How to handle your nervous or territorial dog when people come trick or treating
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How to handle your nervous or territorial dog when people come trick or treating

Dogs
Pet Psychology

During the month of October, all things Halloween begin to take over the shops and streets, and whilst many people who enjoy this holiday will go to parties or attend organised events, the younger member of the family might be clamouring to go out trick or treating!

Most people who take their children trick or treating (and plenty that simply enjoy the season) also welcome trick or treaters to their own home too, and enjoy seeing all of the weird, wacky and sometimes very creative costumes on display!

However, Halloween, much like other nights of the year when there is a party atmosphere and lots of people around such as New Year’s Eve, can be very stressful for dogs. This is something that you need to bear in mind if you have a dog and also intend to welcome trick or treaters.

Halloween can in fact be more challenging than other busy holiday events like New Years Eve and Christmas, because if you are inviting trick or treaters to call on you, this will mean a number of strangers coming to your home at odd intervals, which can have a large impact on some dogs, particularly those that are nervous or rather territorial.

With this in mind, this article will make some suggestions and share some options to consider for how to handle your dog when people come trick or treating. Read on to learn more.

Avoiding trick or treaters entirely

First of all, if your dog is very shy, tends to be nervous of strangers, is easily unsettled or is very territorial and gets wound up or defensive when people come to the door at normal times, you might want to consider not encouraging trick or treaters at all.

Generally, trick or treaters follow something of an unspoken code of only calling at houses that decorate for the night, so if you simply don’t display any decorations visible from outside, you should be able to avoid most, if not all, unexpected callers.

Taking your dog somewhere else for the night

Another option if you really want to greet trick or treaters or have a reasonable suspicion that people in your area tend to call at every door, with or without decorations, is to ask a friend or relative who lives elsewhere and that is avoiding things themselves to take your dog for the evening.

This is only really a good plan if your dog already knows them and their home well, and is used to spending time with them.

Reducing the impact of people at the door

You might be able to welcome trick or treaters successfully with a dog that might make a fuss at home if you can reduce the impact of the callers themselves.

One way to do this is to keep a lookout for people coming up the path and intercept them before they ring the bell or knock, with your dog in another room with someone else for company and to divert them, and perhaps the TV or some music on to reduce the cues that might tip them off!

Containing your dog in their crate or a quiet room

Settling your dog down on their own in their crate or another quiet enclosed space like a single room for the evening can help your dog to feel secure and reduce the chances of them picking up on a lot of comings and goings at the door.

Give them a chew or something to entertain themselves with and again, reduce external stimulus by using music or the TV to cover some of the noise, and potentially, by covering their crate too.

Should you let your dog greet trick or treaters?

If your dog is shy, nervous, unpredictable, territorial or defensive, you should keep them contained away from any callers. This will ensure that your visitors are kept safe and that your dog doesn’t get wound up.

It will also ensure that your dog doesn’t make a run for it when the door is open and your attention is split!

However, if your dog is calm, friendly and loves meeting new people, and you’ve asked your callers if they like dogs, you might be able to introduce them all at the door and let your dog get in on the fun!

If you do this, ensure that your dog is on a lead, under control and responsive to commands, and that he has a chance to see the callers (and their costumes) at a safe distance so you can judge his reactions and he won’t be alarmed.

Also, instruct your callers to be calm and not overly excited or noisy, and ensure that their sweets and treats are out of reach and they know not to try to share them with your dog!

Ps., keep an eye on the candy!

On which note, if you’re encouraging trick or treaters to call on you, you’ve probably got a supply of treats on hand to share with them – but ensure that you’re not inadvertently sharing them with your dog too!

Keep the Halloween candy well out of your dog’s reach, and remember how fast they can be about scavenging if your back is turned, and how adept dogs are at knocking food off apparently safe counters!

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