Halloween through the eyes of a dog

Halloween through the eyes of a dog

Each year some of us feverishly look forward to the spectacular fireworks, the excitement of costume making, and the general noisy mayhem and raucous carnival that is “Halloween”. We have done so for generations.

For dogs, it is a much different story, however! They do not enjoy the fear-filled atmosphere that we humans relish during these festivities, nor do the deafening and hair-tingling explosive fireworks that illuminate the night skies bring them anything but more fear, dread, and anxiety.  Not to mention the constant tide of young people hammering the dreaded doorbell like an alarm clock that cannot be switched off at 5 am! As man’s best friend, why do we therefore repeatedly subject our beloved canine companions to such unnecessary hardship, aren’t we supposed to respect their wishes and space? As with most aspects of society, we see people who care and those that don’t care about the welfare and emotions of our beautiful dogs. At Halloween, it is important for those of us who care to extend and spread our consideration much more widely to ensure that pets are not unnecessarily frightened or suffering as a result of the festivities. Some practical tips for protecting your pet from any such fears are….

1. Ensure your pet is microchipped.

If loud noises frighten your pet sufficiently, it may escape from your house/garden and as a result unfortunately become lost. The only way of re-unification is by identifying your pet’s microchip and your details.

2. Keep your pet inside

This is really important, and if your pet becomes agitated and distressed by the sound of fireworks, then it will be more comfortable inside your house. It is also less likely to find a gap in the fence to escape through!

3. Provide a Den

Dogs in the wild use dens as their safe place, a place of sanctuary and reprieve from threat. Create an area in your house where your dog can safely run to and hide, and where it will not be disturbed. This will emotionally be very satisfying for your pet.

4. Use treats & words – properly!

When your dog is becoming agitated, use soft, reassuring, comforting words and language to appease it. Gently stroke your dog and lovingly tell him/her how it will all be fine. Dogs are highly sensitive to our words and body language so do not underestimate the power of this positivity. Also, only when your dog is calm and not distressed, offer it some treats and again reassure him/her that everything will soon be fine. Do not give treats when your dog is distressed as this only reinforces that unwanted behaviour.

5. Treatments

Several products are available which can be used to calm your dog, these are available to buy over the counter. More effective products are pheromone-based, and they work by releasing relaxing hormones/chemicals into the environment. Such products can be sprayed or plugged into the wall and used in a room where your dog is.

For pets that become severely distressed, it is worth having a chat with your local veterinary surgeon. They can supply you with medication such as sedatives which will relax your pet and make the whole experience less traumatic overall.

Some other tips such as playing calm background music to drown out the noise of fireworks can also help.

Dr Tim Kirby MVBMRCVS