By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Trainer and Blogger
Fall is officially here! The air is a little crisper, gourds are now decorations and football is topping the sports highlights. Being October, this also means Halloween!
Halloween is one of our favorite special occasions. Being certified professional dog trainers, we enjoy it because we get an entire evening to show off our dogs’ door greeting skills, along with their wide array of costumes. It’s also an ideal socialization setup — they get to meet lots of new people, who happen to look really odd. Spike loves this holiday too because these folks come to the door and give him treats! (He wishes every day was Halloween.)
Turn Your Dog into the Perfect Greeter
If you’ve got a throng of ghosts and goblins coming to your door asking for treats, we suggest you plan on using these visitors to your advantage and schedule an evening of training sessions to help strengthen your dog’s greeting skills. To ensure success for everyone, we highly encourage you to rehearse during the days leading up to the big night.
We’ve divided the entire door-answering scenario into specific behaviors, each of which can be taught and practiced independently.
No doubt your dog already knows how to “sit.” All you need to do is practice a “sit” while using a leash and adding distractions using a scale of 1 to 10. Once your dog knows that he needs to hold the “sit”, and you’ve rehearsed together with throwing a ball, treats, etc. in a variety of locations, you can then move near the front door and practice there.
Again with your dog on leash, practice opening and closing the door, asking your dog to “sit” until you give a release cue, such as “Go say hi!” This allows your dog to leave the command to greet the person at the door. If you don’t give the cue, then your dog will need to stay in a “sit”. Use loads of praise to encourage your dog to stay in a “sit”; this will help in the long run.
Now it’s time to add in the doorbell or knock. This will no doubt make it a little harder, so you’ll really want to make sure you give extra praise for staying put.
Before the big night, we suggest you run through a few dress rehearsals to help set the stage for success!
On the big night, place a small container of your dog’s treats outside the front door. When the little goblins come to the door, have your dog “sit”. When the door opens, tell your dog, “Go say hi!” and have the kids give your dog a treat. Be sure to put your dog back in a “sit” before you give the kids their treats (please make sure those treats are for humans). So, your dog gets treats for “saying hi”, and the kids get treats for helping you train your dog — it’s a win-win!
Now that you’ve got all the behaviors planned out, it’s time to discuss the wardrobe portion of the evening. In Part Two we’ve added a few simple tips to teach your dog to not just tolerate an outfit, but to love playing dress-up!
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