Maybe you are one of those super organized people who already has your Thanksgiving feast planned and prepped and your holiday gifts all wrapped. Or maybe you’re more like those of us who wait until the last minute, hoping the grocery store has not run out of turkey and sweet potatoes.
No matter your shopping style, it’s important you do not forget about one important member of your household over the holidays: your dog.
If your dog is particularly mellow, he may not even notice the chaos of people coming and going. Other dogs are stressed by the change and find it very overwhelming. Your dog may start to exhibit some unusual behaviors like stealing food, jumping on your guests or even growling at your visitors. As your dog’s leader, it’s important to keep your dog calm and content. Demonstrate to him that although his world is hectic, you will keep him safe and secure. He needs to be reassured that with the chaos comes good things; nothing to cause confusion or concern.
When a shy or noise-phobic dog gets mingled in with all the festivities, he may not be well-adjusted for handling the stress. Remember that dogs thrive on routine. He may suddenly feel threatened and display signs of aggression.
Here are some training tips to help your pooch prepare for the holiday madness.
Co-Exist with Children
If you live in a house with a dog who is not accustomed to children, it may be hard for your pet to adapt to their presence. By nature, little kids and grandchildren raise the energy and noise levels. They may approach your dog in ways that he is not comfortable with, or even try to pull the dog’s ears and tail or even ride him like a horse. Here are some ways to control such situations if your dog becomes upset with kids:
- Never leave a child and dog (especially very young kids) unsupervised. This is when most dog bites occur.
- With toddlers, parents should carefully monitor their tot’s interactions with the dog. Parents need to explain that not all dogs like to be touched, taunted, and that their personal space should be respected.
- Never allow a child to feed the dog by hand because the message you are sending to the dog is that it is okay to take any food from a child. Make sure you tell all children (and adults too) not to feed your dog table scraps. Many holiday foods can cause digestive upset and may be toxic to dogs!
- All dogs need a refuge— a quiet place they can go to get away from all the noise. A pet carrier or crate may provide a safe haven for your dog. Keep his crate or blankets in a quiet place in your home and direct your dog to go there if he needs a little time out. While he may not like being separated from the crowd, he may feel more secure.
- If your dog begins to bark or nip at visitors, remove him from the area until your guests are gone.
- Stress caused from the excitement will cause your dog to pant – if this gets excessive it may increase your dog’s thirst. Make sure he has plenty of water to keep well hydrated.
- It is best to keep your dog out of the kitchen where most of the hustle and bustle occurs. Plus, if he’s a counter surfer, you don’t want the turkey to disappear!
- If your dog is extremely anxious, you may want to start him on some over-the-counter calming remedies.
- Unless your dog is already best friends with your visitor’s pets, it’s a good idea to suggest your guests leave their pets at home.
Front Door Behavior
Barking and jumping when the front door bell rings can be common behaviors for some dogs. It is natural that dogs are inquisitive regarding who is on the other side and whether they are a friend or stranger. However, this behavior can be extremely unsafe for your dog because he may dash out the door and run into the street, knock people over, or become aggressive. Here are some suggestions that need to be practiced in advance:
- Exercise him before your guests arrive. A tired dog is a content dog. After 30 minutes of walking or playing fetch, your dog may even need a nap!
- Consider putting your dog on a leash as guests arrive to maintain better control of him.
- Teach your dog to sit and stay on command. When the doorbell rings, put him in a sit-stay and do not open the door until he calms down.
- If all else fails, remove your dog from the scene ahead of time. Place him in a crate or quiet room and allow him to join the festivities later.
Your holidays will be a lot calmer if your dog is well trained to begin with. A happy and obedient dog makes for a happy family.