Training Time!

Halloween Doesn’t Have to Be Scary to Your Dog

By Sandy Modell

It’s that time of year again . . . Halloween!! — when children and adults alike dig out those spooky costumes and get ready for tricks and treats.  For many dogs, Halloween is not a fun time and can be a really scary night, unless you prepare ahead of time to keep them safe and calm.

training-time-october-halloween-tips-2016Remember, dogs can easily be spooked by all the commotion:  ringing of the doorbell, scary costumes, constant knocking and cries of “Trick or Treat!” from those little ghosts and goblins.  Your dog may dart out the door to make an escape when you open it to hand out candy.  Fearful dogs may be triggered by kids in costumes and do something they normally wouldn’t do — such as bite. 

Many dogs get excited when ordinary visitors come to the door.  Some even get overexcited or fearful on these occasions.  If that is the case with your dog, there is no need to have him meet the Headless Horseman, a giant spider or Dracula, for that matter.  Below are some good tips that can help you and your dog survive this year’s event.

  1. Prevent your dog from getting to the door using gates, crates or x-pens! Don’t wait until Halloween to do this though.  A sudden change in environment could make your dog nervous.  Put up the gate about a week in advance to give your pup time to get used to it.  Feeding your dog meals behind the gate and providing treats and fun toys will help your pup warm up to it.


  1. Better yet, place your dog in an enclosed room as far away from the front door as possible and give him his own treat bag filled with a variety of chew products, frozen Kongs, and interactive toys. Put on some soft classical music, white noise, or the TV to help mask the sounds of visitor traffic.


  1. Place masking tape over the doorbell and write, “Do not use” on the tape. This will discourage visitors from ringing the doorbell and upsetting your dog.


  1. Even better . . . meet your trick or treaters outside the house so there is less activity at the door that could cause your dog stress. Swarms of kids in unrecognizable costumes, heavy vehicle traffic and noise can quickly overwhelm dogs and threaten their sense of safety.


  1. Exercise your dog as much as possible 90 minutes prior to prime “trick or treat” traffic so that he is tired.
  2. Consider boarding your dog for the evening if he is overly anxious or fearful of strangers.
  3. If you don’t feel confident about surviving the evening attempting to manage your dog’s environment, you could always take the easy way out and turn off your lights!

Are you planning to dress up your pup for the Del Ray Halloween Parade or other crowded holiday festivities?  Does your dog want to be dressed up?  Some dogs don’t mind it but others might feel uncomfortable wearing a silly costume.  Don’t wait for the day of the parade to see if your dog is okay in costume.  Practice dressing them up a week or so before the big event.  If they don’t like it, give them a reprieve.  If the pup doesn’t seem to mind dressing up, make sure the costume doesn’t restrict movement, hearing or the ability to breathe and bark.  Look out for small, dangling pieces that could easily be chewed on and choke your pup.

Howl-o-ween can be great fun for you and your pup — if you plan ahead and do it right!

Wholistic Hound specializes in teaching people and their dogs to enjoy life together, build positive relationships, good behaviors and life skills through group classes and in-home private lessons.  Coming soon . . . the Wholistic Hound Academy! — Alexandria’s first and only reward-based dog training school and sports facility — offering classes and private lessons in behavior modification, manners, dog sports and canine conditioning, including agility, nosework, musical freestyle and rally.  The Academy will also offer training and wellness workshops and seminars for clients, training and pet care professionals and the community.   Visit and like us on to learn more about upcoming programs and grand opening date.


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