Morrissey: Making sure the holidays are truly happy for you & your dog
Ryan Summerlin December 17, 2012
The holidays are upon us! Excitement, preparations, visitors and changes in routine can be fun for you, but added stress on your dogs. Making the holiday season less stressful and safer for your dog is a combination of both training and management. If you have your dog trained to a reliable sit and stay even with distractions, you have the foundation skills for greeting manners, and “place”. Train your dog that when the door bell rings s/he goes to their bed or crate or some designated “place” and stays there until company has been ushered in. Only then can they be released to say hello … politely! Going to “place”, staying in “place” and staying in “place” while you open the door with visitors are skills you can break down to simple components, train individually, then put together into a sequence: Doorbell, place, stay, visitors enter, stay, visitors sit, release from stay to greet. Staying in “place” is also very useful while preparing food, or eating dinner.Even when released to greet, some dogs can be the “over eager greeters”, aka “torpedo nose”. All dogs need to be taught to sit, lie down or at least have all four feet on the floor before getting a pet. This often involves training family members or visitors to completely ignore your dog until they are sitting politely on the floor for a greeting. If every human in the world ignored a jumping dog, while only giving him attention when he is politely sitting, the dog would learn very quickly to sit for greetings.If you are already overwhelmed by the holidays and do not have time to train your dog, management is also effective. If your dog is uncomfortable around visitors, or does not have enough self-control for polite greetings, then it is best to put him into a quiet room or space of their own while your guests are over. Add in a bone or stuffed kong for your dog to chew on to give them something to do. Similarly, using baby gates to keep dogs away from the kitchen or eating areas is also quite effective.Management is especially important if you are having children visit. Are your dogs relaxed with children? Are the children respectful of dogs, quiet around dogs and know how to ask a dog to say hello rather than rushing up to the dog’s face? Will the children listen to your directions about how to treat your dog? Will there be an adult to supervise the children and dogs at all times? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then it is best to put your dog in a quiet, separate space with a bone or kong to keep them happy.Finally, keep an eye on what your dog is eating. Certain foods, plants and ornaments can be very toxic and dangerous for your dog to eat. Check with your veterinarian for a complete list of these substances. Again, supervision on your part is key, and if your are too distracted by company to supervise, find that safe, quiet space for your dog with, you got it, a good bone or stuffed kong.Happy and safe holidays to all of you and your canine companions!