I was in Dacula yesterday on a Home Dog Training lesson with a new client and his Goldendoodle, Cody. Like many Goldendoodles, Cody was just full of energy and loved to play. Since Doodles are so cute, people always love to play with them. This “play play play” scenario gave Cody the impression that being crazy and playing was fine all the time. That is what we worked on for most of the lesson. After adjusting Cody’s focus regarding obedience and setting the scene regarding the type of behavior that was expected, he turned out just fine. Our client was thrilled and we were happy that we had created a happy family. Since Halloween was almost here, didn’t want to leave until we gave our client some tips for this approaching holiday.
The bottom line is that it is fine to have fun on Halloween just as long as you also understand what your dog is experiencing. What may be fine for you could scare your dog. I offered my client some suggestions so that he could understand Halloween from Cody’s perspective:
- MOST DOGS DON’T LIKE COSTUMES. It doesn’t matter what you want to do, please understand that many dogs just aren’t used to wearing garments. This can cause increased stress and adrenaline that might cause them to lunge and nip people when they never have before. They might also chew things off their costume and swallow them. This could choke them or cause internal blockage. None of these things are good and could cause an unplanned trip to the 24 hour veterinarian clinic. If you really have to have your dog “all costumed up” for Halloween, think of a bow in the hair or bandanna around the neck.
- NO CANDY FOR YOU! Halloween is all about the candy. Sometimes we might just leave bags of candy on the kitchen counter as “our reserves”. The ingredients in many of the candies can make our dogs sick. Since we are often “working the door” and not paying attention to the extra candy, Cody could easily eat a large amount of unattended candy before we would know. I suggest that you only keep one bowl of candy out where you will be greeting the trick-or treaters. The bowl should always be under your watchful eye. Keep the “reserve candy” stored where you dog can’t get it.
- PRACTICE TRICK-OR-TREAT. If you want to have Cody involved with the trick-or-treaters, you should first create a “dry run”. Have some friends dress up in their costumes a few nights before Halloween and ring the front doorbell. Have Cody on a leash and in sight but not directly at the door. Greet your “goblin friends” and invite them in to “get their candy”. Watch Cody to see if he remains calm and watchful or crazy and adrenalized. If Cody gets crazy, having him part of the festivities might not be a good idea. If he seems fine, slowly invite him to greet the “goblins”. Before you start allowing him to greet the “goblins”, have your friends remove their masks, hats, etc. so that he can see that they are “only humans”. Repeat this several times so that you are assured that he is OK with the situation.
- TRICK-OR-TREAT ISN’T FOR CODY. If Cody does not appear to like trick-or-treat, you should keep him in another part of the house during Trick-or-Treat time. Have him in a back room with a family member. Turn the TV on so that he can be focused on that and not the sound of trick-or-treaters. You may also want to keep the front door open so that he won’t constantly hear knocking or the door bell. Dogs can hear a door knock or door bell over the sound of the TV all the time.
- THE DAY AFTER. Even though Halloween is over, there are still a few things that you should remember. Those candy wrappers on the floor or in the trash may be empty, there still can be some residue on the wrappers. The residue won’t make Cody sick, but eating all the coated paper could cause a problem. Also, pick up your costumes and put them out of his reach. He may decide to eat the funny buttons, pins, fake hair, etc. on your costume. This is also not good for him. If you take him for a walk, make sure that he doesn’t pick up many of the “left-over stuff” scattered through your neighborhood. Ingesting these could be harmful too.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over fourteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.