(Family Features) Including pets in your family’s Halloween festivities can be a fun addition to your celebration. However, with all the excitement comes the chance for pets to get into danger or trouble. You can head off potential problems and enjoy an evening of fun with some safety tips and smart planning.
Keeping your pet away from candy and other Halloween treats is especially important because so many favorites include chocolate, which is potentially toxic for dogs. It’s also an ideal time to practice obedience commands with your four-legged friends, as crowds of unfamiliar people, costumes and lots of open doors can create temptations too hard to resist.
To include your furry family members while still keeping them safe during the fun, follow this advice from the pet experts at PetSmart:
* Before hitting the streets, make sure your dog is socialized around kids, adults and other animals.
* Bring water and treats such as crunchy Blue Buffalo Boo Bars to reward your dog for good behavior and reduce the desire to go for kids’ candy.
* Increase nighttime visibility with LED leashes, collars or harnesses, or look for the light-up Halloween outfits available at PetSmart this year.
Pawsitively good party manners
* Before guests arrive, practice “leave it” or a similar command. This is useful to help pets avoid candy or food they might encounter on the ground. Trainers can help you get it down right.
* Establish a rule that guests don’t feed the dog – candy or human food. A new interactive toy or long-lasting rawhide may keep your pup busy and out of temptation’s way. Many ingredients commonly found in Halloween candy can be harmful to your pet. For example, xylitol, found in gum and candy can cause dangerously low blood sugar or liver disease in dogs. Chocolate can create a range of symptoms, from vomiting to abnormal heart rhythm to death. Even snacks that are healthy for humans, such as raisins can cause a toxic reaction.
* Prevent your dog from running out an open door by working on a “stay” command. PetSmart’s expert trainer Debbie McKnight explains how to teach this trick: Ask your dog to sit, and praise him when he obeys. While your dog is sitting, say “stay” and place your hand flat with your palm facing the dog. Wait 2-3 seconds then give your dog a treat. You can increase the time he stays by a couple of seconds every three repetitions, working up to 30 seconds.
* If you aren’t confident about your dog’s abilities, keep him on a leash while the doorbell is ringing.
Costume comfort and safety
* A costume should never constrain or bother your pet. If your pet isn’t comfortable, try a strap-on costume that attaches loosely with snaps or around the pet, or find other ways to look festive such as Pet Expressions, available in the PetSmart grooming salon.
* Once a costume fits properly, make sure your pet won’t trip on anything like a cape or ribbon. Check for little parts within chewing distance and keep identification tags on collars.
* Throughout the evening, watch your pet and make adjustments as needed. You may need to cut or remove portions of the costume to increase a pet’s comfort. The most important part of the evening is your pet’s safety.
For more tips on pet safety, as well as costumes and events, visit your local PetSmart or www.PetSmart.com/halloween.