With the holidays fast approaching, it is important not to leave Fido out of the loop. Thoughtful preparations will help him cope with the busyness of the season, and will make the revelries merrier for all involved.
Last year I published, “Fido’s Guide to a Stress-free Holiday” that contained several suggestions for helping your canine manage the seasonal chaos. Suggestions included: a) making sit your dog’s default behavior, b) providing him with a place to recharge, c) using food distribution toys to keep him happy while you feast, and d) a short list of foods that can cause serious problems for your pooch.
In addition to these 4 suggestions, I also recommend that you consider some management techniques that might help to make it easier for your dog to be successful when the house is brimming with decorative items, wonderful smells, and lots of people that he only meets 1-2 times per year.
Tip #1: Exercise: a tired dog is a well behaved dog! On big days such as Thanksgiving, one thing we do is get the dogs some real exercise before dinner prep and serving goes into high gear. By this I mean taking them to run in a field, chase balls till they drop, and generally be active for at least 45 minutes. Then, when they get back to the house, stuffed Kongs and long naps are not only in order, but welcomed!
Tip #2: Gates and Crates are your friends! Gates allow dogs to be safe and to be there in spirit if not in person (or would that be “in canine”?). In other words, they have a visual on activity, but not direct contact with each other or with the people while eating. We have found gates to be particularly helpful when we have toddlers in highchairs so that inordinate sharing of finger food is eliminated. Also, consider gating off the tree, especially if you have a puppy. In the Company of Dogs has some really pretty doorway gates as well as free standing gates so that immobilizing your dog or tree does not look as if they are incarcerated in San Quentin: http://www.inthecompanyofdogs.com/itemdy00.aspx?ID=17,478&T1=D13551+MH+3P+SWR
Tip #3: Manage your meet and greets! Two strategies can be employed here:
- Fido meets people as they come in, then retires to happy spot; or
- Have Fido outside or in a crate. Then when your guests are settled, Fido comes out for a meet and greet, goes potty, and then settles down with a tasty kong.
I have found both can work nicely, but I am developing a decided preference for #2. Last week I co-hosted an event at my house, but I could not be there for the beginning of the event as I was teaching a class. I took my dogs with me so that set up could run more easily for my co-hosts. When the dogs and I got home, I allowed them to go in and greet everyone. Then they settled upstairs with their favorite intelligence toys while the party proceeded, and we did not hear from them the rest of the evening. I found that having the guests seated was much easier for them then the steady (and apparently thrilling) stream of newcomers advancing through the front door. The dogs got to say hi, receive the adoration of their public, and then they were ready for some down time. Believe it or not, your dog(s) do not need to be with your guests at all times. Use their happy places (dogs, not guests) to insure that interactions with others are well timed and thus easier for them to be on their best behavior.
Tip #4: Food Management! I have made suggestions about food management in this post and in Fido’s guide, but here is a summary of the strategies that we use:
- Gates and crates to manage doggie access to food laden areas as well as to one another. For example, at Kong time, Bingley is either in his crate or gated into my office, Buckley is in the master bed room and Tex goes into the office. Our dogs, in general, do not resource guard from one another, but why put them under stress that another dog may be eyeing his Kong?
- Don’t feed any canine meals in a bowl, but instead use strategically timed Kongs and other food distribution toys to keep your dog(s) happy and out of the way. This is an especially useful strategy to employ as you sit down to your feast.
- Be careful of foods that are unhealthy or dangerous to your pet and take precautions to keep them out of Fido’s reach. Once again, gates are useful tools to keep Fido from the cookie platter, chocolates that Aunt Edith brought, candy canes on the tree, or the roast Turkey on the counter waiting to be carved. In the event that your dog has consumed something harmful The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center number is: 888-426-4435 (Note: there is a charge for their services).
- Have dog appropriate treats handy in every room so that you can reward Fido when he is well behaved and to distract him from temptation. For instance, if our pups are lying around providing doggie ambiance, I will drop a treat or two at their noses to let them know that I appreciate their calm demeanors. I will also use a well timed canine cookie to get Bingley to move away from a grandchild’s toy.
Holidays do not have to be a time of stress for you and your dog, it can be a relaxed and happy time for everyone, if a bit of management and strategic planning are employed. If you need help devising a plan of action for your holidays, do not hesitate to call me, 740-587-0429.
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