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Inquisitive Canine: Tricks to Make Halloween a Treat

Incorporate dog training into playing dress-up and greeting visitors at the door

Hello to our inquisitive readers! Poncho and I are happy you’ve joined us for more tips for protecting your pets this Halloween. Our previous Dear Inquisitive Canine column offered tips for keeping your pets safe during this time of celebration.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I know how important it is to be able to create a safe and rewarding environment for your pets during human holidays.

For this week’s edition, we thought it would be appropriate to provide simple training steps you can take to ensure your dog enjoys the festivities, too — including dressing up and helping you greet trick-or-treaters at the door.

Tips for Making Halloween Activities Fun and Rewarding for You and Your Dog

» Make it fun to play dress-up. If our animals were left out in the wild, they most likely wouldn’t be ordering Halloween costumes over the Internet. That means it’s up to us to teach them that wearing a silly outfit is fun and rewarding for everyone — dog and human. Sure, some pets enjoy it right from the get-go, but you can help make dress-up more fun by making sure that what follows putting on the costume is more rewarding for your pet.

I like to amp it up for Poncho, since he’s more of a hippie and seems to enjoy being naked. I could tell because when I first dressed him he would tuck his ears back and walk sideways like a crab. Now he can run around like he usually does, with or without the funny outfits.

It’s a simple process: Show him the costume, feed him treats, put the costume away, treats go away. Put the costume on him, feed him small pieces of yummy roasted chicken, take the costume off, all chicken stops. I also use a game of fetch for his reinforcement. I keep doing it until I can show him the costume and he starts to wag his tail. Last year, he was a lobster; this year, he’s a banana. You can check out more of the dog-training steps we took last Halloween on his Poncho’s Prose blog.

» Take advantage of trick-or-treaters. It’s the perfect opportunity to practice the behavior of greeting people nicely at the front door. Poncho and I practice this one all the time, but when Halloween rolls around, we really get to practice. Since we have so many youngsters coming to the door, why not turn it into a training plan? It’s what we’ve done in the past, and what we plan to do this year.

To prepare, have your dog on leash, with or without a Halloween costume. Have a container of treats handy for your dog and for trick-or-treaters. When the doorbell rings (or there’s a knock at door), walk your dog to the front, ask for a sit, reward your dog for sitting, open the door, kids ask for a sit and reward your dog, your dog gets a treat from the kids and the kids get a treat from you. Repeat.

Get more ideas for fun ways to work dog training into real-world scenarios and daily activities in the Out of the Box Dog Training Game.

We hope you enjoy your Halloween. May it be safe and fun for all.

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified pet dog trainer and dog behavior counselor. Her column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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