As we round the calendar into November there is one date that will refuse to go unnoticed: October 31. All spooks night, is an overwhelming splendor. Children of all ages -- even adults -- parade about in costume chatting with strangers like friends and approaching homes as though they had just visited yesterday. Humans get it. Dogs often don't.
If your dog is known for extreme reactions, this night may prove an unnecessary stress for her. Halloween, after all, is not about dogs it's about candy -- most of your visitors will be surveying the goodies in your basket, not what breed of dog you have. With this in mind, strive to keep your dog out of their faces: either tethering her back away from the door, holding her on a leash or closing her in a distant room with gentle music playing loudly to mask the evening sounds. This is not the night to begin socializing your dog or testing out your new training techniques: this holiday, from a canine perspective, is most bizarre.
Consider it from your dog's viewpoint. Your home is your dog's den: your door, the entranceway to it. By instinct your dog is compelled to investigate every newcomer.
Whether her normal daily reaction to visitors is protective, friendly, or fearful, it is established. Halloween, however, is far from normal and thus will break every rule. Protective dogs can turn fearful, fearful dogs may stand ground, and friendly dogs may run to hide. When contemplating how to handle this day, consider your dog's age, temperament and energy level.
If this is your dog's first Halloween, she'll be more open to your interpretation of the night, looking to you to determine her response. In this instance, condition your dog to the sound of treats in a cup -- tossing a treat each time you rattle the cup. A night or two before Halloween ask friends or neighbors to visit in costume, preferable at dusk. With your dog on leash, lead her to the door, opening it casually as you mindfully relax your body posture and voice tones. Offer your visitors the treat cup, directing them to toss your dog treats. Discourage any undo attention or interaction with your dog: direct focus may induce fear or aggression.
If possible ask your costumed helpers to repeat the same sequence a few times in 2-minute intervals. When your mock visitors leave, return to your household activity as though nothing unusual had occurred.
Consider getting even more involved in your dog's Halloween socialization project by purchasing a funky mask and/or asking your family to parade about in their costume a day or two before the big night. Shake her treat cup and reward her confidence. If your dog is a bit wary, let her hang back and watch to make sure it's really you. If your dog gets riled up or begins to attack the monster, well then you know, for sure, that Halloween really isn't her favorite holiday.
Three helpful tips
1) Tire your dog out during the day. Protect her from bad dreams by sending her to bed early with a radio or sound machine nearby to mask outside noise.
2) Purchase a delectable bone that will both displace her anxiety and entertain her while you're busy at the door.
3) Disable the doorbell if it riles your dog. When possible place an able person by the door to head off the spooks before they reach the mouth of the den, AKA your front door.
Happy Halloween. And remember -- don't feed the animals any chocolate!