If you'd like to take your fur child door-to-door or your kids are begging to include the dog in their group costume, you might consider taking your pup out on Halloween night. But is it safe to bring your dog trick-or-treating? The answer really depends on your individual dog. Pets who are friendly with children, don't mind large crowds, and can tolerate loud, spooky noises, among other criteria, may do well out on All Hallow's Eve. However, even if your dog has the right temperament, you should take necessary safety measures to keep everyone safe. So, get out the treats and practice these tricks before taking your dog trick-or-treating this Halloween.
Should I Take My Dog Trick-or-Treating?
It's tough to say with certainty whether your dog is a good candidate for tick-or-treating. How well they handle a Halloween outing depends heavily on their personality and comfort level with children, among other factors. Ask yourself these questions to help you decide:
- Is my dog friendly with strangers and other dogs?
- Does my dog do well around children?
- Is my dog comfortable in large crowds?
- Does my dog stay calm around loud noises (spooky music, laughing, screams, etc.)?
- Is my dog well-mannered and responsive to commands?
- Is my dog healthy/active enough to walk around the block?
- Can my dog resist eating dropped candy on the sidewalk?
- Will my dog tolerate wearing a costume?
If you answered "Yes" to all these questions, there's a good chance your dog could enjoy trick-or-treating. However, if you responded with any "No's," it's not safe to bring your dog with you.
Anxious or fearful dogs won't enjoy being out with hordes of new people. There's also a high possibility they could become so spooked they may bolt and get lost. Likewise, dogs who are friendly yet disobedient could create a stressful situation for you and others you interact with.
Training Prerequisites for Trick-or-Treating with Dogs
Even if your dog has the right temperament to be out on a busy holiday evening, they need to understand basic commands. Ensure your dog can follow these training cues before you consider taking them trick-or-treating.
Coming when called is arguably the most vital command your dog should know. Even though you will keep your dog on-leash while trick-or-treating, the ability to respond to "Come" is necessary if they find their way out of their harness or collar. With so many new people, sounds, and smells, it's possible your pet could become frightened and slip away. Make sure you have a strong recall practice.
Trick-or-treating dogs must know how to walk on a leash while under your control. They should walk without pulling and without crossing in front of you or others on the sidewalk, which can be dangerous. The "Heel" command will keep your dog by your side as you go door to door. Make sure your dog can perform this behavior consistently before taking them out on Halloween.
It's no secret that chocolate is toxic to dogs, and rich, chocolaty treats are plentiful on Halloween. Xylitol, used in sugar-free candies, is also highly dangerous for pets and can be fatal if a dog ingests it. Your dog should reliably respond to the "Leave it" command in case they encounter any abandoned candy while out on Halloween. The same goes for Jack-o'-lanterns and decorative gourds. If your dog simply can't resist gobbling things off the sidewalk, a loose basket muzzle can prevent any dietary indiscretions.
If your dog is one that likes to jump on people to greet them, you'll need to train them to stop jumping before they can trick-or-treat. This command is necessary even if your dog isn't big; a small or medium-sized dog can scare or injure a child if they jump up on them. Use positive reinforcement to practice this behavior, and don't take your dog out on Halloween unless they've mastered it.
Safety Measures on Halloween
Set yourself and your dog up for success by putting these safety precautions in place on Halloween night.
- Pick a comfortable costume: You'll want to pick a dog costume that doesn't stress your dog out or inhibit their breathing or movement. Do a trial run before Halloween to see how they react to the outfit. You may need to forgo a costume entirely if it makes your dog uneasy.
- Choose a reflective, escape-proof harness: Even the most laid-back dog can bolt if they're spooked by a loud noise, so ensure your pet wears a secure harness they can't slip out of. Reflective material is ideal for visibility in the dark.
- Make sure they wear identification: Ensure your dog wears a legible and updated ID tag under their cute costume in case you're separated at any point.
- Keep your dog on-leash: Even if you're in a familiar neighborhood, the Halloween décor and new smells can throw your dog for a loop, so always keep them on-leash and by your side.
- Bring treats: Tasty treats are a staple for your Halloween outing. They'll serve as positive reinforcement for commands and any tricks you have them perform.
- Always have adult supervision: Sending your dog out to trick-or-treat with the kids is not a safe idea; make sure your dog is under the control of a familiar adult at all times.
- Consider alternates to walking: Tiny dogs or brachycephalic breeds that can't partake in long walks could benefit from a dog-safe stroller instead of walking alongside you.
- Map out your route: Carefully plan where you'll trick-or-treat with several opportunities when you can swing by the house to drop your dog off if they become anxious or tired.
- Be open to failure: Even with optimal planning, there's a chance your dog may not enjoy trick-or-treating. If they show any signs of aggression, anxiety, or fear, it's time to bring your canine buddy home, where they can comfortably enjoy the rest of the evening.
Alternatives to Dog Trick-or-Treating
Trick-or-treating isn't for every dog. If your pooch doesn't have the right personality or training for this event, there's still plenty of ways they can get in on the holiday fun. Consider these activities in lieu of taking your dog out on Halloween.
- Take spooky photos of your Furankenstein dog wearing their costume in the comfort of your home.
- Allow your dog to sport their cute costume around the neighborhood on your regular morning walk.
- Have a few friends and their dogs over for a Howl-oween party of your own.
- Find out if your local pet supply store hosts a daytime Halloween event or costume contest especially for dogs.
Keep Your Dog Safe on Halloween
Trick-or-treating with your dog can be a fantastic experience, but only if your pup is at ease and comfortable. Consider whether their temperament, sociability, and obedience level are ideal for this highly stimulating event and take precautions to keep them safe should anything unexpected occur. With the right planning, you and your furry goblin can enjoy your Halloween to the fullest, whether or not you decide to trick-or-treat together.