How To Keep Your Anxious Dog Safe and Stress-free this Halloween
Candy, costumes and trick-or-treating is fun for humans, but it can be rough for your dog. With all the noisy decorations, parties, and people coming to the door, knocking, ringing the bell, and yelling, “Trick-or-treat!” your dog can start to feel very anxious, especially if they’re already prone to noise anxiety.
Halloween is upon us, and while many of us are picking out costumes, planning parties, and buying boat-loads of candy, our four-legged friends are gearing up to totally lose their cool. Here’s the thing— dogs and humans aren’t all that different when it comes to fears and phobias. Many dogs, like many humans, are creatures of habit, and it’s super easy for them to develop anxieties.
Holidays, in particular, are major triggers for dog anxiety. But don’t worry. If your dog hides under the bed, pees on the carpet, tears up your new stilettos, or flat-out refuses to stop barking every time Halloween rolls around, Betty & Butch is here to help. Keep reading to learn more about anxiety in dogs and how you can help get your anxious pup through Halloween.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Dogs
Before we cover how you can help reduce your dog’s Halloween-induced anxiety, let’s first talk about the symptoms. If you think your dog might have some anxiety around Halloween, these are some of the symptoms you should be looking out for. Dogs can suffer from anxiety in many of the same ways as humans. A lot of these symptoms are typical of anxiety in dogs, they manifest themselves when a pet is suffering from a few different forms of anxiety. If this anxiety is linked to the noises and sights of Halloween, you might have to give your pet some special attention this October 31st. Many dog owners unknowingly make their dog’s anxiety worse simply by misunderstanding which behaviours are anxious behaviours and which behaviours are bad-tempered behaviours.
Some common symptoms of dog anxiety include:
• Potty Accidents: Like humans, many dogs can suffer an upset stomach due to stress or anxiety. If your dog is usually good about being accident-free but suddenly has an accident, he may be anxious or scared.
• Pacing and Shaking: Just like humans, dogs often pace or make wide circling movements repeatedly when stressed. This can be a sign of panic or nervousness in general. Your dog may also shake or tremble. This often stops once the stressor is gone.
• Changes in Appetite: An anxious dog may lose his appetite and can forgo meals altogether. Sometimes even treats won’t be enough to bribe your anxious pooch to eat.
• Isolation or Avoidance: Dogs like to hide under the bed when they knows it’s bath time. This is a clear indication that they're anxious and scared. If you suddenly find your dog hiding in the back of the closet or under the kitchen table, he may be trying to tell you he’s nervous.
• Hyper-vigilance: Dogs with anxiety often have dilated pupils and blink faster. They tend to stand stiffly at attention when preparing for impending danger, but this behaviour may also be related to the involuntary freeze, fight, or flight autonomic nervous system response.
• Excessive Yawning, Licking, Or Preening: Some people confuse yawning, excessive licking, and preening in their dogs to be random annoying habits, but these behaviours can really be symptoms of anxiety in dogs. Just as humans may bite their nails out of anxiety, a dog may develop obsessive behaviours to try and soothe himself or keep himself busy during anxious situations.
• Aggressive or Destructive Behaviours: Fearful dogs can turn to aggressive behaviours if they feel cornered or if they feel they are in danger.
Remember, it is always best to give your dog space if you can tell he is experiencing anxiety. Unless he comes to you for comfort, we suggest you take it slow with him. Anxious dogs can also be prone to nervous chewing and other destructive behaviours. For this reason, many owners opt to put their dogs in a safe place like a crate during times like Halloween so that they cannot harm themselves or their surroundings.
Why Does Halloween Trigger My Dog’s Anxiety?
Halloween is a crazy fun holiday for many people, but not everyone is a fan. Dogs can be especially sensitive to sensory overload, and many dogs already suffer from doorbell anxieties, stranger phobias, and noise fears. Holidays like Halloween seem to amplify these things, which can really turn your pet’s world upside down. For the dog who is prone to anxiety, and even the confident dog who isn’t, holidays like Halloween can be a lot to handle.
Tips and Tricks to Getting Your Anxious Dog Through Halloween
Keep Them In A Secure Place
Your dog should stay in a secure, comfortable room where they can lie down and relax. The room should be as far from the door as possible to reduce the noise from trick-or-treaters and the sound of the door opening and closing. This will also prevent the possibility of your dog bolting outside when they get scared, which happens all too often to pets on Halloween. Make sure to check on your pup frequently and take them out for potty breaks.
Put On Music
You should place a radio or television in your dog’s room and turn the volume to a level that will help drown out the noise. Put on something soothing that won't startle your pup and trigger their noise anxiety. Relaxing orchestral music is always a good choice, but maybe not the "Monster Mash.”
One of the best tricks to calming your dog’s anxiety is to make sure he doesn’t have tons of excess energy to burn before going into Halloween night. A nice long walk a few hours before the fun is set to begin could help to reduce your dog’s anxiety ten-fold. Exercise also stimulates the production of serotonin, the same chemical that makes you feel good after a workout.
This will help reduce fearful reactions and eliminate some of that nervous energy.
Train The Anxiety Away With Counter Conditioning
But what else can you do to help your dog stay calm, especially in the midst of all the action? Along with some good exercise a few hours before the big event, you may want to consider counter conditioning. Counter conditioning is a term that simply means training your dog to get used to the things that set him off. For example, if Fido goes crazy each time he hears the doorbell ring, you can try using clickers and treats to condition him. A week or so before Halloween night, begin training your dog so that when he hears the doorbell, he gets a treat. Eventually, he will begin to associate the sound with something positive, meaning peace and quiet for the both of you! It is important to always make any training session as positive of an experience as you possibly can for your dog.
Inform Any Guests
If you are having a Halloween get-together, make sure your guests know where your dog is and to leave them be. People may be excited to see your pup, but this probably isn't the appropriate environment. Let your guests know that your dog's room is off limits and to keep the noise level reasonable near that room.
Don’t Scold Them
Avoid scolding him or punishing him when he makes mistakes, and instead reward him with praise and treats when he does something correctly. On the night of Halloween, you may decide to put your dog in a back room away from all the chaos. This is an excellent idea. If you have a dog who is prone to destructive behaviours such as chewing or potty accidents when he is anxious, it may be a good idea to also put him in his crate. Many dogs find their crates to be a soothing, safe place anyway, so this could also help to lower his anxiety levels. You can also play soothing music for your dog to help drown out any noise from the Halloween fun.
As a reminder for any holiday or event where your dog is scared or anxious, there is a chance they’ll run away. Always make sure your dog has ID tags and is microchipped.
Calming Products to Help to Sooth Your Anxious Dog Year-Round
Along with relaxing remedies like crating in a back room, counter conditioning, and relaxing music, you may also want to try some amazing dog-calming products. Some of our favourite products for keeping our doggy customers relaxed are hemp seed dental sticks, Dorwest food supplements, calming dog treats, anti-stress tablets, and anxiety relief dog beds.
What other steps do you take to make your dog comfortable in noisy situations? Got any recommendations for other dog lovers whose pups suffer from Halloween noise anxiety? Let us know in the comments below.