5 Tips for a Happy Howl-O-Ween

Howl-O-Ween is the most spooktacular night of the year! To ensure your night is filled with treats (rather than tricks) here are a few tips to ensure both you and your pup’s have a Happy Howl-O-Ween.

1. Stash the candy!

#1 (1)Halloween means lots and lots of sweet treats, however the results will not be sweet if your dog (or cat) gets into them. Chocolate is very dangerous for both dogs and cats. In addition, xylitol, which is used in most sugar-free candies, can cause serious problems with your pets.

Ensure that you stash all of your families Halloween treats out of reach of your pets. If you suspect your dog has eaten something toxic, you can call the ASPCA Poison Control Center for assistance at (888)426-4435.

2. Be aware of scary decoration displays around your neighborhood!

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Halloween means spooky decorations and dogs can be just as scared of skeletons, clowns, and scarecrows as we are! If there is a decoration display that your dog is not particularly fond of in someone’s front yard, avoid that house on yourwalks for the month of October.

 

3. Pick safe pet costumes!

#1 (4).jpgAlthough most can agree there is nothing cuter than a dachshund in a hot-dog costume, it is not unusual for costumes to cause dogs stress. Ensure that your dog is completely comfortable in their costume and is not causing them additional stress on this crazy night. If you want them to wear a costume, try a themed bandana or a simple vest. This can allow your dog to be festive without adding any additional stress.

If your dog is a diva and can wear their costume with confidence, check the costume to ensure there are not any easily digestible parts. Things to be weary of are buttons, plastic pieces, or anything that the dog can swallow. Your night should be full of treats and not a surprise trip to the vet.

4. Keep your dog in a safe, contained area inside your house on Halloween Night

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To humans, trick-or-treaters are viewed as cute children, whereas for dogs, they can appear to be mutant elves wearing weird clothing that are coming to attack your house! Since there will be a lot of people out walking and strangers coming to the door, keep your dog inside and contained. Keep them calm in a either a room without access to the front door or safely away in their crate (especially during peak Trick-or-Treating Hours).

5. Ensure they are wearing proper identification

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Ensure they are wearing proper identification just in case they do dart outside. A collar with an ID tag and/or a microchip can be a life saver if your dog does escape.

The Benefits of Dog Group Walking and Structured Socialization

About two months ago, Odin and I were walking downtown to go to a local outdoor store that also sells dog products (harnesses, leashes, toys, etc.). While we were there, the store associate who was helping us told us about a dog walking group that she organizes. At first I told her my concerns about bringing him to a dog walking group (his reactivity) and she assured me that the group would accommodate any needs that Odin and I required. I was very nervous bringing him to the first walk. My treat bag was loaded with various high value treats ranging from hot dogs to blue cheese. He did great that first walk. He was calm and relaxed when being introduced to the groups dogs and the members gave us the space and structure we needed to ensure that the group socialization was a success. We now a avid members of the group and attend every walking event.

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Odin, as most reactive dogs, needs extra space while walking and this dogs walking group provided us with the  structured socialization opportunity needed for success. We were able to enjoy the company of other dogs and reap the benefits of group socialization. While with the group, Odin is learning to stay calm and is able to stay under his threshold while he is on these walks.

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Practice, practice, practice is the key to successfully managing reactivity and by exposing Odin to other dogs and socialization while walking side by side during the on leash walks has increased his confidence around other dogs. I have even observed a decrease reactivity while we are on our own daily walks for a handful of days after the group walks.

Group walks can be a great opportunity to expose and socialize your dog with other dogs in a controlled environment. You can control the introductions between dogs and work on managing your dogs reactivity in a controlled environment. Also, joining a group walk creates accountability and motivation for owners, so it is a win-win situation for both you and your dog.

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Whenever Odin and I get home from a group walk, he is completely pooped for the next handful of hours (even if the walk was shorter than his daily ones). The socialization and engagement he gets from being around other dogs fulfills his mental needs much better than his daily walks. The group walks break up the normal walking routine and provide dogs with a new and exciting experience.

The following are 3 tips I encourage dog owners to consider prior to joining a group:

Learn the groups rules and the temperaments of the other dogs

Ask whether or not it is an on leash walk as off leash may not be the best for shy dogs, or those that need extra space. Also, ask about the temperaments about the other dogs. For example, having two reactive dogs in a group may cause issues/distractions/stress while walking.

Know your dogs limitations

Do not force a group walk if your dog is not ready. Also, you may need to leave the group during the walk due to trigger stacking or if your dog is not up for the task for the day (and it is OKAY!). During our last walk, Odin and I had to bail out early as there was a person on a scooter behind us that was catching up to our group. I needed to run ahead with Odin and remove the scooter from his sight line. In addition, you may need to scout out the walking path prior to the group walk. I know Odin would not do well walking near a skate park or a place where off leash dogs play.

Inform the group of your dogs needs to see if they can be accommodated

Some groups may not feel comfortable or may want to ensure all members are okay with a reactive dog joining the group. In addition this will ensure that everyone in the group will understand if slow introductions are needed and if your dog becomes reactive while on the walk/in presence of another dog.

If there is not a group in your area, consider starting your own! Put up fliers at your local dog parks and create a Facebook group/page organize events. Chances are there are multiple people in your neighborhood that would enjoy an opportunity for socialization for both the owners and the dogs!

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