Halloween and Special Needs Dogs

Rugby PirateThere are some holidays which Rugby can totally embrace, and others which he’s not so crazy about.  Halloween would be one of the holidays that is always difficult at my house.  Some dogs are so chill with doorbells and kids and costumes….but Rugby just would not be one of them!  He comes absolutely unglued with a doorbell ring, and oddly dressed kid strangers at the door surprising him all night long is a recipe for disaster at my house.

So, here’s what we’ve done to simplify things and keep Rugby as stress free as possible.  My husband Michael mans the door with the candy and the trick-or-treaters.  We keep our inside door open, and Michael hangs out by the door, so that he can intercept the kids before they ring the doorbell.  One HUGE problem solved for us!

Secondly, I generally take Rugby into the master bedroom, close the door, and turn on the TV with the volume loud, to mask any other sounds going on in another part of the house.  I put his Thundershirt on him, because he’s far less reactive when he wears it.  I always make sure he has a couple of his piggies available to grab just in case!  Second problem solved.

Generally, if Rugby can’t see or hear what’s going on, he can stay pretty calm and non-reactive.  It’s certainly not a perfect system, but it really helps make the evening as stress-free for all of us as possible.

If you live alone, you might try doing something similar, but put your dog in a suitable bedroom with a radio or TV on loudly.  A crate will work really well in situations like this, and in other homes, that’s what we’ve done with Rugby when we didn’t have a good set up to use our current system.  Just make sure the crate is in a remote area of the house, with a radio or TV on to help block the noises.  If you can find a friend who can come over for the evening to give you a hand, that might also be helpful.

When unique situations like Halloween come up, it’s helpful to plan ahead and work out your own system so that you’ll already have things in place when the big day arrives.   Here are some things to consider:

  • What are your dog’s triggers?  Sights?  Sounds?
  • What generally helps your dog stay calm?
  • What can you offer your dog to help squelch his anxiety?  A frozen peanut butter Kong toy?  A new chew bone or squeaky toy to help keep his interest?
  • Can you give your dog some additional exercise earlier in the day so that he’s going to be extra tired when the trick-or-treaters arrive?

Halloween is one of the nights every year where I plan ahead as best I can, hold my breath and hope for the best!

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