworks can also cause them distress.
It’s also good practice to keep them inside the house if there are going to be lots of children (or adults) trick or treating on Halloween.
As your dog won’t be used to seeing the costumes, it could make them stressed and even lead to serious accidents. This may even happen to someone they know, but are unable to recognise inside a costume.
Exercising your dog during the day will ensure they can sleep better at night.
There are also various puzzle toys that you can get your dog engaged with. One such toy is this treat tumbler from our dog hamper baskets. You first put a few small treats inside. Then your dog has to figure out the best way of getting them out by rolling and playing with the ball.
If they are distracted, they are less likely to get stressed or anxious when there are loud and unexpected noises around them.
Dogs are very attuned to our emotions. If you remain calm and composed, it can help reassure them that there's nothing to fear.
Dogs are known to have this strong emotional empathy and are very good at understanding someone else’s feelings!
If you are usually the stressed or anxious type, perhaps it’s a good idea to look into it now as well. Perhaps some meditation classes, talking therapy or other relaxation techniques might help calm down both you and your dog.
Avoid costumes unless your dog is used to them
If you choose to dress them up, make sure the costume is comfortable and doesn't restrict their movement or vision. However, it is generally a good idea to avoid it unless you have slowly gotten your dog used to the idea of wearing a costume.
Dog costumes are generally not something most dogs find comfortable. It’s clear that as dog owners, we mostly dress up our dogs for our own pleasure.
Let’s keep in mind that if it doesn’t look comfortable on them, it probably isn’t.
There are other ways of ensuring they can be part of the holiday celebrations with you.
Double check their ID tags or microchip information
This last tip is more of a safety tip and reminder. This can prevent your dog getting lost if they do get scared and run away. Ensure that your dog's ID tags are up-to-date and that their microchip information is current.
This way, if they run away or get disoriented and can’t find their way home, someone could ultimately help with their safe return.
I hope these tips have been helpful. One last thing to consider is checking in with your veterinarian for any specific advice they might have if your dog is known to get very anxious at this time of the year. They may even be able to prescribe short-term medication to help your dog cope.
Combining more than one of the above tips e.g. both the calming supplement and puzzle toys or weighted vest, may help even more.
Let’s all work together to make the Halloween season enjoyable for the whole family (pets included!). Remember, every dog is different, so it's essential to pay attention to their individual needs and comfort levels.