With the opening bell of Halloween behind us, the holiday season is underway! Thanksgiving is looming around the corner and our dogs may or may not be ready for the onslaught of activity that is the end of the year. I have written several columns about preparing your dog to have a jolly holiday, but here are some reminders (as well as links to those columns) of what you can do to make this merry for everyone.
- Make sure your dog knows sit! “A dog that is sitting is not jumping on Grandma, chasing the grandkids, or running joyfully through the house announcing the visitors. Practice sit everywhere and at all times of the day or night. (50+ sits a day is not over doing it, really.) The more times and places your dog sits, the more it becomes his default behavior and one that he is likely to do when in doubt about the busyness around him.
- Know your dog’s stress signals! “One common stressful scenario is staged photo shoots…Think carefully about how you arrange the family photos. If your dog goes from open mouthed to close mouthed, wiggly to barely moving, looking at you to avoiding eye contact, he is telling you that this is not comfortable for him. Your best bet is to give him more space, especially around his head and face. Also give him several tasty treats throughout the photo session and have someone dedicated to be his private treat dispenser so that he has one person to focus on. If there are loud children, sudden movements, or other distractions that un-nerve your dog, give him a treat every time a kid shouts, runs, or otherwise acts in an erratic fashion.”
Exercise your dog! Getting Fido out for a good romp before the guests arrive (or before you leave to go to Grandma’s house) will help him to be the well-mannered dog you know is in there somewhere. And by exercise, I mean taking him to run in a field, chase balls till he drops, and generally be active for at least 45 minutes. Then, when he gets back to the house, a stuffed Kong and long nap are not only in order, but welcomed!” (See also “Fun”nel of Activity! for a detailed strategy for taking Fido from crazed to calm.)
- Food Management: human and canine. One food strategy to keep in mind is: “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.”
If you are looking for things to keep your pup occupied and out of trouble, or Christmas presents for your favorite canine, here are some things you might consider that will give him mental challenges and/or more fun at mealtime:
- Intelligence toys: There are many food related interactive toys on the market and finding the right one for your dog can be challenging. Bingley is not as interested in the food as he is in the challenge so I look for food toys that require him to puzzle things out a bit, such as the Tug-a-jug, Buster Cube, and Kibble nibble. Buckley loves his Twist and Treat because it rolls and quickly distributes the object of his desire.
- Interactive Food bowls: Our dogs love their puzzle food bowls. Not only does it slow eating (thus helping to prevent bloat in big dogs), but it makes dinnertime challenging and entertaining. I rotate the bowls between all the dogs so that no one knows which bowl is going to appear next, all part of the fun!
- If your dog is a chewer and loves to hunker down with something to gnaw, consider investing in an elk antler for him, or one of Nylabone’s interesting chews (such as a Galileo bone). Check out the Village Pet Market or Bath and Biscuits (both here in Granville) for other interesting toys and treats designed to keep your dog entertained and out of mischief.
Paying attention to the signals your dog is giving you, and providing him with appropriate physical and mental outlets for his energy will help all of you to have the merriest holiday season ever.
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