Halloween can be a difficult day for many dogs, especially if you live somewhere that gets lots of trick-or-treaters! Whether due to fear of strangers, normal alert barking, or over-excitement, strangers coming to the door is already a struggle for many of our canine companions, and suddenly, one day out of the year, they keep showing up in a constant stream! On top of that, they’re all wearing masks and costumes, making it even more strange and scary!
There’s a few different ways you can go about making this day easier on both you and your pup. While you’re deciding on a plan, think about how your dog typically reacts to someone coming to the door, and expect that Halloween will be a bit more difficult on them than that.
Have a Plan, Even if Your Dog is Friendly:
Some dogs actually love having new people come to the door because it means they get a new friend! However Halloween can still be tricky compared to regular life. A dog who is normally very social may still get scared by certain costumes and react in a way you don’t expect. They may try to greet trick or treaters who don’t like or are scared of dogs. Or they may run out the door while you’re distracted handling candy. For these dogs it is usually best to either have them on leash (ideally held by someone other than the one passing out candy), or behind a baby gate while you answer the door. You can also use some of the other ideas from this list, depending on your
dog’s excitement level.
Don’t Invite Trick or Treaters at all:
This is the best option if you already aren’t the festive type, and your dog is especially worried about strangers. To make it clear to others that your house isn’t available for candy, don’t put up inviting decorations and keep your porch light off. If you want to be sure people don’t ring the bell, you can also put up a sign in your yard or on the door kindly letting passersby know your house isn’t available and doesn’t have candy.
If you won’t be home on Halloween, you’ll want to do this as well so that your dog isn’t hearing a bell go off over and over while they’re alone.
If you still want to offer candy, but can’t or don’t want to hand it out yourself, you can put out a bowl in front of your house with a sign letting others know to take some. Set the bowl out closer to the sidewalk than the door, so that the sound of people walking up to the house doesn’t upset your dog. Plan to restock the bowl a couple times, filling it up only part way in case someone takes more than their share.
Stay Outside, While Your Dog Stays Inside:
This is a great option if your dog can relax while you leave them, and if you’re expecting a steady stream of trick or treaters! Set up some lawn chairs in front of your house, closer to the sidewalk, and greet the children there. This way your dog doesn’t have to hear knocking or the bell going off, and you still get to participate in the fun!
Set Up a Safe Space for Your Dog:
Choose a room furthest from the front door for your dog to stay in for the evening. Give them comfortable places to lay and different enrichment items like frozen kongs, lickimats, snuffle mats, and other chews. Play relaxing music to help drown out the outside sounds. Depending on your dog and neighborhood, you may be able to do just this, or you may want to pair it with another option. If your dog relaxes well inside a crate, you can use one in this set up as well.
Desensitize Them to the Doorbell:
Regardless of if your dog is going to be in a safe room or close to the front door, it’s a good idea to get them used to the bell ringing so they don’t bark every time it goes off. Set aside a few minutes a day to practice ringing the doorbell. Each time it goes off, toss a handful of kibble or treats on the ground regardless of what your dog is doing. Make sure you grab the treats AFTER the bell goes off. Keep them stashed in jars around the house for easy access, and if at all possible, practice with someone standing on the other side of the door to make it more realistic. If your dog has a really big reaction to the bell already, you can give yourself a leg up by using a new doorbell/sound. Teach them the new sound equals food, and then you can switch it out with your
You can incorporate any combination of these options depending on you and your dog. Having a plan ahead of time will help everything run smoothly and reduce stress all around. So think through what the best move is for your pup, and have a happy Halloween!