Should you include your dog in the Halloween festivities?

As Charlotte’s premier dog training center, The Dog Knowledge receives dozens of phone calls from members and area dog owners regarding whether to include the family dog in the Halloween festivities. Since The Dog Knowledge is a member’s only facility we are fortunate in that we know the personality of every dog that visits us for training, a play day or an overnight in one of luxury cottages.  85% of the member dogs at The Dog Knowledge have gone through one of our training packages where the dog lives at The Dog Knowledge for a minimum of 3 weeks and works with a certified dog training specialist.  Our training program involves the newest most advanced, positive reinforcement dog training methods which involve multiple short training sessions of 15 minutes spread out throughout the day.  My point is that at The Dog Knowledge we know each and every dog on a personal level.  And regarding whether or not a dog should join the family in Halloween festivities depends on the personality of each dog.


Most dogs, as smart as they are, can’t look at a large 300lb stranger wearing a puffy coat that makes the person look like the Michelin man and wearing a hat that makes the person look like a giant… and simply deduce that if that person took off the coat, took off the hat, they would look like everyone else.  No, most dogs will react to anyone dressed in unusual garb.  Also, any dog that has not been around children will very often react to these “little people” simply because they have never seen a person half the size of a grownup and also children exude energy and often use a lot of body language when they approach a dog.  Additionally dogs can show fear if they meet a person of a different race than their family for the first time.  Dogs depend on the pictures that they develop as to what is a “normal” looking person and what is not.  At The Dog Knowledge, we train a lot of therapy dogs and service dogs.  One of the first hurdles we, as knowledgeable dog trainers must get over is a dog’s reaction to a person in a wheel chair, walkers, crutches, a cane or even a person that walks with an obvious limp.  Anything out of the norm can result in a dog having an adverse reaction.

So, what do you think the average family dog thinks when Halloween comes around and their world of “normalcy” has been turned upside down?

Here are a few do’s and don’ts regarding whether to include your dog in the Halloween festivities:

  • At The Dog Knowledge, the dog trainers and behavioral specialist unanimously agree that any dog under the age of 1 year should not be exposed to all the costumes, etc.  The reason for this is that somewhere around 9 months of age, dogs go through a second fear imprint period.  The first fear imprint period is around 9 weeks of age.  Each dog is different and each breed of dog is different but somewhere between 7 months to 1 year of age your dog will go through a fear period. In the event that your dog is experiencing this second fear imprint period, exposing your dog to adults and children in all types of costumes has the potential to affect your dog for life.  So why take the chance?
  • Do not take your dog trick or treating if your dog has any aggression issues.  95% of all aggression is fear based.  A fearful dog should never be taken around children and adults dressed in costumes.
  • If you plan to put your dog in a costume, understand that your dog might not enjoy dressing up.  Also, design a costume that doesn’t cover a dog’s eyes or restrict a dog from going “potty.”
  • Walk your dog early on Halloween, while it is still light outside.  Your dog may find candy, wrappers, and broken eggs on lawns and streets.  Make sure that these “tempting treats” stay out of reach.  Also, your dog will feel less intimidated by costumes that he can see in the light of day.
  • Don’t leave your dog outside unattended on Halloween, even if he is behind a fence.  Pranksters may target your dog with eggs, and passersby may be tempted to give him harmful treats and candy.
  • If you want your dog to greet trick-or-treaters, keep him on Place if he has been trained for it, or on a leash.  He may be stressed by the noise, activity, or simply the interruption of his normal routine.
  • Chocolate and sweets can be dangerous to your dog.  The canine digestive system is not adapted for sweets, and chocolate contains Theobromine, which can be harmful and sometimes fatal to your dog.  Baking chocolate is especially high in this chemical.

If your dog is fearful, the dog trainers at The Dog Knowledge suggest that you crate your dog for the evening and locate the crate in an area where your dog won’t be as aware of the door bell or be able to see the little goblins.

If all else fails, and you are a member at The Dog Knowledge, bring your pooch to our facility during the “witching hours” of 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm.  We are offering 2 hours of FREE daycare to all members wanting to make certain that their dog is safe and secure during the time that witches and dragons are roaming the neighborhoods.