Halloween Does Not Have To Be Scary For Your Dog


Fall is here, which means Halloween is near.  Ringing doorbells reveal both the scary and sweet, singing trick or treat.  When your dog hears the doorbell, it can mean a series of barks that drown out the loudest trick or treaters.  Even if your dog does not bark at doorbells, scary masks and faces can frighten him.

A barking dog does not mean you must miss out.  Before you train, learn to understand why your dog barks at doorbells.  They may be excited because someone new visits and they are saying hi.

Dogs have sensitive hearing and unexpected loud sounds, like doorbells, can scare dogs.  Over time, they can develop a negative association and bark at sounds they hear coming towards the door.  Whether your dog is excited or scared, proper training can nip that yip.

Our Halloween training tidbit can help you and your dog enjoy the holiday.  All you need are a lot of delicious treats, someone your dog knows, patience, praise, and consistency.  Consistency requires everyone in the home to follow the same steps.  They should do this every time the stimulus/trigger occurs.

Here’s a list of the potential triggers for your dog

  • Doorbell
  • Knocking
  • Door opening
  • Mask/face paint/costume

Technique: Systematic desensitization plus counter conditioning with the goal of an operant dog.


You will need another person to assist you as they will create the trigger by ringing the doorbell or wearing a mask.

  1. Pick the location you want your dog to stay when you answer the door.
  2. Create the trigger (ring the bell, knock on the door) at the level that your dog is aware of it but the barking or excitement is minimal. (systematic desensitization)
  3. Say “Thank you” and toss 3-6 small bite sized treats in the location where you want your dog to stay (counter conditioning).
  4. Repeat this 10 times a day at different times until your dog runs to the stay location when you say “thank you” (your dog had become operant).
  5. For the next phase, replace the doorbell trigger with the mask trigger.  Repeat steps 1-4.

Alternate the triggers daily.  One day will be working on the doorbell or knocking and the next day will be the mask trigger.  Following the steps outlined here will allow you the time to work on your dogs triggers so that you are both able to enjoy Halloween together.


Remember, be patient, your dog will bark until she learns to be calm.  When she stops barking and getting overly excited, she is ready to join the festivities.

If things are more difficult on Halloween Day then expected, make sure to have an alternate plan.  Make her comfortable in another room with her favorite toys and bed.  If possible, another person can stay with her so she feels calmer about what is happening “out there”.

If you need help teaching your dog door etiquette, Lead Me On has classes and trainers to help your dog learn appropriate behavior.  Lead Me On uses the latest science based positive approach training techniques to ensure well trained, happy dogs.

Call us today at (360) 878-8407 or send an email to: [email protected]