The human world can be new and scary for dogs in their everyday life let alone busy holidays. New people, objects, environments can be stressful for dogs but it doesn't need to be. Active and positive socialization can help your dogs confidence and overcome those fears. Dogs go through two different fear periods in life 8 -10 weeks and 6 -14 months. These ages are critical to ensure that all experiences are positive for them as they will remember these and it can have long term effects. Halloween is a great time of year to remember this and use that active socialization. What is active socialization? It's more than just introducing your dog to new objects, people, places. It's ensuring they think and realize it's a positive thing.
You are walking by a scary Halloween decoration on a yard that is moving, lit up or makes noise and your dog backs away, barks, lunges or cowers they are expressing that they are not comfortable with this object. Here are steps to ensure that your puppy or dog enjoys holidays such as Halloween.
Have delicious treats with you on your walks as these are going to help your dog think of unknown things as a positive. When you come across a lawn decoration or any new object watch your dogs body language, if they are unsure and fearful move away to a distance where they feel better, are able to check out the object but still can offer you attention too. If they are too close to the "trigger" it will be hard for them to focus due to stress. Let them approach at their own pace while ensuring there is no tension on the leash. Praise them verbally while treating them often. It's important not to push your dog or rush them, they do not need to be right up to the object if they are not ready. Short sessions are good not to over stress your dog. If they are still nervous and unsure keep distance until passing the objects and still reward your dog.
What about all the cute children in their costumes trick or treating? This can also be scary and different for dogs. Now we look different, ringing the doorbell and yelling "trick or treat" Seems normal to us but very strange and can be over stimulating for dogs. You can prepare ahead of time by placing some masks, and costumes out. Let your dog approach them and pair this with rewards. Then place the mask on yourself while treating your dog. Hold it up to your face for a few seconds and treat your dog at the same time. Give your dog an outlet on Halloween night where they can go relax and have a break from all the excitement whether its their kennel or their place. Give them a bully stick, peanut butter kong or their favorite treat while they get to relax.
Have a safe and Happy Halloween out there!