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Preparing For Halloween

Preparing your dog for Halloween

by Dawn Greer

This is a subject very close to my heart as a few of my dogs are very noise sensitive and this time of year can be very traumatic for both them and us.  It is very difficult to watch your companion be terrified by the noise and not be able to make it stop.  We can however try to make things better for them by doing a few things.
Before we discuss that however, just a note that if your dog is very traumatised by fireworks then you should seek advice from a fully trained behaviourist who can assist you with positive counter-conditioning and desensitisation which will help your dog to deal with his or her noise sensitivity.  This however takes time and should not be started close to Halloween, but please bear it in mind in preparation for next year.

Dawn Greer pictured with her dogs Whisper, Piper, Saphy & Wish and her winners rosettes from Lisburn DTC Show, in Lisburn

The most important thing during fireworks season is to ensure that your pet is kept indoors and safe.  If you’re dog is afraid of fireworks then do not let them off lead or out in the garden alone at all during this time as you really never know when someone will set off a firework and it only takes one for your dog to run away with fear. So many animals go missing at this time of the year.

You can purchase a range of products to make this period a little easier & safer for your pet:

  1. Please make sure that your pet has a collar and a tag on them at all times.  The tag should have your name and phone number clearly engraved on it.  It is the law in Ireland that all dogs should be micro chipped and the chip registered to the current owner with all contact details.  Please make sure your pets are micro chipped and the details kept up to date with your current address and phone number as this is the quickest way to reunite a lost pet with their owner.
  2. Pheromone plug ins and collars such as Adaptil have helped many pets to be calmer during times of stress.  It is not however a miracle cure.
  3. Thunder shirt or Karma Wrap.  Both these products work on pressure points on a dog which simulates a hug which has a reassuring effect on the dog.  I have found these to help my dogs a lot during fireworks season.  You do need to get your dog used to wearing it around the start of October though so that they do not associate having it put on with something negative like a loud bang. 
  4. Dog Crate with Crate Cover.  It is very important that your dog has a safe place to go if it all gets too much for them.  This should be a quiet, comfortable, darkish place.  My dogs love their crates as we play lots of games in there when they are puppies and they are fed in there sometimes too, so they associate it with a happy and safe place to be.  Their crate is where my dogs will choose to go if they are feeling stressed from the noise. Do not however lock your dog in their crate. If your dog is not crate trained then make sure they have a cupboard or somewhere else to go where they feel safe.
  5. Activity toys such as K9 Connectables or Kong toys.  Distracting your dog from the noise with toys stuffed with food or by playing with your dog is often helpful. 

On Halloween night there may be a lot of children coming to the door dressed up in costumes which could scare your dog so please make sure that your dog does not have free access when the door is open.  Either lock them in another room or use a device like a baby gate to ensure they cannot escape when you answer the door. 

Turn the volume on the TV or Radio up and shut all windows and curtains to block out as much noise as possible.  Make sure that you walk your dog on lead early on Halloween whilst it is still bright so there is less risk of you encountering fireworks.

It is absolutely ok to comfort your dog if they are afraid.  You can cuddle them and talk to them the same you would with anyone that is afraid but do not do so in a manner that is fearful or upset as your dog will pick up on this and it could make things work, be clam and reassuring. 

And finally, just a reminder that it is illegal to set off fireworks at any time anywhere in the Republic of Ireland, both in public and on your own property unless you have a licence.  Every year thousands of animals both domesticated and wild are traumatised by fireworks, many pets are lost and die. Please be considerate.

Wishing you all & your pets a safe, happy & fun filled Halloween

About Dawn

Dawn has been competing in dog agility for 13 years. She currently competes at Green Star level with 2 of her dogs and they represented Ireland in 2017 at the World Agility Championships. Dawn also competes at Championship Level in the UK and has competed at Crufts. Dawn has a wealth of knowledge in dog training and uses positive training methods only with her dogs, teaching them through reward based training.

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