Halloween is a lot of fun for kids and grown-ups alike, but it may present some challenges if a dog is part of the family. The following dog training tips for Halloween can help make sure both your dog and trick-or-treaters stay safe on this fun-filled holiday:
Start Training Early
Start working on dog training long before Halloween rolls around. You can't expect a dog to learn to stay quiet when the doorbell rings or remain calm around children if you only think of training on Halloween morning. The earlier you start training, the better off you and your dog will be by the time trick-or-treaters start ringing your doorbell.
Train the Quiet Command
If you live in an area where you get lots of trick-or-treaters and own a dog who barks every time the doorbell rings, Halloween can be one big headache. To alleviate this problem, start working on the quiet command at least a few weeks before Halloween.
Have someone help you with training sessions by standing outside and ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door. Stay calm, and don't react to the doorbell. Give your dog the command "quiet," and wait for his barking to stop. The minute it stops, give him praise and a treat. With practice, you should notice the time between you giving the command and the time your dog stops barking getting shorter and shorter until you are able to stop your dog's barking almost immediately.
Make Sure the Dog is Well-Socialized with Children
Only dogs who are calm and gentle with children should be allowed to approach children who come to the door to trick-or-treat. Halloween is not the time to find out whether or not your dog likes children. The socialization process should begin long before Halloween.
Start off by introducing the dog or puppy to children slowly. If you are unsure whether or not your dog is comfortable around kids, start off with your dog on a leash and a child or children standing a little distance away. As long as your dog remains calm, give him some treats and praise. If he seems comfortable, slowly move closer to the children and continue to praise him and give him treats. In this way, you can slowly work your way up to having your dog accepting pets and hugs from children. You should also introduce your dog to kids wearing costumes, and make sure he's comfortable around them.
Keep in mind that even a dog who is usually comfortable with children can get out of sorts on Halloween. There are usually a lot more children around then the dog is used to, and they are now in strange costumes that make them seem unfamiliar. If you have any concerns about how your dog will handle being around bunches of kids in costume, your best bet might be to keep him in a room away from the door.
Train the Leave It Command
One of the things most of us like best about Halloween is something that can be toxic to our dogs - chocolate. Just in case someone drops candy somewhere where your dog can get to it, it helps if your dog knows the "leave it" command. If he approaches or starts to pick up a piece of chocolate, you'll be able to give him the command to ensure that he won't eat it and become sick.
Start by holding a treat. Show it to your dog, and then close your hand over the treat so he can't get it. Tell him "leave it." Your dog may sniff, paw, or nibble your hand in an attempt to get the treat. Wait until he pulls back even a little, and then open your hand and allow him to have the treat. Keep practicing and slowly work your way up to being able to leave a treat on the floor near your dog and have him leave it there on command. Once he's able to do this, you should be able to use this command to stop him from gobbling up a piece of dropped chocolate on Halloween.
Train the Stay Command
With so much excitement and the continuous opening and closing of doors on Halloween, it becomes more likely that your dog will bolt outside. This can be a problem for a number of reasons. Your dog may knock over trick-or-treaters. He also runs the risk of being hit by a car or becoming lost. To prevent any of these problems, train the dog the "stay" command.
Start by having your dog sit or lie down. Tell him "stay." Take a small step away and then immediately move back to him and give him a treat. Slowly work up to moving a further distance away, and then build up the amount of time your dog remains in the stay. Now you'll be able to tell your dog to stay when trick-or-treaters come to the door without fear of him bolting.
Quick Fix Tips for Halloween
If Halloween is approaching too quickly to train your dog to be on his best behavior, there are a few things you can do to manage your dog's behavior to keep everyone safe and happy on Halloween.
- Have someone sit outside to distribute candy to trick-or-treaters. This eliminates the need for kids to knock on the door or ring the door bell, and chances are your dog will be much calmer.
- Keep candy bowls and bags far out of reach of your dog.
- Confine your dog to a room as far away from the front door as possible. Turn on the radio or television to block out the noise of trick-or-treaters, and give him some toys and chews to keep him busy.
- Board him over night. If you're worried your dog may get too anxious or hard to handle during the Halloween celebration, you may want to consider boarding him for the night. He'll be safely away from the Halloween festivities, and you'll be able to relax and enjoy the holiday.