by Katelyn Schutz, CPDT
For some dog owners, Trick or Treat is a dreaded time of year, with the constant barking at every door bell ring, and the never-ending fear your pup will break out the front door while you’re handing out candy to the neighborhood children. Follow these helpful tips to ensure your dog’s safety and happiness during this Trick or Treat season!
Hire a professional dog walker. Don’t want to deal with the commotion of frantic Fido every time the door bell rings with trick or treaters? Consider hiring a professional dog walker to take your pup out of for an exhausting adventure prior or during your area’s trick or treat time. If your dog has had plentiful exercise, it will be more likely to settle down and ignore all the kiddos at your front door. Let a professional dog walker do the work for you, so you can focus on preparing costumes and candy galore.
Safety first. Manage your environment to set your dog up to succeed. If your dog has been known to bolt out the door, keep them on a leash, or umbilical chord your dog to you, to be sure they cannot escape if someone isn’t mindful of the door at all times. Perhaps put up a gate or close a door to prevent your dog from having access to your front door during trick or treat, so you can enjoy your time handing out goodies without worrying that your canine might escape. Consider putting your dog in room far away from all the front door activity, and keep him or her busy with a game or chewie, and play some calming music to distract your pup from over-reacting to every sound it hears at the front door.
Desensitize your dog to hearing the door bell. Have a dog who barks and acts frantically every time they hear the bell? Prior to Trick or Treat, practice ringing the doorbell several times a day, for no reason at all. The more repetitions, the better, as your dog will start to loose interest in the door bell ringing if it is no longer paired with a guest arriving.
Teach your dog appropriate greeting manners. Practice basic manners and obedience during greetings, particularly with children. Discourage jumping by encouraging sitting. Ask your dog for basic commands frequently during greetings, to ensure your dog is more attentive to you than the distracting guest. Use an A+ reinforcement, such as the best, stinkiest treat around, to keep your dog’s attention — and motivation — on behaving!
Be prepared that your dog may be fearful or uncertain of children in costumes. Halloween can be a scary time for some dogs, especially when they don’t understand our sudden metamorphosis known as “costumes”. Dogs are very in tune with our shape and silhouettes, and when we change that by wearing a costume, some dogs will not react well. Give your dog space, and do not force your dog to approach any child it appears to be afraid of. If your dog is giving warning signals that it’s afraid, and those signals are ignored, this is a recipe for a fear bite waiting to happen! Consider natural calming aids, such as pheromone therapy, anxiety wraps, or essential oils, to help “take the edge off” your pup during trick or treat times. Give your dog a safe place away from all the commotion to prevent unexpected problems. When possible, counter-condition with an A+ reinforcer to teach your dog to love what it fears.