Tag Archive for: halloween

Stop Barking at the Doorbell: A Halloween Training Activity

Photo by Found Animals Foundation

Photo by Found Animals Foundation

Your doorbell is going to ring all night long as the trick or treaters make their way around the neighborhood. What if we told you that you could use this as an opportunity to teach your dog not to bark his fool head off?

This process requires:

  • One human to handle the trick or treaters
  • One human to do the dog training
  • A big baggie of over-the-top awesome treats.
    • Chopped up meat and/or cheese works best!
    • Prepare lots more than you think you will use.
    • Skip feeding your dog dinner since they’re going to eat a lot!
  • One hungry dog that likes to bark at the doorbell
  • A book to read between doorbell rings
  • Ear plugs (optional) 🙂

Set up:

  • Be sure your dog has had a walk so they’re a bit more relaxed and have done all their business.
  • Before the trick or treaters arrive, get your dog and your over-the-top awesome treats in another room of the house and close the door.
  • Your helper human will be handling the trick or treaters!
  • Put your treat bag somewhere you can have quick access to it.

DING-DONG!

  • As soon as the doorbell rings, grab a small handful of treats and feed feed feed.
  • Put the treats away and go back to your book. Your dog may still be barking and that’s ok.
  • Repeat the process for every doorbell ring.
  • Do not give treats for any other reason so the dog understands doorbell = delicious.

What You Should Notice

  • After a few repetitions, your dog should start to look at you expectantly when the doorbell rings.
  • The barking will most likely start to fade away. (Key word: “start.” You’ll want to keep working on this beyond tonight to get the best results.

Troubleshooting

  • “My dog won’t eat the treats!”
    • Be sure you have the highest value treats possible. Normal training treats or biscuits won’t cut it. Real meat and/or cheese is best. You need something irresistible that your dog doesn’t get every day.
    • If your dog turns away from you and won’t eat the treats, toss them on the floor near the dog. When the dog calms down a bit, they will eat them. The important thing is the connection that doorbell = food.
  • “My dog eats and then starts barking again!”
    • That’s fine. There are no other triggers present other than the doorbell, so once you’ve given the food, go back to your book and ignore the barking. Wait for the next trick or treater.
  • “We don’t get that many trick or treaters.”
    • This is why you have a helper human at the front door! Ask your helper human to ring the doorbell if there have been no trick or treaters for 5 minutes. Then you can get in more practice with your dog.

A Great Video

Check out Kikopup’s very thorough video that teaches how to desensitize and countercondition your dog to the arrival of guests.

Need Help?

We have a great resource page on Barking you can check out for more information. And you can always contact us with questions or sign up for a class or a free workshop to learn more about getting the best behavior out of your dog.

halloween dog - cocker spaniel wearing bat wings sitting beside tomb stone on white background

Dogs Don’t Like Wearing Halloween Costumes… Unless You Train It!

A chihuahua dressed in a hot dog costume. The dog's head is down, its ears are back, and one front paw is lifted.

Head down. Paw up. Ears back. This dog is not happy.

Planning on dressing up your dog for Halloween?

How does your dog behave when wearing a costume?

If your dog is so happy-go-lucky that wearing clothing and hats doesn’t bother him, you can go about your day. You hit the lottery and got an extremely well-adjusted dog.

Costumes Stress Out Most Dogs

Most of us have dogs that look a bit like the Chihuahua pictured here. This dog is showing signs of stress: head down, ears back, paw raised.

Signs your dog is stressed:

  • Head down
  • Whale eyes (open wide, can see the whites)
  • Ears back
  • Turning away
  • Single paw raised
  • Freezing / refusing to move
  • Flattening to the ground

Alternatives to Dog Costumes

halloween dog - cocker spaniel wearing bat wings sitting beside tomb stone on white backgroundIf your dog does not deal well with changes in the environment, it’s best to skip dressing them up for Halloween. Here are some ideas to get cute pictures without dressing up your pup:

Festive Collar:  Seasonal collars are a fun way to dress up your dog. Check out these handmade Halloween collars on Etsy.

Fake Costume: Check out the adorable BatCocker! Attach the wings to the wall and position your dog in front of them. Ta-da!

Props: Gather your jack-o-lanterns, fake spiderwebs, and scarecrow and pose your dog in front of them for a great Halloween photo.

So You Want Your Dog to Like Wearing a Costume…

To get your dog accustomed to wearing a costume, you need to start bit by bit. This process will take 1 minute per training session.

Training Goal 1: The sight of the costume predicts treats.

  1. Grab the costume and 10-12 pieces of GOOD treats. Leftover meat, cheese stick, etc.
  2. Show the dog the costume and feed a treat.
  3. Hide the costume behind your back.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until you run out of treats.

Do this process several times per day. Once you see your dog getting excited at the sight of the costume, move on to the next training goal. (If your dog does not get excited to see the costume, do not proceed. Scroll back up for costume alternatives and keep that pup happy!)

Training Goal 2: Touching the costume predicts treats.

  1. Grab the costume and 10-12 pieces of GOOD treats.
  2. Show the dog the costume and feed a treat.
  3. Hide the costume behind your back.
  4. Touch your dog with the costume (reach to your dog’s side, not over the head) and feed a treat.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 until you run out of treats.

Do this process several times per day. Once you see your dog getting excited at the sight of the costume, move to the next training goal. (If your dog is looking stressed, do not proceed. Scroll back up for costume alternatives.)

Training Goal 3: Wearing the costume predicts treats.

  1. Grab the costume and 10-12 pieces of GOOD treats.
  2. Show the dog the costume and feed a treat.
  3. Hide the costume behind your back.
  4. Touch your dog with the costume (reach to your dog’s side, not over the head) and feed a treat.
  5. Hide the costume behind your back.
  6. Put the costume on the dog* and jackpot feed the treats. (Save 2 treats for removing the costume.)
  7. Take the costume off while feeding the remaining treats.

*NOTE:  If the costume involves multiple pieces, do this process for each individual piece in separate training sessions.

“I Don’t Have Time for That!”

Sure you do! Each training session is 1-2 minutes long. You can dedicate just 5 minutes a day to this training protocol and (most likely) have a dog that’s happy to dress up for you. And when your dog is happy, your Halloween pictures will be super cute!