Hello to my DGGT family! This week we are talking about how to help your pets have a fear-free Halloween around Massachusetts! While cities and towns continue to announce individual plans and guidelines to keep everyone safe and healthy, trick-or-treating is still a go for most Massachusetts communities! For many pups, the idea of strangers coming to their home can cause a great deal of stress. Couple this with tiny humans, in really strange looking outfits, making all kinds of noise and it can be a real tricky time for your pup!
So, what can we do to help? The most important thing we can do to make our doggy friends feel safe is manage their environment! For every dog, the level of management needed will be different, so take what you need from the following goodie bag of tips and feel free to leave what you don’t.
In the days leading up to Halloween create a safe space for your dog:
Consider a room that puts some distance between your pup and the commotion. Begin to make this room the predictor of good things by feeding your dog’s meals in this area and having training sessions or playtime here. Help mask the noises by leaving a tv, radio, or white-noise machine on! Putting their crate or bed in this room can also give them a safe and familiar space to go to. Once the actual night of Halloween rolls around, they should LOVE going into this room!
For a dog that is not nervous of strangers, but perhaps loves them a little too much, consider using a baby gate or tether to ensure they are not able to dash out the door! Spend 3-5 minutes a day brushing up on their “place” or “bed” cue. I assure you, this is one of the most useful things to teach your dog and you will use it far more often than the night of Halloween! Here is a short video from a fear-free professional trainer on how to go about teaching this:
My dog, Daisy, falls into the nervous category. In her mind, strangers may as well be witches plotting to cast a wicked spell to make all her dog treats disappear…which admittedly is terrifying. So we choose to leave the candy bowl before the stairs leading up to our house and we hang out in a room away from the front door and put the TV on to mask the outside noises.
The day of Halloween: Make sure your pup has gotten a good amount of exercise for the day! We are talking about physical exercise like off-leash playtime, a hike in the woods, a long sniffy-walk, as well as mental exercise! Treat dispensing puzzle toys, frozen kongs or a few training sessions will tire your dog out and help them to feel less anxious. Then follow your nervous or confident dog protocol as the night begins.
By putting in this work upfront, with all of these tools in place and the environment controlled, you will have set your dog up to have a minimally frightful night!
Here at DGGT, we would love to hear how your pup feels about trick-or-treating and what you are doing to set them up for success on Howl-O-Ween! Let us know in the comments!