BHV Director of Training
Memorial Day and July 4th, days when there are a lot of loud fireworks, are notorious for driving dogs crazy. But let’s not forget about the holiday that’s right around the corner – Halloween – the one day of the year when stranger after stranger comes up to the door wearing scary masks and costumes, knocking loudly and ringing the doorbell.
And even in a year when most trick-or-treaters may not be as close to your house as normal, the noise outside in close proximity could still be enough to disturb your dog.
Here are some tips for this upcoming Halloween to help turn your dog’s fright into fun:
Give your dog a safe space to retreat to, like an out of the way room or closet. If your dog gets really anxious (or reactive) when someone knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, play soothing music to calm them and cover up the sounds. Lavender has been known to have a calming effect on dogs (and humans) and there are various aroma diffusers you can buy for this purpose. You should periodically toss some treats in the area throughout the night to let your dog know that’s the place to be.
Make trick-or-treat a positive experience. Prepare plenty of high-value treats for your dog, especially long-lasting food/treat dispensing toys and edible chewables like bully sticks. Be ready with lots of goodies to give your dog when the ‘scary people’ come near your house. If your dog is enjoying the peanut butter from a Kong toy when someone knocks, not only can it keep them from barking, but it can also help teach them there’s no reason to bark in the future in similar scenarios.
This one is more for future Halloweens, so make a note and tuck it away for 2021 and beyond. If your dog is not too fearful, but still gets overwhelmed with lots of people coming to the door, put a bowl of treats outside with a sign requesting the trick-or-treater to toss a few to your dog when you open the door. If your dog gets a treat every time someone comes to the door, they’ll start thinking Halloween is the greatest day of the year!
One last note on Halloween. Most dogs do not enjoy wearing costumes, despite how adorable it may look. If you’re going to snap a few pics for Facebook or Instagram, make sure to pay attention to your dog’s body language. If they seem nervous or stressed out, it’s time to stop the photoshoot. Watch for excess panting, yawning, lip licking, and head turns. And always make it a positive experience with lots of treats for a job well done!
Michael Litzky is a Certified Professional Canine Behavior and Training Master Instructor (CPCBTMI), a Certified Behavior and Aggression Management Trainer, and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed® (CPDT-KA®). He also is a certified AKC® Canine Good Citizen® Evaluator.
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