Tricks and Treats for Doggy Halloween
A few years ago, I dreaded Halloween. I lived in a neighborhood full of kids, who of course would descend upon our homes with fervor on Halloween, looking for candy. I had three dogs at that time, one of whom was reactive. My husband and I tried different tactics to avoid candy night, including taking the dogs and leaving town, turning out all of the lights and hiding in the basement so it would appear as if we were not home. One year, though, we couldn’t escape it.
Being a dog trainer, I recognized that I really needed to come up with a way to cope with this situation other than to just be miserable about it! I don’t recall whether I consciously dreamt it up or if it just came to me, but I devised a plan.
I prepared two large bowls. One, I filled with candy; that one was for my husband. The other one had a variety of yummy treats in it. That one was for my dogs. The plan was simple: Pete would hang out by the front door, and I would sit in a chair in the living room. We lived in a ranch home, so the distance from the chair to the door was short, allowing the dogs to see the door.
We started our evening by warming up with a false doorbell ring. Pete rang the doorbell and of course, the dogs went ballistic. They ran to the door, barking frantically. I called, “puppies come!” and although it took a few seconds, as soon as one of them started to come, I clicked and treated each dog.
Shortly after this, the kids started to arrive. Each time the doorbell rang, I called the dogs and clicked and treated while Pete opened the door and dished out the treats. Initially, the dogs were conflicted; they wanted to see who was at the door and what Pete was doing, and of course, to make sure that no one was going to invade our home. But by the third repetition, the dogs were coming (and sitting without being asked to) when I called them. By the fourth repetition, they were running to me when the doorbell rang without me calling them. After that, they didn’t even leave their seated position when the doorbell rang! However, it was still difficult for Acacia, my reactive dog, to resist barking for some of the doorbell rings.
Such a plan is SO simple to implement to help you to get through the Halloween ritual¸ provided you have two people. Of course, you should take all necessary precautions to ensure that your dog and the visitors to your door are safe from each other. The benefits for your dogs are lasting, as it helps to address excessive door-barking behavior.
Try it out this year, and let me know how successful it is!!