Prepping Your Dog for the Halloween Catwalk
By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Cynologist,
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 vast array of costumes. It’s also an ideal socialization setup — they get to meet many new people who happen to look odd. Penny loves this holiday too, because these folks come to the door and give her treats! (She wishes every day was Halloween.)
Turn Your Dog into the Perfect Greeter
If you’ve got a multitude 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 various locations, you can then move near the front door and practice there.
Again with your dog on a 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, 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 more complicated, so you’ll 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. So, your dog gets treats for “saying hi,” and the kids get goodies for helping you train your dog — it’s a win-win! Be sure to put your dog back in a “sit” before giving the kids their treats (please make sure those treats are for humans).
Now that you’ve got all the behaviors planned out, it’s time to discuss the wardrobe portion of the evening. We’ve added a few simple tips to teach your dog not just to tolerate an outfit but to love playing dress-up!
Let’s face it, if dogs were out in the wild, one of the last things they’d want to do is put on an outfit, especially a Halloween costume. But with a bit of technique called classical conditioning, you can teach your canine companion to love almost any outfit. So grab that outfit and some tasty treats, and learn how we teach our dogs to love their costumes:
There are so many dog clothes out there, including specific costumes. Make sure you have one that is pet-friendly and fits your dog well. You’ll also want to have a container of yummy treats with you. We’re not talking the dry little biscuits; this is the time to pull out the big guns: small pieces of chicken, steak, or freeze-dried liver.
Note: Use foods that are healthy and are part of your dog’s regular diet. Also, regard these treats as part of your dog’s typical meal, not an add-on. When in doubt, check with your veterinarian.
Create the Connection
Teach your dog that the costume is associated with getting chicken (or the like). You’ll want to break this down into small steps:
Please start with the costume hidden behind your back so your dog can’t see it. Then, show your dog the new costume, followed by giving your dog a small treat. Repeat this until your dog’s body language shows that they are excited when the costume appears — tail wagging, an open, relaxed mouth, and tongue hanging out (with possible drooling) are a few of the popular body language indicators.
Fit the costume on your dog
The next step is to start to fit the costume on your dog. We suggest you continue the same process, meaning; first, the costume being placed on your dog, followed by a bit of treat. If your dog seems to be enjoying it, then you can push a little faster by dressing your dog, all the while rewarding with small treats. Then remove the costume and put all the goodies away. If your dog is a little more hesitant, slow it down by putting only one section of the costume on at a time.
Once your dog gets the idea, you’ll be able to do this with other costumes.
Halloween is the perfect time to teach your dogs to be the ideal door greeter AND a fashionista, and it’s also the perfect time to show off their skills. Practice for just a few minutes on the days leading up, and you’ll get great results, plus all the ghosts and goblins will be impressed!
Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs. Gain more canine knowledge through Acme Canine’s social media: website, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram