Halloween’s a fun holiday … especially for children. But it’s not so great for dogs, who can find it scary and stressful. And it’s not just on Halloween night when the trick-or-treaters are out. So what can you do to manage your dog’s Halloween anxiety through the season?
8 Tips For Dog Halloween Anxiety
Here are some tips that can help your dog stay calm at Halloween.
#1 Manage Fear On Walks
Halloween decorations in the neighborhood can be an alarming sight for your dog … and you’ll see those throughout the month of October. Your dog may be scared by giant inflatables that sway in the breeze, or witches, ghosts and ghouls on your neighbors’ front lawns, often with eerie sound effects.
If your dog’s frightened of these displays, let him keep a safe distance … and then reward him with lots of praise and special treats when he stays calm. This will help him learn that good things happen when he sees the monsters … and over time he may learn to walk by calmly. But it’s also okay to let him cross the street if that helps him relax on his walks. Walks should be fun for your dog, so don’t force him to walk close to the scary stuff.
#2 Provide A Safe Place On Halloween Night
It’s It’s hard for dogs to be calm when trick-or-treaters are ringing the doorbell every couple of minutes. So encourage your dog to find a comfortable place to hang out for the evening. This will probably mean he needs to be far from windows and the front door, in a quiet area away from the fray. If he’s crate trained, his crate can be a nice cozy den to relax in.
#3 Distract Him With A Bone
If you’ve ever seen a dog really get engrossed in gnawing on a big bone, you’ll know that something delicious to chew on can really help your dog forget what’s going on around him. So give him a nice recreational bone that’ll keep him entertained and distract him from all the commotion. By the time he’s done with that, he may just fall asleep for a nice post-chew nap.
#4 Play Music
Research shows music can be calming for dogs (1). Most dogs find classical music soothing, but some may enjoy different genres. A Scottish study (2) found some dogs responded best to soft rock or reggae. So … experiment with your dog (prefereably for a few days or weeks before the holiday) and find out his favorite musical taste for relaxation.
If your dog needs more help with his Halloween anxiety, here are a few more tricks to have up your sleeve.
#5 Give Calming Herbs
There are several herbs that can help manage your dog’s anxiety, including …
- St John’s Wort
- Valerian root
- CBD oil
These can help with many types of dog anxiety or stress and can be helpful at Halloween too. You can find dosing and other information about these herbs at the link below.
#6 Try Bach Flower Essences
Bach flower essences (3) are gentle plant extracts that can really your dog with many emotional issues. And for Halloween, the Rescue Remedy blend is a great choice.
Rescue Remedy is a blend of 5 Bach flower remedies that can help both people and pets with fear and anxiety. Rescue Remedy contains …
- Impatiens – for agitation, impatience, irritability
- Rock Rose – for panic, hysteria, terror
- Cherry Plum – for loss of self-control
- Star of Bethlehem – for grief or trauma
- Clematis – for faintness, detachment
You can buy this popular blend in a pet formula in glycerin instead of alcohol, in just about any health store or even a pharmacy. But for most dogs, the alcohol version is fine too and won’t harm your dog.
Flower essences are very safe and nontoxic. Certified Bach Flower Practitioner Kelly Holland Azzaro RA, CCAP, CBFP, LMT explains that these plant essences are created by sunlight infusion. They’re so mild, they won’t interfere with any other medications and they have no side effects. Even in multi-pet households, you can put them in the water bowl, because they won’t have any effect on an animal who doesn’t need them.
There are several ways to give Rescue Remedy to your dog.
- Add a few drops to your dog’s drinking water (use spring or filtered water)
- Place some drops on food or treats
- Rub 1-2 drops on his ears or paws
- Place drops directly in his mouth
Note: If you dose directly in the mouth, it’s a good idea to use a separate dropper to dose, so you keep the bottle dropper clean. Otherwise, if the dropper touches his mouth, it could contaminate the remedy when you put it back in the bottle.
During busy trick-or-treat times on Halloween, you can give Rescue Remedy every 15 minutes until your dog feels calm.
#7 Add A Pressure Wrap
You can buy different types of pressure wraps, like the Thundershirt or Anxiety Wrap. TTouch founder Linda Tellington-Jones also designed a way to make a DIY wrap with an elastic bandage. Search online (YouTube is a good place to look) for “TTouch Wrap” to find a demo of how to do this.
All these tight wraps apply even pressure to your dog’s body (4). Dogs find it very calming … it’s a lot like swaddling a baby. Some fearful dogs will relax so much they fall asleep during storms or fireworks … and it could be very soothing for your dog on Halloween.
#8 Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are a natural but powerful medicine. It’s important to get high-quality oils that are safe for dogs.
Diffusion is great for stress. Lavender oil can calm to your dog’s environment and work wonders for anxiety. One Japanese study (5) found dogs’ heart rates slowed when treated with lavender oil. But if you diffuse oils, you must allow your dog (and other pets) a way to leave the room if they feel uncomfortable.
Recipe For General Fear or Anxiety
This mixture contains neroli, petitgrain, and lavender in a carrier oil that’s safe for topical use. Mix really well.
Start with a carrier base such as:
- 2 oz Jojoba oil
- OR 2 oz aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) gel
- OR lavender hydrosol for a spray mist
Add suggested essential oils:
- 8-10 drops of neroli
- 6-8 drops of petitgrain
- 4-6 drops of lavender
Spray lightly onto the back of your dog’s neck or rub on his collar.
Note: usually it’s safest to avoid putting essential oils on your dog’s skin or coat, where he could lick it and get an unintended oral dose. But this diluted recipe was developed to be safe for topical use.
You and your human family might love Halloween, but if it upsets your dog, now you have some tools to help him get through the holiday.
- Lindig AM, McGreevy PD, Crean AJ. Musical Dogs: A Review of the Influence of Auditory Enrichment on Canine Health and Behavior. Animals. 2020; 10(1):127.
- A Bowman et al. The effect of different genres of music on the stress levels of kennelled dogs. Physiology & Behavior, 15 March 2017.
- Nicole Cottam, Nicholas H. Dodman, James C. Ha, The effectiveness of the Anxiety Wrap in the treatment of canine thunderstorm phobia: An open-label trial. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Volume 8, Issue 3, 2013.
- Komiya M et al. Evaluation of the effect of topical application of lavender oil on autonomic nerve activity in dogs. Am J Vet Res. 2009 Jun;70(6):764-9.