How Can You Prepare Your Dog For Halloween?
It’s almost time for Halloween, and it’s time to consider how this ghoulish night will effect Fido…
Halloween Costumes can seem frightening or unusual to your dog, as can troops of little ghosts, goblins, superheroes and princesses parading up and down your front steps all evening. Even dogs who love children don’t always recognize their best friends when hidden behind a friendly looking mask.
It’s a great idea to practice Halloween with your dog. (I don’t know of any kids who wouldn’t enjoy getting to Trick-or-Treat in costume before Halloween, so finding volunteers to practice with your dog before the holiday really shouldn’t be too hard! If you don’t plan on wearing a costume or don’t have kids, you can always skip the first step and go to step two.)
Prepare your dog for Halloween now, and prevent the possibility of a problem! Absolutely, never allow your child or someone to lunge at or frighten your dog, especially wearing a mask or costume.
Preparing Your Dog…
- Have your child (or you) dress up in their costume (without the masks or headgear) with the dog watching while you toss the dog a few treats. When the dog is comfortable with the strange outfit, then proceed to put on the mask with the dog watching – continue to GIVE the dog delicious treats or kibble, to have him associate good things with this strange occurrence. Leave the mask on only for a few moments, then remove it, still giving treats, showing the dog it’s really just your child (or you.) Do this several times until your dog is comfortable (no longer showing any signs of anxiety or curiosity with the costume or mask.)
- After the dog is comfortable with the costumes and masks, practice the “Trick or Treat” parade of kids and adults coming to your door in costume and ringing the bell. Kids love to dress up and Trick or Treat before the holiday! If your kids like to read, have them sit outside and every few pages ring the bell to trick or treat, this ensures you will have a few minutes break between Trick-or-Treaters to GIVE the dog time to calm down while practicing. You will do best to have some “rest time.” This works best with 2 adults…
- Have the dog on a set-length leash and have dog treats as well as treats (perhaps dimes?) ready for the kids. When the doorbell rings, do not admonish or punish excited behavior, but have one adult open the door to the Trick-or-Treaters, greeting them as if nothing odd is out there, GIVE candy to the kids and close the door.
- Meanwhile, the other adult should hold onto the leash, (tether the dog if you do not have a partner) with the dog far enough away from the door that the dog can see the children, but not reach them. The farther from the door, the less the dog will struggle.
- As soon as the dog hears the approaching footsteps, treat the dog, treat again as the door opens and again when the dog sees the Trick-or-Treaters. Feed treats to the dog, either by dropping them to the ground or hand to mouth. When the door is closed, the dog will calm down. After a few rings he will begin to anticipate the arrival of guests in exchange for his reward. Yes, you are giving him a lot of treats. You also need to overcome a lot of stimuli and excitement.
- You will find that the dog quickly understands that the sounds of footsteps approaching the door or that the ringing of doorbell means that something great is about to happen for him. He will begin to look to you to receive his reward instead of barking or “misbehaving”.
Don’t worry; this will not ruin his alarm barking should the real Boogeyman come to your door in the middle of the night.
“Remember, if you do not make the conscious choice to be the Trainer…you are by default, the Trainee.”
As a dog trainer, I believe that the most effective method of dog training revolves around teaching your dog what you want them to do, how to behave, how to act in their environment, and what appropriate behaviors are, under given circumstances and situations.