It’s no secret…Halloween activities can bring out the worst in even the best family dog. While some pets may be completely at ease around scary masks and flying capes, many others are easily unnerved by all the oddities of the day, not the least of which is the steady stream of “aliens” at the door. Common problems that occur on Halloween include incessant barking, escaping out the open front door, and – worse – fearfully nipping or biting at the innocent Trick-or-Treaters.

Here are some tips to help your dog – and those “aliens” – make it safely and calmly through any ‘fright fest.’

1) EXERCISE YOUR DOG before nightfall. And we don’t mean a walk around the block. Get your dog tired. We mean REAL tired. The old saying is true: a tired dog is a good dog. (And often a quiet one.)

2) BLOCK OFF ACCESS to the front door. Your pet cannot control the entry, frighten the guests, or bolt out into the night if he/she can’t get to the door. Baby gates are great for this, you can also improvise with furniture, cushions, a tie out, or even something such as a sideways placed ladder.

3) USE YOUR DOG’S BEDROOM during the peak hours. For dogs who are crate or ex-pen trained, this is a great solution – especially if the crate isn’t in an isolated location. (Don’t be tempted, however, to buy a new crate and start crate training on a night like this; chances are, if your dog is stressed, the crate training will actually backfire.)

4) GIVE YOUR DOG A BINKY to chew. A big juicy bone, or a Kong toy filled with lickable, squishy treats such as peanut butter, cream cheese, leftover table scraps are perfect for this. Anything that your pet has to concentrate on and can relax and enjoy working at, rather than focusing on the door, is a great solution, especially if you are using a crate (see above.)

5) TAG TEAM TRAIN if your pet is not too stressed. Have your dog on leash, practicing simple things such as Sit, Stay, Quiet, and Wait-On-Your-Rug near (but not too close) to the door, while someone else answers the door and greets the kids.

All dogs can get stressed by normal children and their activities, and that likelihood increases when you add masks, screaming, and erratic behavior. If your dog becomes stressed (heavy panting, increased arousal, excessive whining and drooling are clues) on Halloween, don’t try and talk your pet out of it. In other words, don’t soothe your pet with ‘It’s okay, it’s okay’ – you will just inadvertently be giving attention to your dog for behavior you don’t want. Simply stop the training and/or remove the dog from the situation, and refer to steps 2-4 above.

And above all…have a safe and happy Halloween!dog – especially if you have a puppy – make it safely and calmly through the Big Night of Trick-or-Treaters!

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