Halloween is right around the corner and lots of us are already making plans for costumes and wacky outfits to take the kids out trick or treating, or for those of you with older children, potentially to let them go out on their own.
Whilst Halloween isn’t such a big deal in the UK as it is in America, it is certainly very popular and something that grows in popularity every year, to the point that quite a big deal is made about the whole event these days, and few streets don’t see trick or treaters at all over the course of the evening.
Trick or treating is so common today that there has become an almost universally accepted sign used on the night itself, that houses which decorate with pumpkins and other seasonal accoutrements will generally welcome trick or treaters, but other houses probably won’t.
This makes it somewhat easier for kids and parents to know who’d like to see their outfits and get into the spirit of things and who to leave alone, although this does not of course negate all of the potential safety and supervision implications of calling on strangers uninvited.
Whether you’re planning on going out trick or treating with your children, intending to follow them from a distance to make sure they’re ok or plan to let your older children go out collecting goodies alone, if you’re the type of family that involves your dog in most of the things you do together, you might be wondering if allowing the dog to come too is a good idea.
Even if this hasn’t occurred to you yourself, it might well be a request made by one of the kids on the night in question! So, should you take your dog trick or treating, or let your children take your dog out trick or treating with you if they’re going alone?
This is a decision for everyone to make individually, but the answer for most people who want to make a safe choice is no; and here’s why.
First up, the Halloween costumes that are mandatory for trick or treating can be unnerving for dogs, and so can the sort of behaviour and excitement that they generate! Your dog will get used to them in short order with appropriate introductions and calm behaviour, but the excitement of the evening itself also makes kids (and adults!) behave in a light-hearted, silly manner that can rub off on dogs too – both positively and negatively.
This can be unnerving for your dog, and they may not enjoy it, and might behave unpredictably.
Dressing dogs up is not as much fun for dogs as it is for people, and costumes can scare, restrict, confuse and generally distress your dog, as well as potentially making them too hot, and bringing them a lot of attention they might not enjoy.
It is not wise to dress your dog up on Halloween whatever you’re doing with them, and particularly not if you intend to take them out too.
There will be other trick or treaters and parents out and about too, which means people in close quarters to your dog passing by. Both them and your dog might not handle this well, particularly if children are in costumes that take up a lot of space or unnerve your dog, or they rush at your dog or scare them.
Bonfire night or Guy Fawkes night is a few days after Halloween, but people commonly let off fireworks on Halloween too nonetheless. This is alarming for many dogs, and worse when unexpected and your dog is outside of the home.
For this reason alone, it is best to keep your dog inside after dark on Halloween.
The whole point of trick or treating is to get sweets and treats, and this means plenty of unsupervised candy, dropped food, and well-meaning people around who might feed your dog something dangerous or that you would prefer they don’t have.
Avoid your dog eating chocolate or something toxic and keep them at home – and take care with the sweets the kids bring home too!
You won’t be able to pay your full attention to supervising your dog whilst supervising your children, and your children’s attention spans will be even more split than yours. This is not a good combination when there are already so many variables involved that might unnerve or upset even the calmest of dogs.
Households that are encouraging or welcoming trick or treaters have no reason to expect a dog to be in attendance too, and whilst it is fair to assume that plenty will be pleased to see your dog, plenty of others will not!
People that you don’t know may not like dogs, may be afraid of them, may be allergic to them, or may have a dog of their own that will not be happy about another dog on their territory on what can already be a stressful night for dogs – and so it is rather rude to turn up with your own dog in tow.
It might seem like a good idea to send your dog out with your children if they’re trick or treating alone as a form of protection or security in case they run into problems. However, your dog is not and should not be used as a security system – they are not trained for this, and even if they were, being supervised by children is highly inappropriate.
If you are concerned enough about the safety of your children trick or treating that you’re considering sending the dog along for security, then you need to rethink letting your children go out trick or treating entirely.