Safety, Security & Halloween
with Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie of PathandPaw, Training Advocate

A while ago I was listening to a podcast (don't ask me which one, I can't remember!) and there was a discussion about safety vs security, which I found super interesting.


Safety is defined as the condition of being protected from or unlikely to cause danger, risk, or injury.


Security is defined as the state of feeling safe, stable, and free from fear or anxiety.


It seems so simple and yet it was a little "aha" moment for me. Safety and security are not always implicitly linked. You (or your dog) can BE totally safe but not feel secure. An example would be my fearful dog, Muchacho, who is absolutely safe in our home, but does not feel secure when strangers enter. Conversely it's possible for us (or our dogs) to feel quite secure while being unsafe. An example may be Koa running gleefully down the street after slipping her collar (yup, it's happened to me, too!) She feels perfectly secure and is having a great time, meanwhile I am all too aware of just how unsafe she is!


As Halloween approaches, I see a lot of posts about Halloween safety. I'm sure you've seen them, too, and they are important! We should all be vigilant about the dangers of chocolate and xylitol in candy, and keep it well out of reach of our dogs. We should all be mindful that young dogs can easily chew and swallow inappropriate items like decorations, or can get snagged and tangled when in costumes while unsupervised. Plus, trick or treaters often means that front door opening and closing many times, which is quite the flight risk! Yikes!


But let's talk about your dog's feelings of security, too. For many dogs, people coming and going at the front door is already quite the event. Some find it exciting, some find it frightening, but either way the sheer volume of visitors on Halloween can be a LOT for our dog's emotionally, especially when it comes to that dang doorbell. Now, add costumes to the mix, and we have a real recipe for, "WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING?"


People in costume can be quite distressing, not only at your doorstep, but also out and about in the world! Taking your dog for a Halloween stroll may seem like a great idea (and for some dogs, it could be no biggie), but for many encountering so many odd ghouls and goblins and masked figures can truly be stressful.


Plus - Halloween decorations are often big, imposing, strange looking, and sometimes even designed to emit scary sounds or make unexpected movements!


Pups in costume are truly adorable. Believe me, I get it! But what's not so adorable are all the stress signals I often see costumed dogs exhibiting. Tucked tails, pinned ears, wide eyes, tightly closed mouths. If your dog has been practicing building positive associations with the handling and weird sensations that come along with costume-wearing already, then great! They're probably all set. But for many dogs, being popped into an oversized taco suit that messes with their gait and constrains their body, can truly be an uncomfortable experience.


So as the spooky day approaches, I urge you to be proactive about your dog's needs. Get those evening walkies in early, and prep enrichment activities to keep them busy in the evening. Giving them their own comfortable space away from the commotion can be a welcome relief. A quiet room is great, an x-penned area or baby gated part of a room could do the trick. A little white noise can help stifle some of the ruckus, too! And when it comes to costumes, you could begin conditioning your dog to get comfortable with their seasonal wear, or just keep it festive with a fun bandana or collar and leave the costumes to the kiddos (or let's be real, the adult humans, too...)


How are you planning on setting your dogs up to be safe and secure on Halloween? I'd love to hear your ideas or see your cozy set ups!