Karen Wild: Hallowe’en is really scary

Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001
Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001

Are you planning to dress up as a spook this Hallowe'en? Or, as is more popular, a Marvel character?

I can guarantee that if you are, you have also looked at the mass of costumes for your dog (or even, cat) that are on sale over the season. Last year our dogs, who already wear coats sometimes, wore bumble bee coats instead and made a tiny swarm on their walk that day.

I am not fond of 'dressing up' our pets just for our own amusement, but I made this concession because they were fine with coats already. I appeal to your sense of kindness and welfare here.

Your dog might not appreciate being a pirate or pumpkin even if you think they look adorable! You can, however, teach them that adding an extra layer doesn't need to be the scary thing they might experience if you just bung on a cute outfit.

Firstly, allow them to sniff at it, lie on it, not chew it, but to get used to it being around, as it will no doubt smell of the factory it was made in, everyone who made and packaged it, the journey it has taken in the post and so on. Dogs have the most incredible sense of smell!

Next, work out how you will put it onto them without upsetting or scaring them. It might be that you need to offer a treat as you attach it, but always give your dog the opportunity to move away if they choose. I know you want to see how adorable they will look, but they are your best friend, your responsibility, so be thoughtful. Once your dog is happily having a treat whilst their outfit is being put on, they will associate it with a good time!

If you can't make progress, tuck the outfit away for another time, and concentrate on your own costume instead. This is still valuable time for your dog, as you will suddenly look very different to them. No matter how tempted you are, putting your 'Donald Trump' mask on and saying 'BOO' is likely to cause your dog some deep trauma, so don't!

Get them used to playing peek-a-boo with you in mask, then not in mask, so that your dog knows it is you behind the strangeness.

Keep your dog well out of the way if you are likely to get trick-or-treat callers. An evening of strangers appearing in the dark at the door can cause a lifetime of unwanted habits. Your dog learns that barking means people are scared away - oops!

In one case I have seen, the dog ran out of the doorway and bit a tiny trick-or-treater on the doorstep! He had been worried about callers all evening and this was the final straw.

Any Hallowe'en is meant to be spooky fun, not terror and mayhem. Look out for your dog.