Yes, your well-trained dog can trick-or-treat with your family. These tips will assist you in getting your dog to enjoy the costume and hopefully to tolerate the giggling from the bystanders on Halloween night.
Costume training is an excellent opportunity to use delicious treats while training your dog to love the costume. Remember the most important part is for your dog to like safely wearing the outfit you have selected.
Start teaching your dog that the costume is fun well in advance of the event you are looking to showcase him at. Some dogs will “get it” right away, but leaving yourself several weeks to practice will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved. If your dog has never worn clothing this may be an even longer process.
Depending on the costume’s appearance, you may want to allow the dog to smell the outfit and have a chance to get more comfortable with the look, feel and movement. If you are using a costume with lots of padding that looks like a stuffed dog toy, be certain to properly supervise your dog or you may have just donated the outfit to the stuffed toy gods. While your dog is investigating the outfit, reward good behavior with some tasty treats and praise.
After your dog is accustomed to the look of the costume, gently set it on his back for a few seconds and again give treats and praise. Repeat this step several times so your dog understands that the costume is a good thing. Keep practicing this step and build up the amount of time that the costume is draped on your pet. Remember, keep praising and offering treats for good behavior.
Once your dog is comfortable with the costume draped over his back, put it on in a loose fashion – not too loose because you wouldn’t want pooch to get wrapped up and have a bad experience – and then praise and treat just like you have been up to this point. Work your way up to longer “dress-up” sessions making sure your dog is enjoying the process as much as possible.
It is really important for your dog to associate any costume with positive things like treats, petting and praise. My dogs know that costumes and treats are interlinked, and I actually store costumes in plastic tubs with some treats in with them so they even smell like a positive reinforcement. (This might be why the dogs think their costumes could be toys.)
Just like most things with dogs, training and practice will get you a long way toward your dog trick-or-treat plans. Have fun and remember, safety first.
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