October is here and that means Halloween is only a few weeks away. For many dogs, this is all their worst fears wrapped into one: Creepy noises, lawn decorations that move and cackle as you walk past, strangers coming to the door and people acting and appearing TOTALLY WEIRD. From many dog’s perspectives, Halloween is the worst day of the year (except maybe the 4th of July).

The best way to prepare your dog for Halloween is to start right away! You will want to desensitize your dog to all those potentially scary things in small doses prior to the big day. Try playing some of the typical scary sounds that decorations might make (cackling, creaking doors, screeching animals) on a low volume for your dog while they are eating their meals. The trick with good desensitization is that you never see your dog react. As long as they had no issue with the volume on low, the next day try raising the level a little bit and repeat by slowly raising the volume every few meals. If at any point they become very aware or startled by the sounds, you went way too far too fast.

If you or your children are going to be dressing up in costumes that include masks or change your silhouette (large boxy costumes or ones that give you new appendages like tails or horns), get your dog used to those things a little at a time. Typically, the best first introduction is you not wearing that thing at all. Just let your dog get used to seeing that costume item a few times. They don’t need to interact with it, but you basically want to see that they can comfortably ignore it. If they are worried about it, you can certainly use food to your advantage. The appearance of the “scary” costume piece should be paired with the appearance of yummy food. That does NOT mean the food should be placed on the costume pieces or that the dog needs to approach the costume. In the long term, you don’t want your dog to think your costume is a chew toy, so our goal is just that the dog isn’t worried about it and that the object becomes totally neutral in their eyes.

If you hope to dress your dog up for Halloween, please let your dog have some say in that decision. Many dogs don’t enjoy being dressed up and that is their RIGHT! Please don’t force a dog to wear something that makes them uncomfortable. If they act anything other than totally normal with it on, you can bet they would prefer that costume removed. Tolerance is not the same as enjoying oneself and holidays should be fun for EVERYONE. That being said, if you really hope to include your dog in the sport of dressing up, start small. If it is a full body costume (a shirt for instance), follow the same concept as stated above: let the costume become neutral! From there you can work on building positive associations with the costume being close to the dog, next to the dog, draped over the dog for one second while you feed. Then two seconds while you feed. Then three seconds…etc. Work up to several seconds before attempting to put on the costume. Then repeat the process… put it on for one or two seconds with lots of treats and praise, then remove it. It will be a slow process, but the results will be well worth your time if you hope to have a dog who enjoys dressing up for Halloween as much as you do!

Lastly, if you are having a Halloween party at your home or plan to go out trick-or-treating, know that your dog DOES NOT need to be a part of that. Many dogs will be highly stressed around people who are dressed in strange ways, particularly at night. Not to mention children are always somewhat erratic and unpredictable in their behavior and even more so when in costume and loaded up on sugar! Your dog doesn’t need that kind of stress just walking around their own home or neighborhood. It is ok to leave your dog crated in a room away from the party (or away from the front door if you are staying home to hand out candy). Remember, a stressed dog is more likely to bite or threaten and there is no worse way to end a fun evening than your dog making a big, avoidable, mistake.

One last tip: If you have a storm door where you can remove the screen in the top half, this is an excellent way to ensure your dog doesn’t escape and can’t see most of the action taking place outside as trick-o-treaters approach your door. You can easily pass out candy via the window portion of the door while the door itself is safely locked shut. Even so, I would still recommend a second person is feeding the dog or keeping him or her occupied when people are coming to the door.

Happy training and happy Howl-o-Ween to you and your pups!


Nicole L Yuhas CPDT-KA




This blog is intended to be informative as well as entertaining. It contains my opinion which may not reflect the opinions of any organization I may be affiliated with. My opinions should not be interpreted as those of my coworkers, family, friends, casual acquaintances, and certainly not the opinion of my cat, although my dog probably agrees with everything I say, if for no other reason, than because I provide the treats and meals (cats are less inclined to agree with anyone but themselves). Information provided here is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge but, as information and opinions change, neither the facts nor the opinions expressed here may be true or accurate at any future date. As I don’t currently own a time machine, I cannot be responsible for things that prove to be untrue, or opinions I change my mind about, should those changes become apparent in the future. It should also be noted that, as I am human, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes in the information provided here. Frankly, even if I were a computer, it is likely there would be errors, as computers, in my experience, can be a royal pain in the butt. This blog may contain affiliate links which you are under no obligation to click. If you click them, they will hopefully take you the place I intended. But they may not. As I’ve said, computers can be a pain. If you find yourself somewhere you don’t think I intended, click your ruby slippers three times together and say, “there is no place like home.” If you do that, and click the “back” button, you should be safely returned. Computers can, at times, have a mind of their own. Any training suggestions or opinions expressed here should be taken as information only and should not be seen as advice particular to you or your dog’s unique situation. Please consult with a training professional before taking any action.

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