How to keep your pet safe and happy on Halloween

Updated 9:49 AM EDT, Tue October 30, 2012

Story highlights

Get your pet accustomed to its Halloween costume before taking it out on the town

Don't dress up an aggressive dog and take it out trick-or-treating as trouble may ensue

Practice obedience commands indoors and outdoors so your dog is prepared

Take treats with you to reward your dressed-up dog for behaving well

(CNN) —  

I celebrate Halloween by dimming the lights and cuddling with my dog Lulu as Charlie Brown’s pal Linus waits in vain for the Great Pumpkin on TV. Like poor Linus, we are part of a shrinking minority. The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend a record $8 billion on Halloween festivities this year. That’s a lot of Whoppers, M&Ms and Snickers bars. Pet owners will spend a whopping $370 million on costumes for the pets alone.

If you plan to dress up your pet for Halloween this year, follow these tips to avoid a night filled with horror stories.

1. Buying a costume? Don’t force the issue. Some pets love the attention they get from wearing clothes or costumes. Others express their contempt in clear and concise ways. If your pet hates donning costumes, grab a quick photo and set them free. Otherwise, you will spend the evening watching them shake off those devil ears. As Linus says, there’s always next year.

2. Practice walking in the costume. Give pets time to get acclimated to their costume (and yours) before the big day. Make sure nothing impairs their mobility or vision. You may need to cut wider eye holes on Batman masks or trim the cape of that Superdog costume so pups don’t trip. Also, be sure that your pet’s collar and leash fit comfortably.

3. Make sure pet tags are up to date. Even the most mild-mannered dog may get spooked by the arrival of ghosts and goblins. No costume should be complete without a collar that includes updated ID tags.

Related on MNN: Top 10 Halloween costumes for pets

4. Practice basic obedience commands. Ghoulish surprises may be hiding behind every corner. Work on basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and especially “leave it.” Make sure your pet understands that these rules apply indoors and outdoors. Bring high-value pet treats — Lulu works for cheese — so pets stay motivated.

5. Keep anxious pets away from action at the front door. Some pets patiently greet kids who arrive in search of treats. If your pet likes to dash, find a quiet spot far from the action and keep them occupied with interactive toys.

6. Monitor that treat bag. Halloween kicks off a season of upset tummies for people and pets. Make sure your pet stays far away from goodie bags and watch for stray pieces of candy that may be on the ground. I keep the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center hotline (1-888-426-4435) handy, just in case Lulu finds an unapproved treat.

7. Don’t leave pets unattended in costumes. Avoid choking hazards by monitoring your pet while it’s dressed as a bumblebee, Honey Boo Boo or whatever else you conjure up.

Related on MNN: Dogs decked out for ‘Howl-o-ween’

8. Use extra caution around kids. The pitter-patter of pint-sized feet can be scary for kids and pets. Review “7 things kids should know about safely interacting with pets,” and make sure kids understand that wagging tails don’t always mean happy dogs. Use extra caution when walking onto a dog’s “turf” to pick up treats.

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