My dog is usually calm, quiet, and friendly with kids, but he barks at trick-or-treaters on Halloween, scaring some of the younger ones. What can I do about this behavior?
From your dog’s perspective, his home is suddenly being invaded by a continual stream of small, but potentially dangerous, creatures shouting at the door. With their masks, capes, wigs, funny glasses, hats, and other accoutrements, trick-or-treaters can be quite scary to dogs. For dogs who already tend to bark at people who come to the door, seeing a group of children at the door in unusual costumes is enough to send them into a frenzy. I recommend setting up your dog in a back room or in his crate with a chew or a food toy that he can work on for a while. Make sure that he is situated in an area where he cannot see trick-or-treaters, and keep the radio or TV on so that he is not continually alarmed by the sound of the doorbell, knocks, and voices. Alternatively, you could slowly work on getting your dog accustomed to the sight of people wearing costumes, but since Halloween only happens once a year, it may be easier to just set him up with quiet time as described above.
Here are a few additional tips for managing your dog on Halloween:
- Only bring your dog along for trick-or-treating if he copes well with excitement and is friendly with both people and dogs in costumes.
- If you are going to dress your dog in a costume, please make sure that he is comfortable. If your dog is not relaxed when wearing a costume, get in the spirit instead by giving him a Halloween-themed bandana, collar, or leash.
- Dogs can get lost in the chaos of Halloween. Please check that your dog is wearing clear identification, and keep him away from open doors.
- If your dog is a counter-surfer, remind the kids to keep their candy in containers or in other inaccessible locations. Chocolate and other ingredients in candy can be toxic to dogs.
Have a dog training or behavior question? Post your questions to Dr. Wan below, or e-mail them to AskDrWan@westportdogs.com. Please read the guidelines before submitting your question.
Dr. Michele Wan, a certified applied animal behaviorist, provides dog behavior consultations and classes to Fairfield County dog owners and phone consultations to dog owners nationwide. She earned her doctorate and researched dog-human communication at Columbia University.