Having worked with dogs for over 20 years, husband and wife team Christopher and Bridgeen Hanlon know a thing or two about keeping pets calm.
As well as running Ireland's first subscription-based dog food, Werewolf Food, the two run Brookvale Detectio, a dog-training fascility that has built a global reputation breeding and training specialist sniffer dogs used by police and government services locally and internationally as far afield as Singapore and USA.
With Halloween just around the corner, we can expect to see bonfires, fireworks and other things that our dogs may struggle to deal with.
Here, Chris Hanlon shares his top tips for keeping your dog happy and safe: "Halloween anxiety in dogs in a very real scenario and although you’ll know when your dog is scared, unhappy or nervous, knowing how to handle it in the moment, or avoid it altogether is key. Every element of the day from the food to the fireworks needs to be considered but planning a little ahead should make for a relaxing evening."
"Bringing your dog for a longer walk than usual early in the evening or late in the afternoon, before much of the madness ensues, will help to relax them as much as possible and hopefully mean they are a little bit less angsty if the evening turns out be full of loud noises and have lots of visitors. As we know, the fireworks and noises can be unexpected so it’s worthwhile keeping your dog on its lead throughout."
2. Hide the sweet treats
"The next obvious risk to dogs on Halloween night is the sweet treats left for trick-or-treaters. These need to be kept out of reach of your furry friend. We all know our dogs will sniff out every human treat they are not supposed to have and get up to all kinds of mischief in the kitchen when we’re not looking so it’s worthwhile being extra careful and leaving treats in high cupboards or locked away in between trick-or-treater visits.
"Monkey nut shells can be a choking risk while chocolate and other sweet treats can be poisonous to dogs and cause tummy upset so stick to the dog-friendly treats to include your dog in the fun."
3. Dangerous décor
As with the sweet treats, Chris reminds us that dangerous decorations can be a risk too. He says that the number one risk is lit pumpkins.
"We all know our dogs are curious and as they aren’t used to inviting lit pumpkins, keep them out of paws reach. Overall, my advice would be not to overdo it – the more the house appears to be unfamiliar, especially with scary statues and hangers, the more your dog will get riled up. Bear in mind too that by wearing a mask, your dog no longer recognises you and your family members so perhaps pop it on out of their sight."
4. Stay with them
Chris explains, "It might seem like the practical option to keep your dog away from the noise in the quietest part of the house but we can underestimate just how scary fireworks, spooky costumes and consistent unexpected visitors can be to dogs so I suggest keeping them close, giving them their favourite toys to keep them as distracted as possible and comforting them with affection as they need it. A handy trick is to turn on music or the TV to try and drown out external noise as much as possible."
Chris has a handy tip for dealing with the influx of visitors. He recommends leaving a note on the door for trick or treaters to knock quietly so you don’t disturb your dog too much.
"Similarly, I always draw the curtains too so our dogs don’t see them coming and going and passing. The most-important thing is to ensure your dog doesn’t come to the door with you.
6. Make a den
"Depending on their personality, some dogs will take comfort in hiding behind the sofa or a nook in the room. If you think from past experience that this might be something your dog will do, it’s worth creating a den a few days before so they know they have somewhere to go on the big night. Putting a kids’ tepee in the room where you’ll be, or even a cardboard box, can do the trick."
7. Know the signs
"Curiosity and worry reveal themselves very differently in dogs. If your dog has heard a noise and is barking in response, don’t rile them more or give them additional cause for concern by responding too much to this. Similarly, a little whimper here and there is fine too. However, excessive panting, shaking and pacing are all signs that Halloween activity is affecting your dog more than you might think. It’s also very important to watch their evening food intake and even the next day as refusing their food is good indicator of upset."
8. Ask a friend
"If you have a gut feeling that your dog isn’t going to react well, it might be worthwhile asking a friend in a quieter area if you can pop round for the busy times or even asking them to dog sit. You can also consider a boarding kennels in a rural area that you rate so you can have some peace of mind."
For more information and advice, visit werewolffood.com.