The haunted house may be a lifetime thrill for your five year old, but Halloween poses some terrors for your dog that aren’t so fun. If your dog has a near nervous breakdown every time the doorbell rings, Halloween can be a true nightmare for both of you.

Keep in mind that your dog doesn’t understand Halloween. For him, it’s not a meet and greet, it’s a time when people are continuously breaching the security of your home, a home he may have sworn in his doggie heart to protect.

Alternatively, your dog might see this as a time to escape. The door is being opened repeatedly. Fido may think this means he’s finally welcome to express his full wanderlust. Understanding Halloween from your dog’s point of view will help you allay his anxiety and prepare your home to keep him safe.

Do you need to participate?

Remember, you’re not obliged to participate in trick or treating. Even if your neighborhood is a trick or treat designated area, turning off all your porch lights and the lights in the front rooms of the house pretty clearly sends the message that you’re not home--or not playing.

You might be asking, “Is it fair to take my kids trick or treating and then not reciprocate?” Yes, it’s fair. Your first duty is to your children and your animals. If letting people come to the door is going to freak your dog out more than he can bear, I give you complete absolution for keeping your lights off.

If there is any lingering doubt in your mind about whether your dog might bite or claw a child, you need to drop out of Halloween or board your pup.

Consider boarding

Some dogs hate being boarded and some have love affairs with the kennel staff. If your dog shows no signs of stress, such as tucked tail or low whining, after being boarded, you may want to just give him or her a day at the doggie spa.

Many of the higher end doggie daycare and boarding facilities offer grooming, walking, playing, and socialization with other dogs. Your dog might really enjoy all the attention.

Find a safe spot for your dog

Even if you think you have the sweetest, calmest dog in the world, you still need to keep her separate from the trick or treaters.

No dog is completely predictable around people she doesn’t know, especially those strangers wearing weird costumes! Furthermore, some children fear dogs and may exacerbate a dog’s negative reaction to them. 

Some dogs take comfort in their dog crate when things get too hectic. If that’s your dog, you can crate him for the hours of trick or treating which should be roughly 5-9 p.m.

Other safe spots include:

  • A secured yard that keeps a fence between your dog and the rest of the world, including people who come to the door.
  • An enclosed back or side porch.
  • If all else fails, the basement or bathroom

Avoid shutting dogs into spaces where they can do a lot of damage. You don’t want to find your family quilt or expensive hiking gear torn to shreds.

Does your dog really need a costume?

For the most part, dogs don’t need clothes. And, for the most part, they hate being dressed up unless conditioned otherwise. If you cannot resist the temptation to put a costume on your dog, make sure it has no chewable parts and no parts that constrict movement or breathing.

In fact, you should have your dog within sight at all times when he or she is costumed.

Keeping Max safe on Halloween is mostly a matter of common sense. Keep him away from the central drama, and everyone will be happy. And don’t forget to put the chocolate (and other candy with artificial sweeteners like xylitol) up high so he doesn’t indulge in those poisonous treats.


Guest post by Bernie the Boxer. Bernie is a seven-year-old boxer who loves playing fetch with his dad, Adrian. He also loves keeping himself busy with while his parents are at work.