How To Go Trick-Or-Treating With Your Dog
Your dog will probably get more treats than you 🦴
Halloween is one of the best nights of the year, and you probably want your dog to join in on your spooky fun. Dressing your dog up for some pics might be a given, but is it OK to actually take him trick-or-treating?
If your dog likes meeting new people, he might like trick-or-treating, but you should keep in mind some safety tips if you do decide to take your pup with you.
We spoke to Dr. Sarah Wooten, a veterinarian with Pumpkin Pet Insurance, and Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and a veterinary consultant for FiveBarks, to find out how to go trick-or-treating with your dog for a safe and fun time.
Will my dog like trick-or-treating?
Before you head out for a night of trick-or-treating with your pup, you should think about whether or not your dog will actually enjoy it, since it can definitely be overwhelming from a dog’s perspective.
“For some of us, trick-or-treating is a family activity, and this includes the family pooch,” Dr. Simon told The Dodo. “However, it is important we consider our dog and their wellbeing.”
A lot of aspects of Halloween can be frightening for dogs, like big crowds and people wearing costumes. “People in costumes and yard decorations may be frightening for your dog and cause undue stress that will impact both of you,” Dr. Wooten told The Dodo.
If your dog is typically very calm and friendly around strangers, is comfortable walking on a leash and doesn’t get easily anxious or scared, he might like to go trick-or-treating with you.
“If your dog is sociable and enjoys meeting new people, especially children, they may enjoy the occasion,” Dr. Simon said. “However, even the most outgoing dog may find the loud noises, bright costumes and convivial spirit hard to deal with. If your dog shows signs of anxiety when out and about in busy places, consider not taking them along.”
How to go trick-or-treating with your dog
Keep these tips in mind when taking your dog trick-or-treating so you both can have a safe and fun time.
Always keep your dog on a leash
Keep your dog on a leash so you can easily lead him where you want to go and prevent him from running away if he gets spooked. (Make sure he has his collar and ID tags on so others will be able to identify him in a worst case scenario. It’s also always a good idea to get your dog microchipped.)
“Make sure your dog is securely controlled on a leash and has identification just in case,” Dr. Wooten said.
Use a reflective or light-up collar, leash or harness so people can easily see your dog if it’s dark out while you're trick-or-treating.
“If it is dark, be sure they are wearing a high-visibility lead or harness,” Dr. Simon said.
You can get this light-up collar from Chewy for $18 and this reflective harness from Amazon for $28.
Keep candy far away from your dog
Candy — such as chocolate, gum and other treats — is highly poisonous to dogs, so it’s super important that your pup doesn’t get a hold of any.
“Most Halloween candy is toxic to dogs,” Dr. Wooten said. “Make sure nobody feeds your dog any candy, and ensure that your dog can’t get into loot bags.”
To prevent any unwanted sharing, remind kids you meet to not give your pup any sweets meant for humans.
And so your dog isn’t totally left out, bring some dog treats with you so your pup can get in on the fun.
Make sure he’s comfortable in his costume
If you decide to dress your dog in a costume, make sure he’s comfortable with it. Some dogs really don’t like wearing clothes.
“It can certainly add to the fun to dress your dog up in a costume,” Dr. Simon said. “However, keep in mind that they don’t understand what is going on and may find a costume bulky or uncomfortable.”
If your dog is OK with wearing a costume and you take him trick-or-treating in it, make sure it fits properly. If it’s too small, he might be uncomfortable, and if it’s too big, it could get in his way while walking.
Signs your dog is anxious while trick-or-treating
Even if your dog is usually calm around new people and likes socializing, he could get anxious with all the mayhem around him on Halloween, so it’s important to be aware of any signs that your dog is getting uneasy.
“If you are keen to bring your dog along, pay close attention to their body language and check in with them to ensure they feel safe and secure,” Dr. Simon said.
According to Dr. Wooten, some signs that your dog is getting anxious include:
- Leash lunging
- Dilated pupils
- Raised hackles
- Putting his tail between his legs
- Trying to get away
If your pup starts showing signs of anxiety, take him home as soon as possible.
“Even if your dog usually tolerates Halloween well, be prepared that something may spook them, and they may suddenly want to go home,” Dr. Simon said. This could make for some unhappy kids unless you have another person available to take the dog home. Always have a backup plan.”
How to keep your dog calm at home on Halloween
Some dogs won’t enjoy trick-or-treating, so it’s a good idea to leave them at home to relax.
“Not every personality type is suited to traveling door to door, and some dogs would rather be curled up at home,” Dr. Simon said.
But even staying inside on Halloween night can be stressful for dogs with all of the trick-or-treaters coming to the door, so you’ll need to have a plan to keep your dog calm at home, too.
Some tips to keep your dog calm when trick-or-treaters come to the door include:
- “Secure your dog in another quiet part of the house, where they won’t be bothered by trick-or-treaters,” Dr. Wooten said. You can play white noise, put the TV on or play music to drown out the sound of the door and help your dog focus on something else.
- “Give your dog a long-lasting chew treat, like a KONG stuffed with treats or a chew bone,” Dr. Wooten said. You can get this KONG slow feeder from Amazon for $20.
- If your dog gets upset when the doorbell rings, you can put candy outside to avoid people coming to your door altogether. “If your dog reacts to the doorbell or the sound of knocking, consider greeting people at your porch or gate to prevent them worrying your dog,” Dr. Simon said. “If your dog finds it hard to tolerate trick-or-treaters, consider putting your candy in a tub [outside].”
- You can also use calming products to ease your dog’s anxiety. “If your dog has anxiety, utilize OTC [aka over-the-counter] calming aids, like CBD oil or treats that contain L-theanine or tryptophan,” Dr. Wooten said. You can get these calming bites with L-theanine from Amazon for $29. Dr. Simon also recommends Adaptil collars or plug-ins. You can get this Adaptil collar from Amazon for $22 and the diffuser from Amazon for $27.
If your dog is comfortable around lots of people (especially kids) and likes to socialize, trick-or-treating can be a fun activity with your pup. But be sure to keep these safety tips in mind so you and your dog can have a safe (and spooky) time.