I’ve always been a big advocate of taking advantage of training opportunities when they present themselves. However, there are exceptions and I believe that Halloween is one of them; especially when it comes to fear or aggression based behaviors.
Many dogs, one of my own among them, never received properly staged and supervised interactions with children during their crucial socialization period. This can often lead to our keeping them sequestered from children and in effect, cements their opinion of children as loud, squeaky, erratic moving creatures that seem to oblivious to all requests for privacy and space.
If we want to build trust and confidence in our dogs where fear and or aggression hold sway, there are two key techniques that must be utilized without fail; complete control of interactions, and respect of threshold boundaries.
Control of Interactions
Simply stated, control of interactions means no surprises. All interactions between your dog and the object you are trying to build trust with, whether a child who’s trick or treating or a dog on a walk must be scripted in advance with all actors knowing their lines down pat. No extras are allowed on the set and ad-libbing is not permitted.
Respect of Threshold Boundaries
If we take the movie analogy above and apply it here, this simply means hitting your mark. We all have a personal space that, if violated, tends to make us nervous and reactive; dogs are no different. A Dog that does not have a problem with a child that quietly tosses them a treat from ten feet away my go bonkers at that same child nine feet away; If the child is more boisterous and wearing a huge eyeball attached to their head by a slinky, it may take more arm than the kid has to toss the treat.
Both of these key issues seem to be at odds with many of the opportunities presented at Halloween, at least for direct interaction. Perhaps a nice session in a room without a view and a treat each time “Trick or Treat” is heard is a nice positive step forward instead of chancing a large backwards step with a situation where control and boundaries are much harder to come by.
I’d love to hear what kind of training you think appropriate for All Hallow’s Eve.