How to help your dog enjoy Halloween
Halloween must be such an odd evening for our canine friends. People are dressed strangely, making funny noises, lots of children are running around, and the door is constantly going! For some dogs this is a fun evening they can take part in, however for some there are some factors which we want to consider in order to help them cope.
For the reactive dog, Halloween is not a fun evening. Strangers and the sound of the door knocking/ ringing often represent huge triggers for these dogs, and we need to be really mindful of how we handle this situation. I suggest a couple of management techniques and bits of training to my clients. I’m going to share some of these with you all in the hope that all our dogs can have a relaxed Halloween experience.
Things to do ahead of time:
1.) Desensitise your dog to the sound of the door!
Get some of your dog’s favourite treats ready. Knock on the door whilst your dog can clearly see that it’s you making the noise and then throw a treat towards them if they respond silently. Gradually increase how difficult this is by hiding behind the door, asking a friend or family member to help, and by doing this ‘out of nowhere’!
TOP TIP- If your dog is very triggered by this noise and barks every time even when they can see you, try recording the noise of the door knocking / doorbell and playing this back at a really low volume to start! Remember to reward any silent responses.
2.) Create a safe space.
My dogs love to go into their crates whenever they’re a little bit too overwhelmed with life. You can make crates cosier by putting them out of the
way, covering them, and putting their favourite chews inside! If your dog isn’t crate trained, then try using their favourite room and create some type of den-like space for them.
3.) Get some enrichment toys and chews ready.
I like to use stuffed kongs, twisted pizzle sticks, and trachea to keep my lot busy when there is a lot going on! Make sure you have some ready for Halloween night.
To do on the night:
1.) Tire the dog out with a nice long walk prior to it getting dark so that they’re more likely to settle down for the evening.
2.) Play some classical music (or a white noise machine!) if your dog is sensitive to the noise of the door or strangers.
3.) Make sure your dog is wearing their collar and tag and keep them securely out of the way so they aren’t tempted to dash out of the door!
4.) If the door / visitors cause stress to your dog, then pop a sign on your door asking people not to knock.
5.) Draw the curtains or pop the dog in a spot where they cannot watch people passing by the window.
6.) Give your dog a long-lasting chew / enrichment toy to keep them busy. I hope some of these tips and tricks help you and your dog enjoy Halloween together!
Remember, not all dogs love strangers coming to their door ,and alert barking here is a ‘normal’ behavioural response. We do however want to make sure that our dogs aren’t getting too stressed by the night as a whole.