I was in Lithonia last Wednesday on a Home Dog Training lesson with a client and his Goldendoodle, Cody.  We were working on the front door exercise with Cody because he always ran to the door as soon as anyone knocked or ran the doorbell.  He would then jump on the people and sometimes try and nip their pants.  After about fifteen minutes of boundary control reinforcement and confident body language being displayed by my client, Cody no longer ran to the front door.  My client was thrilled at how effective the exercise was with Cody’s behavior and happy with how easy it was for him to perform.  As we were rapping up for the day, my client mentioned that he probably wouldn’t be calling for his next lesson until next month.  With Halloween quickly approaching, I thought that I better give him some tips to make sure that Cody was fine with all the ghosts and goblins that they would experience on that day.

What is the one day of the year that you try to poison your dog and think it is really fun to try and scare him?”  If ever asked that question, you would obviously respond that you would never think of doing such a thing.  The problem is that many of us do that to our dogs every Halloween.  We leave candy on the table waiting for the trick-or-treaters and put on scary and weird costumes.  We act completely different than normal; jumping out from doorways with our hands raised in the air and making weird, unearthly sounds.

We think this is fun and can understand the uniqueness and inconsistency of the event.  The problem is that our dogs have firmly established their concept of safety on our ability to provide them with a consistent and calm environment.  Halloween and “business as normal” are two things that just don’t go together.

Many dogs don’t like being “dressed up”.  Putting funny costumes on them and parading them through the neighborhood surrounded with ghosts and goblins that are completely unknown to them is a very frightening and adrenaline-building event.  Like water and oil, Halloween and our dog’s security and well being sometimes just don’t mix.

So, what can we do to have a fun Halloween and still make sure our dog stays calm and happy on this crazy day?  I offered the following suggestions to my client on Cody’s behalf:

  • NO COSTUMES. Yes, I know that many of you love to dress your pooch up in something cute, but many dogs just aren’t used to wearing garments.  This can cause extra stress and adrenaline that might cause them to lunge and nip people when they never have before.  They may also pull bits and pieces off their costume, chew them and swallow them.  This might 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 must have a costume for your dog on Halloween, think of a bow in the hair or bandanna around the neck.
  • KEEP CANDY AWAY FROM CODY. For most of us, Halloween is the one time where we have bowls of candy scattered around the house waiting to be given out to the trick-or-treaters.  Sometimes we might just leave bags of candy on the kitchen counter as “our reserves”.  The problem is that the ingredients in many of the candies can make our dogs sick.  The fact that they may have the opportunity to “secure” an entire bag and eat it could make them very sick.  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” off the counter and stored up high and away from your dog’s reach.
  • PRACTICE TRICK-OR-TREAT. If you want to have Cody involved with the trick-or-treaters, you should first see if that is something he really wants to do.  To accomplish this, have some friends dress up in their costumes a few nights before Halloween and ring the front doorbell.  Have Cody on a leash and have a family member hold him about twenty feet away from the front door.  Greet your “goblin friends” and invite them in to “receive their candy”.  Observe Cody to see if he gives off any nervous anticipation, aggressively barks and jumps, or performs other over-adrenalized activities.  If Cody reacts in this manner, 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 Cody can see that they are “only humans”.  Keep Cody on a taut leash so that he can’t unexpectedly lung towards your guests.  If he remains calm, allow him to sniff them and then escort him back to his original place.  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 need to place him in another area where you can keep him away from the craziness.  Have him in a back room with a family member. Have the TV on so that the noises of the “ghosts and goblins” are muffled with the TV show.  Keep him on a leash so that he can’t accidentally wander out of the room and into the “ghosts and goblins” or candy.  If he needs to go outside to potty, take him on a leash and try to find the quietest spot possible to allow him to do his business.  Before “everything starts”, try to feed him and engage him in some strenuous play so that he is already tired and may just sleep through the “Halloween event”.
  • THE DAY AFTER. Even though Halloween is over, there are still a few things that you should remember.  Even though 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 chew and swallow all the funny buttons, pins, fake hair, etc. that adorned your Halloween attire.  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.
  • MORE IDEAS. For more information on Halloween safety, please visit our special page at Your Dog’s Halloween Safety in Lithonia Georgia.

We hope you will call us at (770) 718-7704 if you have any other questions about your dog and Halloween.  There are more dog training articles at Best Dog Trainers Lithonia Georgia.  Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Lithonia Georgia.