Victoria Stilwell’s Top Ten Halloween Pet Safety Tips

Photo by Found Animals Foundation |

Photo by Found Animals Foundation |

Halloween is a favorite holiday for many people, especially for chocoholics like me! But most of our pets don’t necessarily enjoy fright night quite as much as we do, and there can be extra dangers lurking for them that we should help them avoid.

Here are a few tips for keeping your pets happy and healthy on Halloween:

  1. Keep the candy bowl away from your pets. Candy is never a good idea for any pet, and chocolate in particular can be very dangerous for dogs and cats thanks to a toxic chemical called theobromide. Put the candy bowl where your pets can’t reach it and be sure to lock the cupboard door so they can’t do some scary scavenging.
  2. Careful with the costumes.  We may love dressing ourselves up, but I’m pretty sure that if we asked our dogs and cats, they’d agree that they’d just as soon not wear that canine superman outfit you think is so cute. If you absolutely must dress your pet up, consider a simple themed bandanna, or at least make sure the outfit is not constricting, uncomfortable or harmful to the animal. Dog costumes often cover so much of the body that their ability to express important canine body language signals to us or other dogs is compromised, which can lead to unnecessary, avoidable instances of aggression or bites.
  3. Don’t take your dogs trick or treating with you, even if you’re confident that your dog will be able to handle it. There are too many unknown factors on a night like Halloween, and even if your dog is well-adjusted, some others you encounter may not be.  Plus, seeing a bunch of four-foot tall Yodas and goblins can unnerve even the most placid dogs.
  4. Keep your dogs away from the door during trick or treating hours. Again, even if your dog is a good, well-mannered greeter, your smaller guests are not always prepared to see dogs bounding down the hallway or sniffing their candy bags. Just play it safe and keep your dogs and cats locked away in another part of the house for those couple of hours.
  5. Make sure any electric cords for holiday decorations are out of reach of your pets, especially if they’re chewers. Nibbling on a hot wire won’t turn out well for anyone.
  6. Be sure your jack-o-lanterns with live flame inside them are also kept out of reach. They can get easily bumped or knocked over, leading to fire hazards.
  7. Halloween is a great excuse to make sure your dog or cat is microchipped. Given all the crazy sights and sounds of the evening, many pets end up running away each year.
  8. Keep your pets indoors on Halloween and in the days surrounding it. There are just too many jerks around sometimes, so play it safe and don’t tempt fate. Sadly, black-coated animals are at higher risk of becoming targets for troublemakers on Halloween, so take extra precautions if you have one.
  9. Head out for your afternoon or evening walk with your dogs well before trick or treaters start hitting the neighborhood. No reason to risk a frightful encounter with Buzz Lightyear and his noisy, flashing guns and jetpacks.
  10. Desensitize ahead of time. Be aware of how stressful the repeated ringing of the doorbell can be for dogs. If you haven’t already, take some time to desensitize your dogs to the sound of the doorbell or knocking in the weeks leading up to the big night so that they’re prepared.

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Positively Expert: Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.


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