My next two blog posts will cover how to deal with greeting Trick or Treaters with a dog in your home.
First up let’s talk about Alarm Barkers. An alarm barker is what we call a dog who explodes into a flurry of barks every time the doorbell rings or someone knocks on the door. They seem to panic and loose their minds with excitement every time a visitor shows up and announces their presence.
This will not make for a very pleasant time come halloween night when all the wee witches, warlocks and wonder women come a knockin’ looking for your tasty loot. It will also be incredibly stressful for your pooch to be on guard and over threshold all night long. With Management and planning in advance we can ensure your pup is Ok with the festivities or at least comfortably set up out of the way.
The best thing to do is to start early in your pups life playing pretend scenarios,to familiarise the pup with the ‘game’ of visitors arriving. So the doorbell and door knocking become normalised and less exciting. We call this desensitisation to situations or things that trigger or illicit undesirable reactions from the puppy. Ideally we want the dog to be calm and happy at the presentation of these things. This is apart of the wider definition of Socislisation. Socialisation is commonly thought to only apply to meeting a variety of people and other dogs,but it really involves anything and everything that will be a regular part of the puppy’s world.
Set ups are the ‘pretend scenarios’ put into action. Along with training your pup to sit,stay,walk nice on leash etc. you should be practicing set ups of everyday situations your puppy should become familiar with. So what this would look like is enlisting the help of a family member or freind who will be the guest arriving at the door. You will have treats ready and pup on leash to prevent door darting etc.
Your partner will provide the door knocking sound or the doorbell sound and you can reward the pup for acknowledging the sound without barking at it. Other steps will be to practice having puppy sit nicely while door is opened and closed and practice sitstays or settle on my mat while owner goes to door and talks with pretend guest.
These same activities can be rehearsed with a dog of any age,so when the time comes for the real thing,your dog will be old hat at this doorbell ringing idea and now it will mean treats are imminent ,so no need to bark. A keener dog can be trained that doorbells mean ‘go to my mat and wait for my treat’ on cue. We want the dog to understand that it’s no big deal and if they let the human handle the situation,all they have to do is hang out and treats will eventually result.
Other than training and preparation set ups,you can always use Management in a pinch. What this means is making arrangements ahead of time to make sure your pup is out of the way of the action come halloween night. If pup will be too worried and worked up every time someone arrives, for your sanity and the dogs peace of mind ,he should be tucked away in a different room with a nice yummy chewy or stuffed kong and maybe some music or t.v. playing. This doesn’t mean leaving the dog alone in the dark in the basement or garage. This will isolate the dog and make him equally as worried. Leave the dog somewhere cozy and familiar,near by but away from the door area. You and He will both be thankful for the peace and security.