Halloween and trick-or-treat festivities can be a little overwhelming for some dogs. Which is not surprising given the friendly neighborhood kids now look like mini superheroes, witches and vampires. So instead of taking your dog trick-or-treating, how about inviting their BFFs (best furry friends) over for a Halloween hound haunt instead? If this seems like a spooktacular idea to you, we’ve got some tips and tricks for making Halloween fun for your dog and their friends.
Who to Haunt and When
The first decision to make is when to host your haunt. Halloween night may be the obvious choice, but pet parents who also have human kids will probably be busy trick or treating with them. So what about a lunchtime party? If October 31 falls on a weekday, it may be best to host it a few days before Halloween.
Next is who to invite. To avoid a ruckus at your party, it’s best to keep your guest list to dogs who all know each other and get along well. On the invitation, remind their pet parents to bring a leash and make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date.
Decorate Your Haunted House, Safely
Time to have some fun by decorating your house! The main thing to consider to make sure the decorations aren’t too spooky for dogs — you don’t want to actually scare your guests.
While you’re decorating, remember to watch out for potential hazards. Some Halloween decorations designed for people parties aren’t safe for dogs, like fake spider webs or small objects that could be choking hazards like plastic eyeballs, spiders or bats. Do not light real candles anywhere — a bump from an excited party goer can easily start a fire. If you use battery-operated candles, make sure they’re out of reach, so curious chewers don’t swallow the batteries.
Jack-o’-lanterns should also be kept away from the canine partiers. Cooked pumpkin is a healthy food for dogs, but raw pumpkin can be hard to digest and a choking hazard, and the pumpkin stem and raw seeds are not good for dogs either.
Dogs Required. Costumes Optional.
For anyone attending a Halloween party, their first thought is usually, “What should I wear?” Some very cute and clever Halloween costumes for dogs are available, but remember that not all dogs are comfortable wearing costumes or clothes. So be clear on your invitation that costumes are optional. You might suggest that everyone wear a spooky bandana instead.
Costumes can even be dangerous for dogs: if, for example, they’re too tight or have easily accessible dangling things that look like good chew toys. We have some tips for choosing a costume for your dog in our article “Safely — If Spookily — Costuming Your Dog for Halloween.” No one wants a party to end with a trip to the emergency veterinary clinic.
Let the Games Begin!
What’s a party without some fun games! Bobbing for apples is a classic party game you can switch up for dogs by having them bob for toys. Fill a container (e.g., a kid’s pool) with water and add some floating dog toys. Let your guests take turns (to avoid any resource-guarding party fouls) and have them pick out a toy that they can keep as party favor.
You could also make a doggy version of a spooky funhouse by creating a decorated obstacle course. Get creative with some cardboard boxes, broom sticks (perfect for a wicked witch decoration), laundry baskets, hoops and furniture. Use a few treats to encourage your guests to enter the funhouse — if they dare!
There’s also the classic dog game “Trick for Treats.” Ask each guest to perform a trick to get a treat. You could also have a special prize for any dogs that can do a Halloween-related trick, like walking on their back legs like a zombie or howling at the moon. Include this challenge on your invitation so your guests have time to practice their special trick.
No Candy for You!
After all the fun and games, your guests are probably going to be hungry, including the pet parents. It’s a good idea to ask about food allergies or sensitivities for both pet parents and their pups on the invitation so you can cater for that. Also, make sure both the human food and the canine food don’t include anything toxic to dogs, including candy and chocolate. That way you don’t have to worry about a canine guest gobbling down the wrong food if a plate gets left within their reach. Plenty of water bowls around the house is also a must because partying is thirsty work!
Shh! What Was That?
A Halloween party isn’t complete without a ghost story or two, and there are plenty of ghostly tails out there. Here’s one to get you started. The Holly Hotel has been referred to as the most haunted historic building in Michigan. As well as visits from human apparitions, people have encountered Leona, the dog that belonged to the hotel’s first formal hotelier. Leona has been heard running down the halls and felt brushing against people’s legs. The early morning chefs at the hotel often hear phantom barking, too. Spooky!
Ask your human guests to share any ghostly dog stories that they have heard. Or if they think that their dog can see ghosts. Does their dog growl when there appears to be nothing there? Or gaze fixedly at a blank wall? We attempt to provide some answers for these phenomenon in our article “Can Your Dog See Ghosts?” How do you explain their strange behavior?
People shouldn’t be the only ones to enjoy the fun and festivities of Halloween. It’s a perfect excuse to get your dog’s buddies together for a Halloween spooktacular!
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