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Fall Safety Tips for Puppy, Adult, and Senior Dogs

We have tips for every age range, helping to keep your dog safe when holiday madness kicks into high gear.

Audrey Pavia  |  Oct 28th 2015

Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our October/November issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

Fall is here, and Halloween and Thanksgiving are just around the corner. That’s good news if you’re a dog owner, because you and your dog can have lots of fun during these cool-weather holidays.

First on the calendar is Halloween. Every October 31, my Corgi, Nigel, wore a pumpkin costume and helped me hand out candy at the door. The look on the trick-or-treaters’ faces was priceless. Not many had ever seen a four-legged pumpkin before.

Thanksgiving was another adventure for Nigel. Whether the feast was at our house or another family member’s, Nigel was always there, waiting for the special treat he got every year — a slice of turkey.

Fall fun with a dog by Shutterstock.

Fall fun with a dog by Shutterstock.

While having your dog around during the fall holidays can be loads of fun, you’ll need to take some precautions to keep him safe.


If you have a young puppy in the house, take major precautions to make sure he doesn’t get into trouble. Both Halloween and Thanksgiving can pose hazards for young dogs.

Costumes. While it might sound like a fun idea to dress your puppy up in a costume for Halloween, waiting until he’s older is a better idea. Puppies are notorious for chewing just about everything they can get their mouths on. Those sharp puppy teeth will make quick work of a Halloween costume. The pup may swallow some of it, and you’ll be spending November 1 at the animal hospital. If your heart is set on dressing up your pup for Halloween, keep the costume on him just as long as you need to in order to get a few photos. Once you are done taking pictures, remove the costume before he can damage it or hurt himself.

Trick-or-treaters. Young puppies are easily frightened by loud noises and scary people, so a steady stream
of weird-looking visitors ringing the doorbell all night can be traumatic. Puppies are especially prone to fear during the 8- to 10-week-old stage of their development, and anything that scares them during this time can have a lasting effect. Keep your pup in a back room during the busiest trick-or-treating time of the evening. Help keep him calm by turning on the TV or a radio to help drown out the noise of the doorbell.

Cool weather fun. In between the fall holidays, you can have all kinds of fun with an older puppy. The weather is cool, and it’s a perfect time for some outdoor activities, like hiking, biking, and playing games. Find a dog-friendly park where you can take in the fall colors while you do a moderate hike, or teach your dog to follow along with you while you slowly ride your bike on a quiet, residential street.

Outdoor games like fetch and flying disk are ideal for a cool fall day. If it’s raining out, stay inside and play
hide-and-seek with a treat, encouraging your puppy to find it. You can also teach your older puppy some tricks like “play dead” or “roll over” so he can impress guests when the winter holidays roll in.

Fully grown

Once your dog is fully grown, you can have more fun with him during the fall holidays. He’s hopefully had some training and plenty of socializing and is ready for all the hubbub.

Costumes. Adult dogs are great candidates for Halloween costumes. If you want to dress up your dog for Halloween, get him used to his costume before October 31. That way, he’ll be less likely to spend most of Halloween trying to remove it. Pick a costume that is comfortable and safe. Pet supply stores and online pet supply retailers sell a variety of costumes for dogs in different sizes. If you’re not sure what size your dog might wear, take him to the pet store to try one on first.

Trick-or-treaters. Your dog’s personality will determine whether he should be loose in the house when trick-or-treaters are knocking at your door. If he’s the type of dog to bark every time the doorbell rings, he’s going to drive you crazy all night. Confine him to a back room until the activity ceases. If you feel comfortable having him present when trick-or-treaters come knocking, make sure he doesn’t bolt out the door. Halloween can be an exciting time for a dog, and he may run outside to see what all the fuss is about.

Dog trick or treating by Shutterstock.

Dog trick or treating by Shutterstock.

People food. Whether it’s Halloween candy or Thanksgiving leftovers, keep holiday food well out of your dog’s reach during this time of year. If you want to give your dog a little turkey on Thanksgiving, only give him 1 or 2 ounces. Rich holiday food can wreak havoc with his digestive system.

Fun in the fall. If your adult dog is trained and well-socialized, you can have a lot of fun with him at this time of year. Camping and hiking are two great activities. Fall is a beautiful time of year to take in nature, and having your dog by your side makes it even more magical. If you live in one of the warmer parts of the country, you can take your dog swimming, too. Fall is a great time to go swimming in a lake, when the leaves are turning color and wildlife is active, preparing for the winter ahead.

Old but not out

Senior dogs either enjoy the holidays or find them to be too much. It really depends on the dog.

Costumes. If your senior is young at heart and relatively healthy, he may enjoy wearing a costume for trick-or-treaters or hanging out with the extended family at Thanksgiving. Nigel loved being part of both these holidays, right into his senior years.

A nice, quiet place. If your older dog suffers from arthritis, has vision problems, or doesn’t have the energy or patience for the commotion the holidays bring, find a quiet place where he can get away from it all, like a back bedroom with a soft bed. You can even bring an occasional visitor back to pet him so he doesn’t get too lonely, or let him spend some time with the family and then take him back to his quiet room for some peace.

Senior dog relaxing by Shutterstock.

Senior dog relaxing by Shutterstock.

Rainy day fun. Even though your dog is older, he can still learn a new game. Colder, rainy days are a good time to play hide and seek. Set up a bunch of small containers on the floor, and hide a treat inside one of them when your dog isn’t looking. Then encourage your dog to find the container that’s holding the treat. When he finds it, reward him by giving him the treat. As he gets better at this game, you can make it more difficult by adding more containers. The mental stimulation this game provides will help keep your senior dog alert and active.

The fall can be a great time for your dog. The fall holidays, along with cooler weather, will make him happy to be alive. And you, too, will enjoy this most special time of year just a little more because you are sharing it with your dog.

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About the author: An award-winning professional writer and editor, Audrey Pavia is a former managing editor of DOG FANCY magazine and former senior editor of the AKC Gazette. She is the author of The Labrador Retriever Handbook (Barrons) and has also written extensively on horses as well as other pets. She shares her home in Norco, California, with a rescue dog named Candy.