October 31, 2022 - By :

How To Have A Safe HOWL-O-WEEN with your dog

Are you a novice pet owner or new to Florida and wondering how you can include your dog in some spooky excitement this Halloween? Halloween in Jacksonville, Florida can be an absolute blast, and when you’re a pet parent your natural instinct is to include your furry BFF in all the fun. But, before you throw a costume on the dog here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • Is your pet new to your household and you aren’t quite sure how she will react to being dressed up in a costume?
  •  Are you worried your fur-buddy might be too anxious to be surrounded by rowdy children walking the streets in their costumes? 
  • Can your pet be territorial in your home and you’re worried about trick-or-treaters coming to your door? 

Well, Come.Sit.Stay Dog Training is here to help you figure out if and how you should include your fur-baby in your Halloween activities. So read on for some tips to make sure you’re enjoying a fun, SAFE Halloween with your pet!


Dressing your pet in costume—is it a good idea?

That depends a lot on your furry friend. If your dog is nervous, anxious, aggressive or not particularly well trained on a leash, it’s probably best to forgo the costume and leave your pup at home. We want our canine companions to be as comfortable as possible, especially if we are considering bringing them outside around children who are trick-or-treating, or to any type of event with a lot of other dogs and people around.


Perhaps your dog is normally quite calm but you just don’t know how they would behave in a costume? Do they sometimes wear a dog sweater or booties, but always seem uncomfortable when they do? If Fido isn’t accustomed to or shows discomfort when wearing doggie clothes, it’s best to try out the Halloween costume well ahead of time to see how she reacts and at what comfort level. 


Even the most ‘chill’ dogs can become overwhelmed and anxious when they are in situations that are alien to them, especially if said situation is crowded and/or rowdy. And if your pup is already feeling uncomfortable in their costume, their discomfort will only intensify in this environment.


So when trying out a costume on your dog, here are some signs to look out for that indicate their discomfort: 

  • Ears folded back
  • Tail between their legs
  • Eyes rolling back or looking sideways
  • Hunched over and/or refusing to walk on the leash when in the costume
  • Growling or showing their teeth
  • Barking

If your dog is showing any of these signs, it’s best NOT to dress him up in a costume. Maybe instead try some smaller ways of incorporating the Halloween spirit, such as:

A hat and/or wig (if your dog will permit)

  • A Halloween themed bandana around their neck
  • A tuxedo or skeleton bib
  • Halloween themed collar or harness

After trying it out, if your dog DOES seem comfortable enough to wear a costume, make sure that you thoroughly inspect the costume to make sure that:

  • the costume is never impeding their breathing
  • your dog can move easily and nothing would entangle her
  • there’s nothing in the costume that he could choke on
  • the costume can be leashed securely and safely, ideally in 2 places

Should I take my dog to any of the Halloween parades?


If you are thinking of taking your dog to one of the many parades in Florida, keep in mind that not only are there thousands of people in attendance in crazy costumes that will most likely make your pup nervous, there’s also a lot of drinking going on, which can cause an unsafe environment for our fur-friends.


Some day parades can be great fun for certain dogs (think “super chill” or “zen like” pups). But this event might not be the right fit for your own fur-baby if she shows any sign of anxiety or discomfort. If your dog is more on the nervous or territorial side, we suggest you perhaps look into a smaller Halloween event for your pup. There are a lot of options out there, hosted by neighborhood dog runs, rescue groups and other animal based charities. You can Google such events or even search Facebook Groups! 


Whether you decide to attempt a Dog Parade or choose a different dog-friendly Halloween event, please make sure you adhere to these safety tips:

  • Keep your dog on a leash at all time (unless the event takes place in a dog run). Ideally double up on the leashes: one on a harness and one on the collar
  • Make sure your dog’s tags are up to date and securely attached to their collar or harness
  • If you have a Bluetooth tracking device put it on your pup’s harness or collar
  • NEVER leave your dog tied up and/or unattended, even just for a moment
  • Don’t let your dog near any Halloween decorations that they might ingest
  • Bring a collapsible bowl and water for your dog—she will be overstimulated and excited, which easily leads to dehydration
  • Do not let strangers approach your dog, unless your dog is comfortable 

If your dog shows any signs of anxiousness or aggression at any point, immediately remove her or him from the situation. 


Should I take our dog trick-or-treating?


