Halloween ain't a dog's holiday

So many chances to escape. So much chocolate.

Chances are, you probably haven't thought about what you're going to do with Fido come Halloween (unless you're of the ilk that dresses dogs in costumes). More power to you if you've been planning Cupcake's pumpkin garb for months. But imagine for a second what your dog must feel like when the 31st rolls around: ringing doorbells, screaming children and lots of food she can't eat. It's enough to make any dog a little irritable.

Halloween is actually the most dangerous holiday for dogs, according to dog behavioral therapist Ryan McPherson. "We hear about more dogs dying or straying during Halloween than any other holiday," McPherson says. Whether it's a door opened too long for trick-or-treaters or a candy bowl placed within reach of an inquisitive nose, the night can pose all sorts of problems for your pooch.

McPherson suggests several easy solutions for a worry-free Halloween, which essentially boil down to making sure that your dog is in a safe, confined area away from the door throughout the duration of the event. For timid and people-loving dogs alike, Halloween presents a unique challenge with new people arriving every few minutes. Fido may be lunging at the door in anticipation of licking the face of someone new, while Fluffy is huddle against the door frame, shaking. McPherson points out that unusual activity triggers a dog's fight or flight response, which will keep them stressed as long as the doorbell is ringing. Make efforts to keep them away from the noise. Even if you have an outside dog, it's best to keep them indoors to avoid all the activity outside; McPherson suggests making sure that they're comfortable inside before the holiday to ease the transition.

For the rare dog who is comfortable with people coming and going, just make sure that she is restrained; few things are less fun than running up and down a dark street in the cold, hoping to find a dog in the dark. In fact, the only thing that will make you more worried is if you have to make an emergency trip to the vet to get her stomach pumped, so make sure the candy bowl is well out of reach.

If you're hosting a party, consider taking your dog to a friend's house; having to listen to someone's dog bark constantly doesn't create a festive atmosphere, especially when you're trying to chat up the cute zombie. Also, having lots of people in and out of the house increases the chance that your dog may get away; it only takes one person to mistake the laundry room for the bathroom, and suddenly Fido is mouth-deep in the punch bowl on the table.

Even when Halloween is over, it's important to remain vigilant about errant candy or decorations. One year my sister spread out all of her Halloween candy on the floor and forgot to close her door. Our dog ate an entire bag of Hershey's Kisses, a fact we deduced when she started throwing up the little tinfoil wrappers. (The resulting vet bill was well in the hundreds.) Another year, we had pieces of piping lying around, and she got her head stuck in what was essentially a neck brace for several hours. We laughed when we got home, but she could have injured herself if the proportions of the pipe had been different.

And if you must dress up your pooch for Halloween, make sure that he or she is comfortable in the costume; you wouldn't want someone to dress you up in something uncomfortable, so don't inflict the same on your pooch. Stick to simple costumes — a scarf, maybe a set of devil horns — and make sure that dogs with thin coats are warm enough. Your dog may want to stick her own set of devil horns on you by the end of the evening because you made her miss all the fun, but it's worth it to make sure she's still around next Halloween.

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