HALLOWEEN: A Scary Season for Dogs?
The costumes are just fun and games for us, but some dogs struggle coping with the strange happenings of Halloween. They don't always understand there is a regular human behind those masks. Not surprising considering some dogs are triggered simply by a person in a hat and sunglasses.
Anything that is not part of the "normal" events of daily life can excite dogs, and not in a good way. From where does that excitement stem? Dogs have a wonderful ability to memorize and profile the activities of daily life; what time you eat dinner, the time of day you brush your teeth, the sound of your unique keys, what shoes you put on today, and -- what time the doorbell usually rings.
Dogs, like people, tend to have a higher state of awareness and vigilance at night. This is a natural, built-in survival mechanism. Many dogs who suffer from various anxiety disorders can be triggered by doorbells that particularly occur at night. These are times you might not usually have visitors. Therefore, it is possible to see an increased intensity in barking at doorbells around this time.
So what can you do to help make this Halloween more tolerable for an anxious dog?
1. Utilize Boundaries
We teach 3 core boundaries that can used to stabilize dogs during turbulent times in life. These boundaries are heel, wait, place. Consider using one of these boundaries to provide a sense of grounding for your dog. Use the leash indoors to enforce these rules.
2. Divide and Lead
Sometimes just a little bit of planning and organization can go a long way in a successful visit. Divide your duties to allow one parent to answer the door and give out candy while the other parent guides and leads the dog in the home using the leash.
3. Silence the doorbell
Perhaps keep an eye out and meet children at the door before they ring the bell. If you have a digital Ring type doorbell, you can silence the chime. Instead, use your phone app to be alerted of visitors.
Disabling Your In-Home Doorbell Chime on a Ring Pro
Open the Ring app.
Tap on your Ring Pro.
Tap Device Settings.
Select Doorbell Kit Settings.
Tap the toggle to disable or enable your in-home doorbell chime. If the toggle is green, the feature is enabled. ...
Tap Done in the upper right to save your changes.
4. Small spaces are safe places.
If none of the options above are suitable then you might fall back on the kennel.
Most dogs view their kennels as "safe places" where they can seek refuge. Therefore, when kenneling your dog at home, you should feel no guilt. Dogs, by their nature, are denning animals. Like people, they do not wish to be out in the open when they feel threatened. Situate your kennel in a quiet room away from the front door. Put on a little masking music or white noise. Give them their favorite toy or a Kong filled with frozen peanut butter to keep them occupied.
5. Aggression cases
Halloween might not be the best time to test how well your dog will react. If your dog has extreme reactions but no bite history, be cautious. Sometimes stressful events can stack over time and cause a bite to occur. Every biting dog had a "first time" they decided to bite. Here again, the best policy might be to kennel your dog to avoid accidents and liabilities.
If you have way too much going on in life and cannot entertain any of these options then consider a night out at their favorite boarding facility.
As always, if you need any help with your dog's behavior -- or perhaps need help building an action plan, then please reach out for assistance. Now go have a great time!
Aaron McDonald is a canine behaviorist, author of Three Dimensional Dog, A Unified Theory of Canine Behavior, and President of Three Dimensional Dog, a canine behavior consultancy firm located in Birmingham, AL. Three Dimensional Dog behaviorists offer private, in-home canine behavior and "parent training" services for the Greater Birmingham area. They can be reached at 205-563-8383 or visit www.ThreeDimensionalDog.com.