While ghosts and goblins may be your thing many dogs find all the ghoulish decor and costumes of Halloween a bit frightening! I can only imagine what they must be thinking… For a month of the year the whole world looks different and there are sketchy characters lurking everywhere! It’s their job to let you know when something is not right and most of them believe body parts dangling from trees firmly falls into the “wrong” category. Try these tips to help your dog cope with this spooky day:
– While walking your dog around the neighborhood encourage them to investigate new decor by letting them give a sniff. Treats work wonders to get reward them for getting close to something they think they should avoid! After the initial exploration many dogs calm down. If you pup is still worked up spend a few minutes near the “scary” items (but still far enough away that they feel comfortable) while feeding their favorite treats to create a positive association.
– If you dog will be exposed to people in costumes start by acclimating them to your family in theirs. Keep interactions with you in costume positive by giving treats, attention and playtime while donning your masks.
– Refresh your dog on the leave it command (show a treat, say leave it and reward when your dog doesn’t touch the item and backs away). This will come in handy if your pup outside during trick or treating (think candy on the sidewalk).
– For dogs who will be sporting costumes of their own acclimate them at home first. Remember to keep the experience positive with lots of treats!
– When selecting costumes for your dog look for those that do not cover her face or eyes. If your dog is less than thrilled about being dressed up let him go as himself this year!
– If you dog will be greeting trick or treaters keep a baby gate across the front door to keep your dog and those at the door safe! Reward good door greeting behavior such as sitting calmly. If ghouls and goblins make your pup nervous, keep them in another room during fright night, and be sure to practice spending time in the space (with a bone or chew to occupy them) before the time comes.
– Last but not least, make sure candy is well out of reach. Chocolate and certain kinds of sweeteners are toxic to your pooch!
The recent rain in So Cal has many of my clients crying uncle. Formerly housetrained pups are pottying on the floor while others are going stir crazy from lack of exercise. Here are some tips to help your dog (and you!) beat the bad weather blues.
Establish good habits from the start with young puppies. Resist the urge to use potty pads when it rains (I know it seems easier now but see note number two below!). Instead take him outside and make a big deal about him going even though it is wet.
If your dog has a tendency to make potty mistakes as soon as the grass is damp go back to the basics. Take your dog out at regularly scheduled intervals (yes, this may mean you need an umbrella) and reward for pottying outside.
If your dog is particularly stubborn about going in the rain confine her to small area or room (think puppy potty training 101) and try again an hour later. Do not allow her full reign of the house until she is successful.
For active dogs the lack of exercise that often comes with inclement weather can lead to boredom (read: getting into trouble). Provide mental stimulation with training sessions, chews or Kongs stuffed with peanut butter and frozen, and inside fetch sessions. Try to get your dog out when there’s a break in the rain, even if it’s short lived.
Take some time to cuddle up with your pup for some extra love and attention, after all, isn’t that what rainy days are best for?
Teaching your dog the “stay” command gives you more control in many situations and is a great safety tool as well. The key to teaching stay is patience! Some dogs, especially puppies, would rather do anything than hold still!
Ask your dog to “sit” or “down”. If your dog doesn’t know “sit” or “down” teach those commands first!
Use sit-stay for short periods of time – think at the curb, while chatting with a neighbor while on a walk or checking out at the pet store. Use down-stay for longer duration stays like in the house with your pup in his place (if you missed how to teach “place” check out last month’s newsletter)!
With your dog in position say “stay” and hold your hand out away from you, palm flat like you are telling someone to stop. After a few seconds of holding the position say “yes” and reward your dog. Remind her to “stay” and repeat.
Gradually increase your distance from your dog, how long you ask her to stay between rewards and the distraction level. At first you will want to increase one component at a time. For example, if the house is quiet and you are only two feet away ask her to stay in place longer. If you are walking across the room reward more frequently.
Incorporating toys is a great way to challenge distraction level. Start by holding a low value toy while she stays, progressing in distraction level to squeaking the toy, to tossing it in the air, all while she holds her position.
When the session is over approach your dog, say “free” and encourage him to get up. Be sure to use your release word at the end of each “stay” session, and do not use the word unless you are done!
You can also use the “come” command to release your dog. However, a mixture of the “free” and “come” command to release works best to avoid your dog anticipating you calling him before you are ready.
If your dog gets up say “no” and have him go back into position and try again. If he breaks three times in a row that is a sign that you are making it too hard for him. Go back a step.
Keep “stay” sessions short and fun, stopping before your dog becomes bored. For high energy dogs or puppies several three-minute sessions per day is more effective than one long one!
“Stay” is a great command to combine with “place”. Simply send your dog to his place before asking him to “stay”.
While you may look forward to the costumes and candy Halloween brings the holiday can be scary for your furry friend. Keep them safe with these tips:
Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with current ID tag and is microchipped.
If your pet isn’t as excited as you are about that pirate costume you bought him try a festive collar instead.
If your dog hasn’t perfected the art of waiting at the door when you open it or gets spooked easily keep them in a room away from the door with a special chew or treat to keep them busy. This will ensure they don’t slip out in all the commotion on the hunt for some candy of their own.
Chocolate and sweeteners can be harmful to your pets so be sure to keep it out of reach along with candles and lit pumpkins.
Take this training opportunity to socialize puppies or fearful adult dogs with the various costumes and decorations you’re bound to run in to on your evening walks. Be patient and pair the scary ghost in your neighbor’s yard with your pooch’s favorite snack.