Talking dogs: Have a Halloween plan for your pets, too

November 2, 2015

Halloween is just days away, and although this is primarily a holiday focused on the children of the family, it would behoove you to have a plan for your furry child as well.

This may be a great opportunity to include your dog when cruising the neighborhood with the kids. If your dog is generally friendly, walks well on a leash and handles a variety of distractions well — running and screaming children, other dogs, etc. —then by all means, have him join you for some family time and a little exercise. If your dog is not people- or dog-friendly and doesn’t have much in the way of leash manners, do both of you a favor and leave him at home. Halloween is not a good time to begin leash training — your focus will be elsewhere.

While I am a big fan of retractable leashes, it would be better to keep your dog on a shorter leash during your stroll around the neighborhood, to avoid kids tripping over or getting tangled in a light leash they can’t see. And it’s always a good idea to have a blinker or two on your dog’s collar or leash, so everyone knows the location of the dog as it becomes dark.

If you insist on putting your dog in costume, consider the following: Can your dog move freely and see clearly while in his get-up? It’s wise to have a few costume-wearing sessions before the big night to help the dog adjust to wearing it, and to give you the opportunity to determine if it really is appropriate. Aside from making sure it does not hinder your dog physically in any way, analyze your dog’s behavior while wearing his get-up. Does he behave as if he’s not wearing anything, or does he shut down, flatten his ears, glance from side to side and generally appear miserable? Remember, your dog is counting on you to make decisions that are always in his best interest, so if he’s not enjoying the costume thing like — surprise — a human would, check yourself, remember he’s a dog, and take the darned thing off!

Perhaps you’ll be the one at home, handing out candy when the ghosts and little goblins arrive at your door. Give some thought as to what you’d like your dog to do while you’re answering the door and oohing and aahing over the little costumed creatures. Does your dog have good door and people manners? Is he accustomed to frequent visitors at the door? If not, you may want to contain him in another room – with the door closed and his own little project to focus on, such as a yummy chewy bone that will keep him happy and occupied for a couple of hours. Or you may wish to have your well-trained dog go to the door with you — just be sure you have him on a leash. Also, while you’re handing out candy, have some treats in your pocket to toss to your dog as a reward for remaining quiet, controlled and an all-around great example of how a well-trained dog should be.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, keep in mind that although dogs are attracted to chocolate, it contains methylxanthines (specifically caffeine and theobromine) in varying amounts, depending on the type of chocolate. Humans can break down and excrete methylxanthines much more efficiently than dogs. In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the danger, but it’s best not to allow your dog near any of it. Symptoms of chocolate ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, elevated temperature, muscle rigidity, increased heart rate, rapid breathing and seizures. If you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, seek veterinary help right away; the sooner your dog receives treatment, the more likely he will be to recover.

So plan your Halloween celebration carefully to ensure that all family members, including the family dog(s), have a great experience!



McClatchy-Tribune Information Services