Things to Keep in Mind Throughout the Holiday Seasons
- Dogs can be very sensitive to changes in their environment and routines. When family members take time off from work and school, house guests come to stay, or other visitors roll through the home in droves, you need to try to preserve a few of your dog’s routines, such as regular meal schedules and walks, exercise or play sessions.
- If there’s considerably more activity than usual, plan some quiet times for your dog as well.
- The added stress and excitement of holiday festivities can increase your dog’s thirst too, so make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water to drink.
- Tinsel, popcorn strands, and other garland-like decorations can cause serious internal injuries if ingested, and these are just the kinds of things that curious dogs can’t resist.
- The ribbons, string, and other wrapping accessories found on gifts can be very problematic as well. These can lead to choking or strangulation for a curious pup.
- Water at the base of natural trees can contain anti-freeze and other preservatives that are deadly to your dog.
- Make sure these cords are well-secured, so your dog doesn’t make a chew toy out of them. Consider using cord containers or running them through PVC to avoid having your dog chew on them when you cannot supervise it.
- While many are still made of glass, others can be found in chewable plastic with plastic bases. Chewed plastic shards from broken globes can be life-threatening. Many globes also add an anti-freeze-like substance to the water inside to slow the movement of the snow inside, so a double danger!
- Candles can be attractive because of their smell, taste and texture. Make sure they are perched on high shelves out of Rover’s reach! Never leave a lit candle unsupervised as they are easily knocked over and quickly become a fire hazard.
Who’s at the Door?
No where does the average family dog get into so much trouble as at the front door! Inappropriate greeting behaviors, door-dashing, and just over-the-top excitement can make the front door a source of stress for everyone during the holidays. Here are some ideas for making the doorway a safer place:
Train polite greeting behaviors
- Practice! Heavily reinforce ‘sits’ and ignore jumping up. Turning your back on a jumper can work very well too. For added control, tether your dog to a heavy stationary object to prevent him from following you or jumping on your back as you turn away. Practice with lots of different people and practice in your doorway area to make sure your dog knows it where he’ll need it! You can also teach your dog to wait behind a boundary line away from the door entryway or teach him to go to a particular place, like a dog bed, while guests enter the home.
A safe place
- If you haven’t had time to train for all the comings and goings at the door, it’s always good practice to have your dog crated, securely fastened on a tether, or on a leash while guests are arriving or departing.
Avoid visiting pets
- Unless your dog is already great friends with your visitor’s pets, it’s a good idea to suggest your guests leave their pets at home. Having multiple animals in the home presents management challenges you may not be prepared to handle amidst all the other distractions you’ll be facing.
Keep snacking to a minimum
- Make sure your guests know not to feed your dog from the table. Lots of fatty tidbits handed out by well-meaning visitors can also lead to a dangerous bout of pancreatitis or intestinal upset. If your friends can’t help but offer your dog a treat (who can resist!), have a portioned supply of his special treats or even his kibble on hand that guests can use instead.
Clear the area!
- Keep a watchful eye for plates and cocktails left at dog level. Since good intentions are prone to fail with so much going on, consider confining your dog to his crate or another room while your guests are bustling about (make sure he has something wonderful to do while he’s there) just to make sure he doesn’t get into trouble.
Dogs and kids don’t always mix!
- Holiday gatherings can be very over-stimulating for dogs and kids alike, so never leave the dog alone with any little people, even his own kids. Interactions between the dog and kids should be strictly supervised by an adult who’s dog-savvy enough to know when your dog needs a break.
Finally, if your dog is prone to fearfulness, anxiety or over-excitement when company is around, his crate or private place is best to keep him calm and safe.
Train In Advance!
Great manners are always made, not born, and it can be fun to work with your dog on the life skills he’ll need to be the life of the party. Here are a few things you’ll want to incorporate into your training plan:
“Sit and wait” or “down and wait”
- Great skills for your dog to learn! Taught positively, these exercises help your dog relax and enjoy his calm and relaxed participation in a family gathering. They can also prevent unruly door greetings and eliminate door-dashing.
- An invaluable tool for any dog owner and can help head off a dog who’s aiming for a gift basket, dropped food item, or just about anything else. Trained positively, your dog will gladly disengage from just about anything you’ve assigned a “leave it” to.
- A suitable companion to “leave it,” “drop it” can be used to ask your dog to relinquish an already acquired item. This can be trained through a series of fun trading games that will teach your dog to happily spit things out in anticipation of something better!
- Already confirmed counter-surfers should be confined away from the action, since the high temptation, high distraction environment of a holiday party will be more than they can bear! But if your dog still hasn’t scored off the counter yet, using “leave it” training will go a long way to helping your dog understand that counter-surfing doesn’t pay!
Bring on the noise!
- Many holiday celebrations include noisy displays such as fireworks that can drive your dog batty. Start preparing in advance by playing fireworks sound effect recordings on your home stereo. Start the volume at a very low, almost imperceptible level until you’re sure that your dog is comfortable; then crank up the volume half a click. Continue progressing at that rate until bombs bursting in air are no big deal for your dog. If you have a dog who’s already acutely sound-sensitive, find a good trainer or behavior consultant with experience in this area to help you get ready.