Halloween is an exciting time.
Kids dress up and come knocking at your door. You get to see all of the creative and cute costumes.
In exchange they get a piece of candy.
What’s not to love? It really brings communities together as children go from door to door and are welcomed by all of their neighbours.
Despite this amazing experience for us humans, it can be stressful for our dogs.
The constant knocking and noisy kids can be stressful.
Maybe they don’t like strangers or knocking on the door causes them anxiety anyway.
You have to remember that your dog doesn’t understand what’s going on and you can’t communicate what's happening with them properly.
What you can do is help reduce the stress and anxiety for them. There are so many options and your dog will thank you for taking the time to set them up for success.
1. Prepare for Trick or Treat
It might seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of people don’t consider what they could do until it needs to be done. It’s an “out of sight, out of mind” moment.
Halloween can feel so far away and you put off all of that prep until it’s too late.
There are things you can do ahead of time to help normalise all of the things that happen during trick or treat.
However, if what you're doing makes your dog too anxious, it’s okay to try other measures instead. There’s not a one size fits all solution for these situations.
2. Train Ahead of Time
This is a great skill for your dog to have no matter what. Teach your dog to sit and stay when you answer the door.
It will help reduce anxiety by giving them a task to focus on.
Start small by getting them to sit and stay when you move towards the door. The goal is for them to sit and stay the entire time.
Don’t open the door unless they remain in place.
3. Simulate Knocking
This is where the training increases in difficulty. A lot of dogs are fine until someone knocks on the door or rings the doorbell.
Then they get excited and start barking or running to the door. They might even jump up on the door.
Have a friend or family member knock, but do not acknowledge the knock, get up, or move towards the door until your dog calms down.
Only get up to open the door once they are calm, sitting, and stay in place.
4. Make a Quiet Room
If your dog gets too anxious over the door, opt to remove them from the situation completely.
You can set up a bedroom, spare closet, office space or similar area for your dog.
The important part is that it be away from your living room where all of the noise is.
You can also make sure that their crate is in the room with them since that’s their space and they might want a place to curl up.
You can offer distractions like puzzle bowls and frozen treats.
If the room has a television, you can turn it on to help create some noise to mask the knocking and talking that causes them anxiety.
It’s hard to be anxious when you’re tired.
If your dog uses up all of their energy before the big event, they’ll be less reactive and less likely to become stressed out.
Go for a run, play a rigorous game of fetch, tug-o-war or another one of their favourite games.
Whatever you need to do to wear them out and get them ready for a nap during trick or treat.
6. Take a Breath
This one is more for you than your dog, but it will benefit them as well.
We know that it can be frustrating and stressful to deal with constant barking and whining, but you have to take a step back.
Your dog is anxious, because they don’t understand what’s happening. They aren’t barking to spite you or be annoying.
They also take cues from you. If you get upset or anxious, they’ll see that and become more worked up as well.
So, take a step back, take a breath, and make sure you’re calm and ready to handle the situation beforehand.
7. What to do During Trick or Treat
So, you’ve prepared for trick or treat. You’ve got a room set up for your dog, you’ve tired them out, and you’ve been training for this moment.
What else can you do?
There are things you can do during trick or treat that make a difference as well.
These are made to apply a light pressure around your dog’s chest and torso. It works similar to swaddling a baby.
The gentle pressure can ease anxiety and offer a sense of security and comfort.
A Training Opportunity
If your dog isn’t too anxious, trick or treat can be a great time to build a positive association with people coming to your door.
You can offer treats when they don’t bark at the door or when they do a good job of ignoring the door.
Sometimes holding up a treat is enough to distract your dog and stop them from barking. Once they’ve quieted and focused on you instead of the door, you can reward them.
At some point, your dog will learn to focus on you and the good things you have instead of the knocking sound on your door.
8. Talk to Your Vet about Trick or Treat
This will take some prep before and some proactivity during trick or treat.
If you have a really anxious dog that just can’t handle it, that’s okay. Your vet is there to help.
They can help you come up with a personalised plan for your dog.
They’ll offer advice on managing anxiety and also prescribe medication if it’s necessary. Some dogs just can’t handle the stress on their own and need extra help.
Your vet will be able to help you plan accordingly no matter the situation.
There’s no reason for you or your dog to stress about Halloween. It should be a calm night for everyone, even with the excitement.
Is there anything you do to help curb your dog’s anxiety when kids come knocking or are they one of those pooches that love the attention?
What tips and tricks would you like to share? Maybe you have a fun picture of your dog in their costume.
In either case, we’d love to hear from you, so stop on our social media page and share your stories.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I prepare my dog for the excitement of Halloween and trick-or-treaters?
To prepare your dog, you can start by training them to sit and stay when you answer the door. Gradually increase the difficulty by simulating knocking and rewarding your dog for staying calm. Additionally, you can create a quiet room away from the noise and offer distractions like puzzle bowls or frozen treats.
How can a training leash help during trick-or-treat events?
A training leash can provide better control over your dog when trick-or-treaters come knocking. It allows you to guide your dog's behavior and keep them calm. The leash's versatility lets you adapt to various situations and helps reduce anxiety for your dog.
What are Thundershirts, and how can they help calm anxious dogs during Halloween?
Thundershirts are designed to apply gentle pressure to a dog's chest and torso, similar to swaddling a baby. This pressure can ease anxiety and provide a sense of security and comfort. Thundershirts are a helpful tool to keep your dog calm during Halloween festivities.
How can I use trick-or-treat as a training opportunity for my dog?
You can use trick-or-treat as a training opportunity by rewarding your dog when they don't bark at the door or when they ignore it. Offering treats and positive reinforcement during these moments can help your dog associate visitors with positive experiences and reduce their anxiety.
What should I do if my dog is extremely anxious during trick-or-treat events?
If your dog is exceptionally anxious and cannot handle the stress of trick-or-treat, it's essential to consult with your vet. Your vet can provide a personalized plan to manage your dog's anxiety and may prescribe medication if necessary. It's crucial to prioritize your dog's well-being and seek professional guidance when needed.