My Pup’s First Halloween: training, management, and choice

I had such great plans for coordinating costumes this year. But Halloween came and went without getting that awesome family picture I envisioned. The hubs and I were both sick over the weekend, so we didn’t get to dress up as Russell and Carl from the movie Up! like I’d hoped.

I think this worked out for our dog, Hope. Originally, I wanted to paint her brown like Dug from the movie. But I settled on letting her be a barely-recognizable version of Kevin the bird. In the end, she spent two minutes in a rainbow-glitter tutu the week before Halloween while I took pics. Then on the big night, I posted this honest confession to my instagram account.

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Halloween just isn’t as magical now that we’re in our thirties. I found joy the past few years by dressing up my pups in ridiculous get-ups. I even made my old dog Lucy sit outside with us as we handed out candy one year. She hated kids. Despite her wobbly knees, she’d hobble all the way up the drive way in order to get as far away as possible from the little creatures roaming our cul de sac.

After Lucy’s last – notably anxious – Halloween, I decided Hope would get to choose how she wanted to celebrate. She wasn’t a fan of that tutu, as you can see from her expression. And two seconds after I got my pics, she went right into tearing it of like a cardboard box meant for shredding.

Needless to say, I knew she had no desire to sit out front with us and hand out candy. Hope is what you would label a reactive dog. She’s not a huge fan of breaks in her routine. And her routine has never included tiny monsters running up our driveway with sticky fingers flying at her face. So, for Halloween, Hope got to Netflix-and-chill in the guest bedroom (the room furthest from the front drive) with some tasty goodies.

The hubs and I sat out front eating our to-go dinner in between tending to the kiddos. Our visitors got a chance to pet our more tolerant, kid-friendly dog “Bones.” One of the moms told me I should have fed her more.


Earlier that day, some folks asked me if I’d be seizing the opportunity to train my dog during the trick or treating shenanigans. No, thank you! Here’s why I didn’t use it as a training op: Training or teaching a dog new skills is a lot like playing a sport. You go to “practice” and learn new skills and get to try them out in scrimmages. All in preparation of the real deal on Friday night. A lot is riding on those big games.

Halloween is like the big game. It’s real life. There’s little I can control about the environment and other variables. The size, shape, sounds of the people. The distance they keep, the speed at which they move, etc. All those things impact Hope’s reactions to them. Since I haven’t spent a lot of time “practicing,” I saw no use in sending her to the big game. It was going to be too overwhelming and she’d likely end up fumbling or failing.

Funny thing is, Hope didn’t feel left out at all. When we retrieved her from the guest bedroom she was happy as a clam. She brought her Kong downstairs and proceeded to dig the end bits out while the hubs and I snuggled up for a Halloween movie. She couldn’t have been more relaxed. For the dog who barks and protests at every visitor to our door, this was a huge win!

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So, in the case of Halloween, we didn’t train. Instead, we managed. (More in our next post about how/when we train.) What about you and your pup? How did you choose to celebrate Halloween?

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