Halloween Tips for your Service Dog
Ghosts, goblins and ghouls, oh my! Halloween can be a scary time for dogs, as they have no advanced warning or explanation of why they are suddenly seeing little monsters running around everywhere. Here are a few training tips to help you, and your dog, survive the spookiest time of year.
~Avoid after dark walks if possible. Dog eyes are designed to notice motion in the dark. They can detect things from a distance that we may not even see. Noticing something moving at dusk or dark (but not being able to completely make it out) can put your dog on high alert or even on defense. The same goes for haunted houses or other Halloween related festivities. Anything intended to scare or startle people is best avoided with your assistance dog. If you do find yourself in one of these situations by accident, here are a few things to watch out for. Staring, stiff body language, raised hackles or reluctance to approach something are all signs that your dog is on guard. If he/she is allowed to continue staring at the “threat”, then you are likely to see an escalation to alert barking or growling. Do your best to interrupt the dog’s concentration on the object before it gets to that point. Combining “Leave It” with “Let’s Go” in another direction is usually sufficient redirection. Remember to be a clear leader for your dog and model the appropriate attitude and energy you’d like to see from him/her.
~Prepare for Trick or Treaters. If you live in an area where you’re likely to receive parades of unpredictable tiny masked trespassers at your door, you’ll need to have a plan for preparing your pup for these guests. Even the most confident dog can be thrown off guard when startled out of a sleep in their own bed by a child in costume. The easiest (and safest) option is to put your dog in his or her crate for the evening. This will prevent any face to face fears or accidental darting out the front door. We recommend keeping them occupied with a stuffed Kong and tossing a treat into your dog’s crate each time the doorbell rings or there is a knock at the door. This is an easy way to create a positive association between a very exciting and potentially stressful environmental cue. You can even practice this ahead of time for better and more consistent calm behavior when the actual event occurs.
~Keep doggie costumes in check. It’s fun to include your assistance dog in the festivities and with the stunning array of doggie costumes available these days, it’s almost impossible to pass up the opportunity to dress your dog in something silly. Just remember that if your dog is working, they will still need to be easily identified as a Service Dog, which means having their NEADS vest visible. They will also need to be comfortable. Steer clear of any costumes that obstruct movement or vision, or that are generally overbearing. Especially if you are taking your dog out in public wearing a costume, they should be kept unobtrusive and out of the way of other patrons. Please also remember that your dog is constantly a reflection and representative of NEADS, so keep costumes in good taste.
Have fun and stay safe!