Many of us love Halloween – dressing up, sweet treats, games, and of course frequent trick or treaters knocking at the door. As dogs are valued members of our families, lots of us also want to get our dogs involved in the fun. Read on to hear my top tips on how to make the most of Halloween with your dog!
POSITIVELY MANAGE THE COMING AND GOING OF GUESTS
Whilst some dogs will find trick or treaters exciting, or perhaps enjoy the busyness of a full house of friends and family celebrating Halloween, others can find this time overwhelming and stressful. If you know that your dog is reactive to the door going, or perhaps becomes anxious at frequent guests knocking at the door or entering your home, consider how you can minimise this disturbance for your dog on Halloween.
If you are anticipating lots of visitors to your home it may be worth considering creating a safe place for your dog to reside, out of the way of the main action. Offer them a cosy bed in a secure area, dim the lights and play music loud enough to at least muffle the sounds of those visiting. Classica FM is a favourite in our house! You can also offer your dog a chew or food dispensing toy at this time that they enjoy. This can help to keep them occupied and distracted from sounds that may otherwise cause them to react or feel anxious. Lastly, it can also be helpful to exercise your dog earlier in the day, prior to the evenings trick or treaters commencing. Not only will this help you to avoid meeting any trick or treaters that might literally spook your dog, exercising your dog can help your dog to relax and rest throughout the evening rather than worry.
HALLOWEEN COSTUMES – THINK FOR YOUR DOG
It is important to remember that what we might find ‘normal’ and understand to be just a bit of fun at Halloween can be confusing and even frightening for our dogs. In the interest of minimising any stress to our dogs, it is best to avoid your dog being surprised by those dressed up – especially if your dog is usually worried or reacts to unusual stimuli as this can be a sign that your dog is unsure or worried.
This also goes for dressing up your dog. Whilst a Halloween themed collar, lead or bandana might not bother your dog, more elaborate costumes might make your dog feel uncomfortable or worried. Although we might think it’s cute, your dog will have little concept of why they are suddenly wearing garments, which is unnatural for them.
Instead, you could consider taking photos of your dog next to a pumpkin or other more subtle decorative items. Allow them to sniff and interact with the items before asking them to sit or lay next to them. Golden Autumn leaves on crisp Autumn walks can also make for a good backdrop and photo opportunity!
TRICKS AND TREATS!
Firstly, let’s talk about tricks! It can be incredibly rewarding to teach your dog a trick and your dog will likely enjoy the added attention, exercise and mental stimulation. You could teach your dog to ‘twist’ (also helpful for wiping their feet on the back door mat on a muddy day!) or teach a command like ‘roll over’, for example.
Top tips: use a tasty treat your dog enjoys to guide them into the desired position, say the command word (e.g. ‘twist’) as your dog is doing the action (e.g. as they are twisting round), and release the treat within two seconds of them performing the action. For a video tutorial on how to teach the twist command, head over to my Blog on www.dog-ease.co.uk
Next, let’s talk about treats! Halloween is a great excuse to treat your dog and there are some great Halloween themed toys on the market that your dog might love! You’ll find soft toys to food dispensing toys and everything in between. You could also treat your dog by making them tasty food treats from cooked apple or pumpkin, or find other seasonal Halloween produce that your dog might enjoy.
MAKE YOUR OWN HALLOWEEN FOOD DISPENSING TOY
If you’re feeling crafty, you could also try making your own food dispensing toy out of a pumpkin or two! It’s important to ensure that the pumpkin you choose is edible, there are lots of varieties on the market that range from extra small to extra large! Pick a pumpkin suitable for your dog’s size.
One idea is to hollow out your chosen pumpkin, carve small holes or shapes in the outside of it, and fill it with some tasty treats or dried dog food. Your dog will then need to roll the pumpkin around to release the treats through the holes and reap their reward!
Remember, if you’re offering your dog a home-made food dispensing toy made from an edible pumpkin, you will need to supervise your dog whilst they are playing. Whilst it is ok for most dogs to consume a little raw pumpkin, you don’t want them chowing down on a whole pumpkin as they contain a lot of fibre so this could lead to some constipation!
Disclaimer: All training is attempted at the owner’s risk and Adem Fehmi accepts no liability for any injuries to pets or owners sustained during training. If your dog is showing signs of a behavioural issue please seek professional advice.