Trick AND treats night for your dog – Training your dog on Halloween night
Offering candies to “little monsters” on Halloween night can be a lot of fun. Offering candies to “little monsters” on Halloween night when your dog’s behaviour makes him look like a monster himself is a lot less fun. Instead of being embarrassed, why not make the most of this busy night of doorbell ringing to train your dog a more appropriate behaviour?
There is one important rule: You have to be at least two people – one training the dog, and another one spoiling the kids.
Here are the most popular problems and how to manage them:
Barkers at the doorbell
Dogs bark when they hear the doorbell for several reasons: excitement (yeah, someone is coming!), stress (oh no, someone is coming!) and duty (someone is coming: I have to tell my owners).
In all cases, you can teach your dog to better control his emotions, good or bad, and to show a calmer welcoming behaviour. Teaching a dog to not bark, ie do nothing, is not simple. Teaching a dog a calmer behaviour to resort to instead of barking is easier. You can teach your dog to lie on his bed, to sit, to lie down, to come to you, etc. It is your choice.
Once you pick ONE behaviour, you need to associate the doorbell with this specific behaviour that you are asking to your dog. To teach this behaviour, you will need tasty treats, your dog’s favorite. The doorbell rings? Your dog needs to go lie on his bed, for example, and he is rewarded a LOT. He is learning a calm behaviour, and also learning that a doorbell is a positive occurrence.
Your dog should be leashed when you train him this behaviour, so that you are able to control him if he fails and gets up to run to the door barking. Failures should however not happen: You have to be as close to the door as your dog can while still being able to succeed. Some dogs will be able to start training right in front of the door, when some others will need to start in another room, or even on another floor.
Barkers at visitors
The same principles hold here too. Dogs that bark at visitors however often bark because they are afraid or very stressed. Here, you have to teach the same calm behaviour that you want, but associate the sight of visitors with very, very tasty treats. You will want to position yourself with your leashed dog so that he gets to see the kids at your door, but not so close that he is feeling so stressed that he wants to bark at them. Remember that you want your dog to succeed at all time, and that you want him to associate visitor with good things happening to him. Some very reactive dogs could find that seeing visitors is a bit too stressful at first; They could instead learn the association by staying further away and hearing the visitors’ voices.
These dogs are usually very, very happy to see visitors! They just have to learn a more appropriate way to greet them. Here too, you just have to pick the behaviour that you want to teach to your dog, to “sit” for instance, and associate this behaviour with visitors coming in. When your dog sits instead of jumping, reward him with his favorite treat. If the children act like they want to pet your dogs, if their parents agree AND if you know your dog wants this more than anything, you can reward his “sit” by then walking calmly with him on a leash toward the children, and have the kids pet him if he does not jump.
These dogs run for their lives as soon as they see an opened door. You have to teach them a solid STAY when the door opens. It is very important that they are leashed at all time during the exercise, so that a failure does not result in a lost dog. Failures should however not happen, as you have to dose the distance from the door so your dog’s excitement stays manageable. Reward his “stay” with very, very tasty treats whenever your friend or partner open the door to give treats to the children. If your dog charges the door, you are too close from the stimulus (opened door).
Halloween night should be practice night. Now is not the time to teach a new behaviour, but to rehearse it. Yes, you will need a lot of tasty rewards on this training night, as the context is somewhat challenging and the behaviour not yet acquired. This does not mean that you will have to use treats all your life whenever you have visitors! Once your dog shows more reliable behaviours, you will want to reduce the frequency of the treats, but never their tastiness.
If you do not want Halloween night to be training night, make sure your dog stays away from the trick and treating action and does not practice undesirable behaviour all night. After all, dogs learn all the time, not only in training sessions. You also want to avoid any accidents such as your dog hurting a kid by jumping or running through the door. You will also want to avoid having your dog scare a child by his barking.
Have a good trick or treats night!