Halloween, Kids and Pets …Ensure a Fun Holiday For All: Part II

dog_with_halloween_candy_bucketLast year at exactly this same time, I wrote an article on this site about some of the potential dangers of Halloween for your kids and pets and gave some advice on how to avoid some of those dangers. Most of that advice was focused on avoiding situations that could put your pets (and the children that are with them) in harm’s way.

However, I am also quite aware that any advice, no matter how well intended, may at times be impossible for some people to follow based on their own personal experiences and situations. For example, you may have a service dog that must accompany you trick-or-treating and perform certain tasks that would enable you to accompany your child from door to door.  Or maybe you have a service dog that is trained for your child as a diabetic alert dog or seizure alert dog or to pull a wheelchair or help your child with mobility issues…. So ‘leaving the dog at home’ may not only NOT be possible, but potentially dangerous for you and/or your child.

And then there are some people who live in a not-so-great area and do not want to deny their child(ren) the fun opportunity to trick and trick, and would feel much more comfortable and safer having a nice large breed dog standing steadfastly by their side.

Another issue we discussed was not having ‘Rover’ join you every time you go to answer the door… but here again, if you do have Rover joining you…. Not because you think it is cute, but because it allows you to feel safer, then here are some tips that can allow you to both bring your dog to the door, or along with you when you trick or treat, and still keep everyone safe.

I. Trick-or-Treating

The first thing I will mention is outdoor safety equipment:

  • One of the most important safety precautions you can take is having some sort of flashlight or flashing light attached to your dog’s collar. This will enable others to be aware that you do have a dog with you… which can keep your dog safe from being walked into, stepped on, or worse….hit by a car as it grows darker out, and will enable others to see your dog and know to not get too close. (A little bonus – it will provide a little extra visibility for you and your family members).
  • Leashes: If you are prone to using a Flexi leash (retractable lead) tonight is NOT the night to use it!!! You want guaranteed control on this night, not something that may or may not be good, strong and reliable. You need something short (I would not recommend using a lead any longer than 6 feet, and would actually prefer 4 foot or less) and it must be in good solid condition, free of any fraying, rips, tears, or chew marks.
  • Collars: As far as collars, you want something that is tight enough so that your dog can not easily ‘back out of it’ should they suddenly get scared or spooked.  I recommend you use something you are very used to – you do not want to be trying out a different type of collar on the very night you need it. And the same rule applies as the leashes…. Make sure it is strong and free of any rips or frays prior to this night.   If you do end up needing to purchase a new one, one of the collars that is a good fail-safe collar to use if you are used to a regular flat collar, martingale-collarbut not 100% sure your dog could not get out of it is called a Martingale.  It is available at most pet stores including Petsmart (see picture on right).  It is a good alternative option to the regular flat collar, with the added benefit of a ‘choker’ type chain at the end which will tighten only if your dog pulls or tries to get away…. reducing the risk of them slipping out of it.
  • Service Dog Vest: If your dog is an actual service dog, although it is NOT required by law to have a vest identifying the dog as a service dog, I would suggest on this particular night, having something marking your dog as a service dog, as well as a sign that says “DO NOT PET”. This might make your experience a bit better as hopefully, fewer people will try to stop you to pet your cute dog who they think is only your personal pet out trick or treating with you.

If your dog is a service dog for you, try asking a third person to come trick or treating with you. This way, you can stand back at a safe distance with your service dog, and the friend or family member can take the child up to the door to ring the bell. This will keep you out of harm’s way, and avoid spooking your dog with doorbells and doormats rigged to scream when you push or step on them and keep them further away from flashing lights, which can disorient and hurt your dogs’ sensitive eyes.

If the Service Dog belongs to your child, my suggestion would still be to have another person go with you and either one of you stays back with the dog and child, and the other one goes up to the door, rings the bell and gets the candy and brings it back to your child. Or, if the child wants to go to the door, have one of you go to the door with the child, and the other person stays back with the child’s dog until the child returns. I also feel it is very important to remember though that although Service Dogs are very highly trained animals, I want to encourage you not to forget that they are not robots, and will still react to unexpected scenarios…. So be on your guard and be vigilant at all times. If they are starting to act differently than they normally do, be smart and make the choice to head home early. Better safe than sorry

II. Answering the Door with You

As far as something you can do for the dog that is staying home, that will allow you to have him or her with you if you are nervous about answering the door, here is a precautionary alternative thing you can try…..  You can pick up an exercise pen relatively cheap at many of your local pet food and supply stores, and make a “U” shape out of it in front of the door (see example here). By doing this, you can easily get to the door and open it for kids who are trick or treating, allowing you to give candy or other goodies to the kids, all the while ensuring the kid is safe from your dog, and the dog cannot run out, but also gives you the peace of mind of knowing if you open the door to someone that you deem unsafe, you can pull the side of the exercise pen open very easily to allow your dog to protect you. This very much differs from a standard gate because it is ‘free-standing.’ Meaning it is not attached to a wall, or held in place by a pressure release system.

III. Costumes

thundershirtAs far as a costume for Fido, there is only one I would potentially recommend….. That would be a ThunderShirt. Not familiar with this product? The ThunderShirt, (aka… Canine Anti-Anxiety Shirt) is a snug fitting shirt that utilizes a similar concept as swaddling your infant. It is a holistic alternative to anti-anxiety medications and uses natural pressure points on the dog to help calm them in different situations. If you want to dress it up for Halloween, get creative and cut out and sew on a few bones or a skeleton. Just be sure you are not painting or gluing the items on, as that can cause some potentially harmful toxins to seep into your dog’s body.

So in conclusion, while I still personally believe that the best and safest option for your dog on Halloween is to stay home away from the front door, there are a myriad of ways that you CAN safely include your canine buddy if the need arises.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful and that you and your entire family enjoy a safe and Happy Halloween!!!

About the Author

I trained as an EMT in NY, than recertified in Atlanta. I loved being an EMT and was involved with it for several years. I worked on the “Rainbow Response Unit” at Egleston’s Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, and when not on a call, worked in the PICU and NICU, which was both a blessing as well as a heartache because I learned and saw so much. Helping to create a child safety seat for ambulances was my way of making sure children who were already compromised health-wise, would not be put in any more danger. When I realiized I could no longer be an EMT due to medical reasons, I found an alternate outlet for my desire to nuture and protect; I became a dog trainer...something that was always a second love and passion for me. Now, whenever possible, I combine my passion for children and canines by working to make the world a safer place for both. Suzanne is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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