Will You Trick or Treat Your Dog this Halloween?
Halloween from a Dog’s Perspective
- Firstly, it matters less that your dog is well socialized to kids on Halloween than whether they are socialized to costumes. For those dog parents who say, “My dog loves kids,” ask yourself, “Does my dog love costumes?”
- Dogs read body language, and opening our door to kids yelling anything, (yes, even trick-or-treat) can be very scary stuff. They cannot read anything on a mask’s face!
- There is an overwhelming possibility that your dog does NOT wish to meet 20 (or even 2) doorbells in one hour, with costumes on the other side of the door.
- This situation may actually be triggering a lunging response in your dogs, as they bark to say, “Get away, get away, get away.” Those costumes, after all, must look an awful lot like a threat!
- It is asking a lot of our dogs that they greet these costumes calmly and quietly. Given how many dogs I am called to modify doorbell hysteria on any common day, Halloween for this type of dog (and human) must be a most stressful holiday.
- It gets dark much earlier this time of year, so when you open your door (or, conversely, go for your after-work walk), your dog may not be seeing things as clearly as he did earlier in the day. The fact that he may be viewing costumes as shadows can increase reactive tendencies in your dog as well.
- For many, we don’t have visitors on a regular basis, so our dogs don’t have a chance to learn door-greeting manners in a solid way that would prepare them for an event like Halloween.
- If you are thinking this is a great opportunity to do a crash course on your dog’s poor door greeting manners, know that optimal training cannot be accomplished on Halloween night if the door and costumes are your dog’s triggers. Flooding is actually what is more likely, which creates an environment in your dog’s brain that prevents learning from occurring. Even if your dog seems reasonably calm soon after the costumes leave, her sympathetic nervous system may still be engaged for a reported 20 additional minutes, time for another 10 doorbells!
Make Halloween Less Traumatic for Your Dog
So what can we do for our dogs to make Halloween a less traumatic event?
TREAT them with a bone in a quiet room of their own with music playing during Halloween visits this year. Tape your doorbell. Avoid the TRICKS of trying to keep her calm in an environment we can only imagine is some kind of scary for one who doesn’t understand the sweet ritual of Hallows Eve!
Patti Howard BS, CCS