Halloween and Dogs – not the best combination!
While Halloween is something that many families look forward to and enjoy, this is a holiday fraught with potential problems for dogs.
“What costumes to wear?”
“Who will take the children around the neighborhood?”
“What candy should we get this year?”
For most families, these are the usual questions posed around this fun holiday. Another question is “What the heck is going to happen to the poor dog?”
Just think about it. On a good day, most dogs are “set off” by an occasional doorbell ringing, someone coming to the door, or a person randomly walking past the house. On a bad day, a postal carrier or UPS delivery person will come to the door and the family dog intercepts this “intruder” with hackles up, incessant barking and possibly some lunging when the door opens.
On Halloween, we have kids of all ages and sizes arriving in scary costumes and masks, carrying strange objects to hold candy, and screaming “Trick or Treat” in a cacophony of sounds enough to make any average dog a little crazy! To a more reactive or young dog, this may feel like an onslaught and trigger underlying reactions you have never seen before or prefer never to see again.
On top of everything I just described, the whole purpose of the holiday, for those appearing at the door, is to receive food. It may be before the dinner hour or after, but most dogs are hungry all the time and believe me on this one, can smell the goodies through the wrappers. That said, the appearance of so much food may also trigger some “resource guarding” behaviors. Wrapped together, like a beautiful piece of candy, this is a set-up for the dog and one that might put an otherwise well-behaved dog into a world of trouble.
If you feel the dog can handle the activity, in advance of Halloween, take out some masks and start your desensitizing process. Start by ringing the doorbell, and if the dog barks, discourage her with an “uh, uh, quiet” said in a deep, firm voice. Ring again, and, the second after the ring, be ready with a treat. Deliver the treat and a praise like “Good Job” said in a very happy voice. Have everyone walk around the house for a while with his or her masks on. Do this every few hours every day before the holiday.
On the day of the holiday, make sure the dog gets a great deal of exercise. In fact, if you take the dog to daycare, make an appointment for Halloween and leave the dog most of the day so when he returns he is thoroughly exhausted! A tired dog is a less reactive one.
If you have a very reactive dog, it’s best to put her in another room, with music or a TV on with something to do. Give the dog a marrow bone or a bully stick to chew on. It’s best for someone to stay with the dog, but at the very least, check on her often and make sure she is not freaking out.
Keep Halloween a happy holiday for everyone, including your best furry friends!
Deborah Rosen is President and Founder of Good CitiZEN Dog TrainingⓇ, a dog training franchise business based in Tacoma, WA. Deborah is known within the industry for her innovative ZEN dog-training methodology and her commitment to using positive and progressive techniques to teach clients the science of canine behavior. Deborah is now spreading her training philosophy of “peaceful living with your dog” from coast to coast through her Good CitiZEN Dog Training franchisees. In addition, Deborah also authors blogs, magazine articles, and is working on a book. For more information about Good CitiZEN Dog Training, see www.goodcitizendog.com.