Dogs and downtown go hand in paw, especially during the Halloween season – and yes, Halloween is now a season. Any city BIA (Business Improvement Association) should take note, and follow Oakville, Ontario’s lead: the Oakville Tails and Treats Halloween dog event drew crowds of Fido fanatics downtown in October.
The formula is simple: one Saturday prior to Halloween create a dog trick-or-treating day and attract more people and their pooches to the downtown cores than you might think possible. Increased foot traffic benefits street-front businesses, and Oakville’s Tails and Treats event is a good template.
Here’s how to create a dog-friendly downtown Halloween event:
First, select a day. On October 21, 2023, Oakville, Ontario’s downtown hosted the Tails and Treats Event. One side street was blocked off for tented vendors, not all dog-related booths. From the market place, the event then cascaded across the intersection into the town square.
At the market, however, we first picked up Safari Collection dog treats from Pivot Dog Biscuits. Through the sale of these cute African animal cookies, Pivot Dog Biscuits supports three working dogs at a Tanzanian children’s orphanage.
Second, make your downtown zone easily walkable, especially for those on leash. Town Square – the centre of Oakville’s Lakeshore downtown, was the site of a canine costume contest at noon, dog yoga two hours early, then an afternoon of photo opportunities near piles of pumpkins. Also there: free pups cups from Ruff Dog Barbershop and dog food samples from Ren’s Pets, who were collecting donations for the Oakville & MIlton Humane Society.
Third, hand out dog treats – frequently. In Oakville, for six blocks the Lakeshore side walk was lined with ‘Oakville Downtown’ branded dog dishes filled with dog treats. Each participating clothing boutique, kitchen supply store, butcher, and bakery, filled the bowl with dog treats.
Surprisingly, my dog didn’t guard but took her share of one treat per dish as we walked along sharing the sidewalk with other leashed pooches. I collected the bagged dog treats being handed out. A Realtor even handed out people cookies. Imagine.
Restaurant participation in the Halloween Pup Parade
Finally, encourage restaurants to participate. Piazza Bistro, located in Town Square, opened its patio on a reasonably comfortable October afternoon, so pups could join their people enjoying traditional Italian entrees including wood oven baked pizza on the patio.
Shanghai Alley Gourmet, specializing in handmade dumplings, handed out treats and sold homemade dog treats by the box. Mavericks’ Donut Company – new to downtown Oakville – permitted pups and their people inside to select a gourmet donut and distributed dog donuts special for the day.
If getting more people downtown was the goal, that was achieved as traffic slowed to a crawl waiting for costumed canines to cross the streets – and the Oakville & Milton Humane Society, hopefully, benefited from people being willing to swipe their credit cards to donate to a worthy cause.
Here are a sampling of similar Downtown Halloween Dog Events & Pet Parades:
Halloween Dog Events in Canada
Waterdown Village, Ontario, October 28, 2023
Technically part of Hamilton, but with its own downtown, Waterdown Village is hosting a Treat and Pet Walk on October 28, 11 a.m to 2 p.m. Start at 115 Hamilton Street, Waterdown, then walk to participating businesses for Halloween doggie giveaways. Collect a goodie bag from a designated treat station. Registration is $20 benefiting a local rescue.
Downtown Kitchener, Ontario, October 29, 2023
Join the Dog Friendly KW team for the 3rd Howloween Pooch Party in downtown Kitchener, Ontario (44 Gaukel Street). This free event starts with a costume pack-walk through the park at noon, ending downtown for prizes, food, and vendor shopping.
Vancouver, British Columbia, October 28, 2023
The West Broadway Business Association sponsors Howl-O-Ween for Kids and Pets trick-or-treating event on Saturday, October 28, 1 to 4 p.m. More than 50 merchants will give away treats to kids and dogs along West Broadway between Collingwood to Larch Street. Please bring non-perishable pet food to donate to the BC SPCA.
Halloween Dog Events in the USA
Downtown Boston, MA, October 28, 2023
The Downtown Boston Business Improvement District sponsors an annual Doggone Halloween Parade Saturday, October 28 from noon to 3 pm. Prizes for best costume in six different categories. Admission is free but dogs participating in the parade must pre-register. Parade starts at Downtown Crossing, 1 Summer Street, Boston, MA.
Freeway Park Seattle, WA, October 27, 2023
Sponsored by Freeway Park Association, the Happy Howl-O-Ween celebration is a canine costume contest and festival. Free event, and there are prizes for best costumes, a photo booth, crafts, and live music. Freeway Park, adjacent to downtown Seattle, 5 to 7 p.m.
Downtown Eugene, OR, October 28, 2023
Halloween Downtown is a family event in downtown Eugene, Oregon with a pet twist. As part of the trick-or-treating at participating businesses, there’s a Pet Parade. Meet with your costumed leashed dogs at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of 8th and Charnelton to start the parade. Prizes for best costumes in four categories. Free event. Downtown Eugene. 12 to 5 p.m.
Downtown Albany, NY, October 28, 2023
Hounds of Halloween 2023 is presented by the Downtown Albany BID where costumed dogs will roam the streets of downtown Albany (on leash) with their people for trick-or-treating and costume contest. Start at the Olde English Pub or Downtown Dog Park, 683 Broadway, Albany, NY on October 28, 2023 from 11 am to 2 pm. (Note that this event was reschedule from Oct. 21).
Downtown Savanah, GA, October 19 & 20, 2024
Wag-0-Ween in Savanah, Georgia has wrapped up for 2023, but next year’s annual event is scheduled already for October 19 & 20, 2024. This ticketed event draws more than 2000 people and their pets to downtown Savannah and the Starland District to help raise funds for animals rescues and allow dogs to trick-or-treat at participating businesses.
Checkout more dog-friendly festivals in Canada year round and throughout the US here.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and a travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria. Contact Sherri at dogtrotting.net here. All written content is original, written by a person, and based on experience and research. Please subscribe!