I was at a new Home Dog Training lesson in Lawrenceville last Monday with my client and his two-year-old Goldendoodle named Shadow. The most important thing my client wanted to accomplish with Shadow was to have him behave at the front door and not run out when people arrived. As with many dogs, he would also jump and sometimes knock people over when they tried to enter.
I told my client that our process of correction will be focused on boundary control. The situational event that will act as the trigger for the boundary control will be when someone knocks on the front door or rings the doorbell. It only took about twenty-five minutes of practicing boundary control fortification and my client’s proper display of dominant body language to have Shadow understand that he should not approach the front door. My client was very happy with how easy the process was and how quickly Shadow learned to stay away from the door when people arrived.
We worked on other exercises and as we were wrapping up for the day, my client had one more question. Halloween was almost here and he remembered how frightened and nervous Shadow was last year. He asked what he could do to keep Shadow safe and happy with all the ghosts and goblins out and about that night.
I began my reply by posing a rhetorical question. “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?” I quickly followed up this question with the appropriate reply that, as dog owners, we would never, ever do such horrible things. We love our dogs and would do anything to protect and love them.
I continued this rhetorical train of thought by stating that this is the exact thing that many of us do to our dogs on Halloween. We put out candy on the table by the door in anticipation of the trick-or-treaters. We even dress ourselves up in scary and weird costumes. On top of this, we act completely different than we do for the rest of the year. We leap out from behind doorways with our hands flailing in the air making weird, unearthly sounds.
For us, this is all just good fun, and we can understand that Halloween is a day different than every other day of the year. We expect everything to be different and for unique and weird things to take place on this day.
Our dogs have a very big problem with this. They love consistency and their concept of safety is built around their understanding that their environment is always predictable. To them, Halloween is definitely not that.
Most dogs have a problem with being “dressed up”. Dressing them in funny costumes and prancing them through the neighborhood among ghosts and goblins can make them very nervous, frightened, and possibly reactive. Like water and oil, Halloween and our dog’s sense of safety don’t mix. They don’t mix at all.
With all that said, there are ways where we can have a fun time on Halloween and still allow our dog to feel safe, secure, and protected. I offered my client some simple suggestions that will make Shadow a happy dog once Halloween arrives:
- SHADOW DOES NOT NEED A COSTUME. I am quite aware that many dog owners love to dress their dogs up as a ghost, princess, or sometimes a hot dog on Halloween night. The issue is that they aren’t used to having “costumes on them”. Having “this stuff” on them often causes stress and excitement that may cause them to lunge out and nip people standing nearby. Another issue is that they could tear pieces off their costume and swallow them. This could cause them to choke or cause internal blockage. Knowing that there are “some of you that have to put something on their dog”, I suggest putting a bow in their hair or a bandana around their neck. You might also think about getting “a colorful” harness.
- DO NOT ALLOW SHADOW NEAR THE CANDY. Halloween is that wonderful time where we can’t be chastised for having candy in bowls all over our house. Our excuse is “Well, they are for the trick-or-treaters”. Just to be safe, we probably leave bags of candy on the kitchen counter in case we run out of candy in the bowls. There is candy all over the house and there is no way we can properly “police” all of it. With all of this, we must be aware that there are many ingredients in candy that are very poisonous to our dogs. Even eating just a few pieces of candy can make our dogs very, very sick. I highly recommend that you only have one active candy bowl that you can constantly police. Everything else is “your reserve” and should be secured in a closed cabinet or high and out of reach of your dog. Don’t forget how high your dog can leap or climb.
- GET SHADOW ACCUSTOMED TO TRICK-OR-TREATERS. Some dog owners like to have their dogs “involved” with the trick-or-treaters. This is fine if you practice first. Have some friends dress up in their costumes a few nights before Halloween and ring the front doorbell. Put Shadow on a leash and have a family member have Shadow about twenty feet away from the door. Shadow should be able to see the door and the family member should be able to control Shadow if he starts to go towards the door without permission. Have your “costumed neighbors” enter the house and offer them their Halloween treats. If you observe Shadow becoming nervous, scared, or over adrenalized, he is telling you that he doesn’t want to be part of the Halloween festivities. If Shadow is calmly observing all that is taking place, you can allow him to slowly approach your “costumed neighbors”. If your neighbors are wearing masks that obscure their faces, ask them to remove their masks before you bring Shadow over. Once he reaches their side, allow Shadow to sniff them. If he is still calm, they can now pet him and tell him that he is a “Good boy”. Repeat this several times so that you are assured that he is OK when Halloween actually arrives.
- If THE TRICK-OR-TREAT EXPERIENCE ISN’T FOR SHADOW. If Shadow failed the above “trick-or-treat” test, he is clearly letting you know that “he doesn’t want to go to the party”. In that case, you must keep him somewhere away from all the evening’s craziness. It will be best if you keep Shadow in a quiet room in the far part of the house with a family member. Turn the TV on so that all the Halloween noises are muted over the sound of the TV. Always have him attached to a leash so that he can’t accidentally wander out of the room. Play fetch and other games with him and give him lots and lots of attention so he is focused on the family member and not what is going on outside and at the front door.
- MORE IDEAS. For more information on Halloween safety, please visit our special page at Your Dog’s Halloween Safety in Lawrenceville Georgia.
Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years. We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and excellent families and are ready to help you.