Studies show that dogs are amazingly adept at interpreting human behavior. However, there are some things about us they will never understand – and that includes Halloween.
Put yourself in your dog’s paws for a moment, and consider how utterly baffling the holiday must seem to the canine mind. Costumes, carved pumpkins, and bobbing for apples? It all seems pretty weird when you look at it from the outside.
You can’t say that Halloween is the most hated day of the year for dogs – that distinction goes to the Fourth of July (or, as it’s known to dogs, Scary Boom Day).
Still, as holidays go, it’s no Thanksgiving. Here are ten reasons why your dog might prefer to spend October 31 under the bed.
1. Having to dress up
Let’s start with the obvious. Dressing up your pet for Halloween is becoming increasingly common – and that’s really bad news for dogs.
Judging by their expressions, most dogs view Halloween costumes as a form of cruel and unusual punishment. If they’re not trying to tear it off, they’re lying on the floor, head down, doing their best to convince us that they’re truly miserable.
2. Animated props
Just like people, dogs often get the heebie-jeebies from human simulations that seem too real or lifelike (a phenomenon known as the Uncanny Valley). Dogs can always rely on their sense of smell to guide them, but in other ways they’re not as well equipped as humans to tell the difference between the real and the phony – especially when the subject in question moves.
The bottom line is, a lot of dogs get freaked out by things like dancing skeletons, lunging zombie torsos, and disembodied hands that scurry across the floor.
3. The kids get to go for a walk while the dog stays home
If you’ve got children young enough to go trick-or-treating, you’ll probably be taking them around the neighborhood. Most dogs, who adore both walks and kids, would love to get in on that. Think about what a bummer it must be to be left behind.
4. Abundance of dog poison (aka chocolate)
Okay, dogs don’t really hate Halloween for this reason, but they should. Too much chocolate can kill a dog, making every mini candy bar in the treat bowl a lurking danger. If there are trick-or-treaters in the house, that danger only increases.
5. Too many things going bump in the night
For a lot of family dogs, watching out for danger is job number one, and Halloween is the night they get lots of overtime. With trick-or-treaters, rowdy parties, and other nighttime shenanigans, watch dogs everywhere are on high alert. That can lead to a stressful evening.
6. Horror movie marathons = lots of dead dogs on TV
Dogs are always the first to get bumped off in horror movies. It’s a cheap way to stir emotions and ratchet up the tension. If this bothers you (or your dog), you might want to avoid movies like Jaws, Friday the 13th Part II, The Conjuring, and of course, Cujo. Believe it or not, there’s a website called Does the Dog Die? that tracks this stuff.
7. Gratuitous mentions of the word “treat”
The average dog can learn up to 165 words, but they seem to hear some words (you know the ones) much better than others. Some dogs are especially attentive, getting all worked up when they hear anything that even sounds like walk, ride, or treat. For dogs like that, Halloween is one disappointment after another, with that elusive treat never coming.
8. Masks are scary
Dogs seem unusually creeped out by masks of any sort – whether it bears the likeness of Casper the Friendly Ghost or Freddy Krueger. Like many small children, they seem to not quite understand that there’s a familiar face behind that cheap rubber facade. It probably doesn’t help that we humans so enjoy teasing our dogs this way.
9. Pumpkin Pails: Easy to get your head into, hard to get out
A pumpkin pail is just too inviting for a curious dog, especially if it still carries the scent of goodies (or even the actual goodies). Unfortunately, much like Pringles canisters, these things seem designed to ensnare. Lil’ help here?
For house dogs, a ringing doorbell signals a major event. When they hear that familiar ding-dong, they know visitors are coming and react accordingly – with excitement, watchfulness, or sometimes aggression. With trick-or-treaters constantly ringing the bell on Halloween, many dogs spend the whole evening in an almost feverish state (often confined to a back room).
And the worst part is, the visitors never actually come in!