Halloween represents an evening that, from your dog's perspective, is far from normal. From the many costumed munchkins roaming the neighborhood to the doorbell ringing every two minutes, your dog may enjoy the frenzy of activity or become quite concerned about it. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
If your dog has a solid, friendly temperament and routinely handles exposure to strangers without reacting, include her on your walk through the neighborhood. Use a 4- to 6-foot leash only; long or retractable leads can become entangled among the eager goblins and ghouls running from house to house. Take along a baggie or two for the inevitable "oopsie" on the neighbor's lawn. Watch for discarded candy or wrappers, and don't allow your dog to swallow anything that you haven't given her personally. If your dog lacks good manners or still needs exposure to learn how to behave around strangers, this is not the night to do it -- no dog will benefit from constant scolding or leash-popping for inappropriate behavior.
If your dog is to remain at home with you, take her general behavior and temperament into account when deciding whether to allow her to remain loose in the house, out in the yard, or tucked away and possibly crated in a room far from the activities. If she explosively barks every time someone rings the doorbell, keep her contained at the other end of the house so you don't spend the evening scolding her and tearing your hair out. Or, alternatively, make this truly a night of treats: Withhold her ration of kibble all day, and use it on Halloween to prevent her from barking at the door. Just prior to every ring or knock at the door, throw a handful of kibble down the hallway and excitedly say, "Go get those cookies!" She'll be too busy tracking down kibble to bolt out the open door.
A dog left out in the yard may spend her time barking at every "intruder" who walks by, so this may not be the ideal environment for her to spend the evening. If she is offered a special project of her own, like a big meaty femur bone or rawhide, she may remain focused on consuming it and tune out the neighborhood activity. If this doesn't prevent her constant barking, contain her properly, preferably indoors. Remember, barking can be a symptom of stress, so understand your dog's reason behind the behavior and take care to make her evening as stress-free as possible.
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Many dogs are just as enthusiastic about the taste of chocolate as we are, but it should never be consumed by your pet. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs, and although variables such as your dog's size, individual sensitivity and amount of consumption are all factors to consider, toxicity affects the nervous and cardiovascular system. Even a small taste of chocolate may encourage your dog to go after larger quantities, so it's best kept off limits completely.
Lisa Moore's pet-behavior column appears once a month on the Pet Page. Write to her in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.