Halloween 2020 will indeed be a little scary, spooky, and downright different this year. But, it doesn’t mean we still can’t have a little fun with our inquisitive canines! As a matter-of-fact, the current situation might work to our advantage, in that we can use the time to practice for next year — or whenever trick or treating will be on the “allowed” list.
If you’ve read through other Inquisitive Canine posts, or have attended any of our dog training classes or worked with Joan as a private client, you’ve learned that ‘dress rehearsals’ of any dog training skill are important. To set both dogs and guardians up for success, each needs to learn the skill first, practice, then apply it to real-life adventures. This repetition allows for building a solid foundation, as well as having the opportunity to troubleshoot and refine along the way. We expect a lot from our dogs during holiday adventures, including Halloween. This year, even if we might not be taking our dogs far from home, we can still practice needed skills while having some fright-less fun along the way.
Think about all of the behaviors we want and expect our canine companions to know during Halloween celebrations, whether at home or accompanying little ones going door-to-door. At-home skills would include:
- Greeting people politely — usually strangers coming to the door, wearing funny (and sometimes scary) outfits. (Although masks are very popular nowadays, Halloween masks are often a bit different!)
- Leaving things alone when asked — say candy on the floor or new decorations that make tempting chew toys…
- Going to a bed/mat/crate when the doorbell rings.
- A fun trick such as play dead, spin, roll over — didn’t someone say “trick or treat?”
For outdoor adventures, greeting people politely and leaving things alone will also come in handy, but walking politely on a loose leash — especially if wearing a costume — is likely the top priority. Which brings us to some other important learning opportunities…
Teaching Dogs to Love Wearing Their Special Costumes
Let’s face it, if dogs had it their own way, they’d likely just want to run around naked! In our human world, we prefer at the very least they wear a collar and functional dog harness. But costumes?? Yes, and not just during Halloween. So, even though you might not be taking Fido out anywhere, you can certainly teach him to enjoy playing dress-up. You can go through the same steps as you would for teaching a dog to love a new harness, as follows:
Whenever the outfit appears, your dog gets yummy treats (dog treats, not candy). The order of events is most important: outfit first, followed by treats. No outfit, no treats. Start slowly, and build slowly, to help get your dog used to it. For instance, show him the outfit, treat, then touch your dog with the costume, then treat, followed by dressing one limb, then treat, two limbs, treat, etc…Give your dog a break between sessions, again building slowly. This gradual process allows dogs to develop something called a positive conditioned response, which is the fancy scientific term for creating automatic happy excitement when seeing or experiencing something that was once neutral. We don’t want dogs to tolerate wearing costumes; we want them to love it!
To summarize, you can make Halloween 2020 a real treat for your dog by:
- Practicing sit-stay near the front door when the doorbell rings
- Asking him to leave things alone when asked — and rewarding him for it
- Reinforcing walking politely on leash (If walking at night, be extra careful.)
- Getting him used to playing dress-up
Even though the 2020 Halloween festivities are a bit different this year, we can still be productive and have fun. We wish all of you a happy and safe Halloween and hope you and your inquisitive canine end up having a treat of a good time!
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