Halloween is a major event and beloved tradition throughout the United States. Both kids and adults enjoy dressing in costumes; ranging from simple (sometimes last-minute) disguises to elaborate affairs and celebrating the occasion. However, we must keep in mind what that evening can be like for our dogs. This can be a dangerous day and evening for them, on many fronts.
First off: The candy. If you are giving candy to kids who come trick-or-treating, or if you have trick-or-treaters who bring home bags and buckets full of candy, please take care to keep it away from your dogs and store it in a place the they can’t reach. Don’t depend on them being well-trained or well-behaved: Dogs love sweet-tasting treats and candy presents a huge temptation for them. The fact is, candy is a serious danger to dogs: Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which are highly toxic to dogs. Even “healthy” sugar-free candy presents a danger to them as xylitol, a common sweetener used in them, is highly toxic to dogs.
If you take your dog trick-or-treating with you, be very mindful of what he is sniffing or picking up and eating. The kids going from house-to-house are going to be very excited, and eager to hurry to the next place to get some candy. They’ll be dropping candy bars and other treats throughout the night. You need to make sure that your pup isn’t street-snacking on this dropped and forgotten loot. Also, make sure that your kids understand that candy is very bad for dogs and that they shouldn’t share their candy with your pups.
And, if you have your dog out with you, be aware of the houses and decorations that you encounter. Some places will have elaborate, moving decorations, often with light and sound effects. These are fun, and will add to the pleasure and excitement of the night for you and your kids, but can be terrifying to your dog. Keep an eye on him throughout the night, and make sure that you keep him well away from anything that is frightening him or causing stress. If he doesn’t want to approach a house with you and your kids, stay back with him at the street and keep an eye on your kids from a safe distance.
You also have to keep in mind how your dog will react to encountering people in costumes. If you are out in public, your pup will be encountering very excited children who won’t look and act anything like the people that your dog is used to seeing. And, given that this is a holiday, the adults may have been partying and the kids are on sugar highs, you can’t depend on them to act responsibly around your dog. This can cause your dog to act out in fear, resulting in him bolting or biting, depending on the circumstances. And, if you insist on dressing your dog in a costume, find one that fits him comfortably and doesn’t impede his movements. Also, select one that doesn’t obstruct his vision – you don’t need him being startled by people approaching him from the side.
Even if you stay home, costumed children may be ringing your doorbell for hours, shouting “Trick or Treat!”. This is in no way what your dog is accustomed to this happening in his home, and it can very likely freak him out. Be prepared to keep him in a controlled area, away from the front door.
Putting it simply: As fun that Halloween is for us, it can be the opposite for your dog. He doesn’t understand what’s happening and can be either stressed, afraid or over-stimulated. Be considerate of him and make that night as easy for him as you can.
 Paws Off Xylitol; It’s Dangerous for Dogs. (07/07/2021) FDA. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/paws-xylitol-its-dangerous-dogs
 What are the Signs of Fear in Dogs? (04/09/2022). the Spruce Pets. Retrieved from https://www.thesprucepets.com/symptoms-of-fear-in-dogs-1117890