Preparing Your Dog for the Howlidays
We all want our pets to be a part of the holiday festivities, but the truth is dogs and celebrations aren’t always a good mix. Whether your dog has visitors in their home, is traveling cross country to see grandma or resisting the temptation to steal a turkey leg, the holidays can be ruff on your dog. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can set your dog up for success during celebrations, travel and other holiday festivities. The following tips will help you keep your dog and guests happy during this holiday season.
Reinforce Your Dog’s Training
It is crucial that you begin rewarding your dog NOW for behaviors that you’ll need this holiday season. Not only will you be too busy mid-party to stop for a training session, your dog will also be too overwhelmed or excited to train in the busy environment. By starting to reinforce the behaviors you need, like staying on a place bed, you’ll help the dog build what’s known as a “reward history”. The more times the dog is rewarded after successfully completing the behavior, the stronger the reward history is for that behavior. Overtime, this helps make that behavior easier and more enjoyable for your dog to do. Happy dogs get reinforcement often!
Here are some of the behaviors our trainers at Happy Dogs recommend you reinforce before the holidays:
- Resting quietly in a crate
- Sitting before visiting with a person
- Going to and staying on a place bed
- Settling by your feet
- Loose leash walking
- Sitting for photos
- “Leave it” for food on table tops and counters
Don’t wait until it’s too late to train up your dog’s good manners and obedience skills!
Manage the Situation
There will be situations that it’s best if you leave your dog out of the fun. Thanksgiving dinner, family football games or unwrapping new toys may be overstimulating for your dog; in other words, they can’t handle it without being a little extra, or a lot extra. They might beg, bark, jump, nip or zoom around the room. Managing this type of boisterous behavior is best done before the fun gets started.
By pre-planning activities for your dog to do alone you can have worry-free fun with friends and family. With a little planning, you can strategically pair meal-time, puzzle toys or a peanut-butter packed Kong with time in the crate or away from guests. You can give your dog a dog-safe chew, a toy or scatter treats on their bed to help them transition to alone time. Keep in mind that your dog may have an easier time relaxing on their own after a physically or mentally stimulating activity. For ideas, you can read our article: All About Playing with Your Pup.
Crating your dog amidst the hustle and bustle of holiday fun doesn’t exactly allow your dog to relax. Be sure to create a relaxing space for your dog by using a spare room, a crate or a baby gate to keep the dog separated from guests. As a bonus, you can play music, put on the television or fans to help drown out party sounds that might cause your dog to startle, bark or whine.
Choose Dog Friendly Activities
There are many dog-friendly activities you can do with your dog during the holidays, here are a few ways our trainers recommend you include your dog in the fun and festivities. Getting outside is a great way to keep you and your pet active. You could go for a hike, take your dog window shopping downtown or walk around the neighborhood to look at decorations. Many towns have holiday parades that your dog may accompany you to watch; however, you should consider the size of the crowd, what other animals will be present and whether your dog will be comfortable on the sidelines.
If the weather outside is frightful, consider one of the many indoor activities where your dog can join in on the fun. Your dog may enjoy movie time with hot cocoa, snuggling by the fire or doing a photoshoot of their best tricks for your holiday card. Consider baking holiday dog treats or heading to your local pet store to pick out gifts for four legged friends. However you choose to celebrate the holidays with your dog, our trainers recommend you have treats at the ready to reinforce behaviors you want to encourage!
Advocate for Your Dog
While your guests may love dogs, not all people that love dogs know how to interact appropriately and safely with dogs. Advocating for your dog means you’re managing the situation and people to set your dog up for success this holiday season.
You should know when to give your dog alone time, preferably before the excitement starts or bad behaviors arise. As a guideline, we recommend thinking about how excitable and comfortable your dog normally is with various activities, such as dancing, running, loud noises or interacting with groups of people. If you think your dog may struggle to behave or feel uncomfortable, do your dog a favor and separate them from the festivities.
You should give your guest guidelines on how to engage with your dog, like asking for “Sit” before visiting, refraining from throwing toys in the house or maybe even ignoring your dog altogether.
Plan to have dog treats at the ready throughout your household and clearly communicate with guests what safe and appropriate activities are for your dog. If you have children visiting for the holidays we recommend reading our article: Kid-Safety Tips for a Happy Household. You should also read up on what foods are unsafe for dogs to have, like chocolate or cooked bones, and what holiday snacks they can enjoy with you. You can watch this short AKC TV to learn more: AKC.TV: Holiday Foods
We hope these tips help you and your happy dog have a happy holiday season.