The weather is cooling down and the holiday decorations are making their annual appearances. For some of you, this is the first time your dog is experiencing these new, huge inflatable yard fixtures, or the spooky ghouls hanging from trees. To you and I, these decorations are all fun and games, but to your pet, they can be so scary!
So, how do you navigate a walk with your pooch who may be spooked by the spookies?
Introducing your dog to the decorations when they’re not at their full-spectrum spookiness is key. Smaller, non-moving monsters aren’t as threatening as giant moving ones (even worse if they make noise!). Also, take some really great treats on the walk. We want to pair the scary stimulus with something your dog really loves to create a positive association.
Try to take a walk earlier in the day when the inflatables aren’t inflated yet. When the spooky monster isn’t 5-7 feet tall, he’s less intimidating. Allow your dogs to take a sniff and pair with treats.
As for the ghouls hanging from the tree, the movement adds to their spookiness! If you can, hold the ghoul still, giving your dog a chance to sniff and pair with treats.
Got a nice neighbor? Ask if you can spend a few more minutes in their yard.
Do not force your dog to make contact! Forcing an interaction could actually make the fear worse. Sprinkle treats leading up to, around, and on top of the decorations to encourage your dog, but let your dog make the decisions. If he decides to back up and not make contact, do not drag him by the leash. Simply walk away, and perhaps try again later or with a smaller decoration.
Some other things your dog may be experiencing for the first time that may be scary include umbrellas, boots, hoodies, bulky jackets, and ear muffs. And Halloween costumes can be pretty creepy too! Just like the decorations, allow your dog to sniff and pair with treats to create a positive association.
One last thing to think about: these items only pop out once a year and only for a season. Be prepared to do a little of retraining next year too!
Putting in that investment of patience and training at the beginning of the season will help ensure your pet enjoys the holidays as much as you!