This is a really exciting experience for the kids and can be super fun for our dogs as well! However, just like with the parades, we need to make sure our dogs are comfortable enough to partake in an evening of trick-or-treating. 


Some dogs are naturally nervous around children they don’t know, especially when the children are running around and playing. Since kids can be a bit wild on Halloween because of all the excitement (this really is THEIR holiday, after all) and SUGAR, some dogs are better left at home for the trick-or-treating festivities. The last thing we want is for our pup to get aggressive toward children on the street. Do NOT bring your dog trick-or-treating if they:

  • Normally show anxiousness or aggression toward children they aren’t familiar with
  • Are territorial towards you or your kids
  • Are not trained well on a leash or used to walking long distances
  • React badly to people dressed up in costumes or to loud noises
  • Are aggressive toward other dogs 

If none of the above pertains to your dog and you think you want to try bringing them out trick-or-treating with you, please follow these safety precautions:

  • Make sure there are 2 adults present: one to look out for the kids and the other to look out for/walk your pup
  • Make sure your dog is on a leash (ideally, double leashed) at all times
  • If you have to tie up your pup to go inside one of the Halloween friendly businesses (and we really, REALLY advise against this), make sure you keep a constant eye on them
  • Make sure tags and chips are up to date and that their tags are securely attached to their collar and/or harness
  • Attach a Bluetooth tracking device to their collar if possible
  • Do NOT let your dog have or get into any candy—make sure the kids know not to ‘share’ any of their candy with the dog. Bring your pup’s own treats with you to give to them throughout the evening
  • Bring a collapsible bowl and water for your pup
  • Do not let unfamiliar people approach your dog unless your dog is comfortable being approached
  • Keep your dog away from areas that are too crowded or might be too noisy
  • Keep your dog away from all glowsticks—if they get to one and chew on it, it IS POISONOUS
  • There will be lots of fallen candy and wrappers on the street so make sure your pup is not eating any of these!

If at any time your dog seems uncomfortable or anxious or is showing ANY sign of aggression, take him/her out of that situation immediately.


Stay as close to home as possible so if your pup isn’t having a good time it’s easy to bring them home.


Should I just keep my dog in for Halloween?


Sometimes this is the best way to go if you are at all unsure of how he will react. In the end, our pups have no idea what Halloween is or what they might be ‘missing out on’ so sometimes it’s better to be on the side of safety.


It can also be a blast to stay in on Halloween and pass out candy if you happen to live in an apartment complex or on a block where there is door-to-door trick-or-treating! Unfortunately, this is not always as much fun for our pets. The constant ringing of the doorbell or knocking on the door can really rile up our fur-friends and the last thing we want is for them to escape out the door when children come to collect their candy! So here are some things to do…

  • Think about keeping your dog on a leash during trick-or-treating hours. Leashes can often enforce a sense of comfort and ease for our pets. And if they do slip out the door at any time, it’s much easier to catch them by the leash!
  • Keep your pet in a back room or crate to avoid any danger. Crates can also be comforting to them and ease their agitation
  • Put a piece of tape over your doorbell and a sign on your door asking to “knock lightly”. Not every trick-or-treater will read or adhere to it, but some will and quiet knocking will go a long way to relieving your pet’s stress

If you don’t want or need to greet EVERY trick-or-treater, place candy in a bowl outside of your door with a note to “just take 1 or 2”.


There are some over the counter calming sprays that you can buy for your pet to try out. And if you think your pet would need something stronger to keep them calm throughout the night, please consult your vet to see what they suggest.


So, the basic moral of the story here is.. to pay attention to your pet and keep their safety and comfort in the forefront of your mind. Understand that while you may love halloween and all things spooky and weird, but your pup has no clue what it’s all about and may just downright hate it. And that’s OKAY too! In the end you know your dog and know what best and we hope you and your fur-family have a pup-tactic howl-o-ween. 


Get ready for next Halloween with professional dog training

Get ready for all upcoming holidays with your pet by working with our professional dog trainers at Come.Sit.Stay Dog Training! Our trainers are the #1 Referred In-home Dog Training service for Jacksonville Fl. and its surrounding areas. We’ll help your pooch Overcome Anxiety, Aggression, Barking, Leash Pulling and more. We can go over basic or brush-up training, and we work with dogs of any age and breed!


We’re actually so confident in our training abilities that we offer a lifetime guarantee for you and your dog. One price and you have a dog trainer for life! Contact us today by clicking here to learn more, and to set up your FREE In-Home consultation.


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