Thursday, October 30, 2014


Halloween can be a lot of fun for grownups and kids.  For dogs, however, it may not be as amusing.  Witches, goblins, and ghosts can cause even the most docile dog to become terrified and react out of fear.  Costumes can be exceedingly scary to our canine companions.  A frightened dog can easily perceive waving plastic toys as items that may hurt him.  Therefore, bites can occur when a dog believes they are defending themselves, and their home, from strange creatures. 

Dogs do not have the ability to talk.  They cannot verbalize to us when something is wrong.  They can only use their body to try to show us what they may be feeling.  When dogs are scared, typically they will try to look small, cowering close to the ground and tucking their tail between their legs.  Some other things they might do include looking or turning slightly away, licking their lips and yawning.  In addition, their body and face will appear tense and rigid.  Whenever they are afraid, most dogs would prefer that which is scaring them to go away and leave them alone.  However, if they feel trapped they will stand up for themselves.  When this happens their body stance will change whether they intend to charge, stand their ground or retreat.  Their hackles will go up and, at the same time, they will show their teeth and growl or bark.  Being aware of the dogs’ non-verbal language is a first step in avoiding problems.

If you are staying home with your pet, put the dog either in another room or in a crate away from the front door, and provide a nice diversion like a tasty chew toy.  Be sure to close the blinds so the dog cannot see who is outside.  Consider also leaving a TV or radio playing to help block out the sounds of people coming and going.  For those dogs that bark every time the doorbell rings, disconnecting it and watching for trick-or-treaters might also prove beneficial. 

When you and children are trick-or-treating away from home and you hear or see a dog barking behind a door or fence, consider avoiding that particular place if the owner and dog are not familiar.  If you do approach, remember the animal may not recognize anyone in costume.  When we change the way we normally walk, talk, and act because of our Halloween disguise, dogs do not understand.  They can become easily frightened or very excited and wish to chase and grab an enticing part of a costume.  Either way, a bite can ensue. 

The following are also a few easy pet safety rules parents can teach children for when they encounter any dog.  “Quiet and slow is always the way to go”.  When scared of a dog never run away, just move away quietly and slowly.  In addition, “Don’t run and shout, it can freak dogs out”.  Running and shouting might cause a dog to chase or attack.  Instead, stand like a tree.  Remain motionless while keeping your hands folded in front of you and looking at your feet.  Chances are the animal will just sniff a bit and wander away.  “Don’t tease and annoy, a dog’s not a toy”.  Do not tease a dog by waving food or toys in front of it.  The dog might try to grab what is in front of its face and mistakenly hurt you.  “Keep your face out of their space”.  Keep your face away from a dog’s teeth.  Even if a dog does not want to bite, again, it can still unintentionally hurt you.

Many dogs, like their guardians, enjoy the holidays.  Extra attention and treats can be doggie heaven.  However, even the most patient pooch can get their “knickers in a twist” when there is disruption in their normal routine.  Taking a few precautions during Halloween might help in making the holiday less stressful for Fido and more bite safe for everyone.

Hope you and ALL the members of your family have a very Happy Halloween!


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