Is Your Dog Ready for the Holiday Season?
Vivian Levén, CPDT-KSA, CBCC-KA
Dog Training Director

Dogs vary in their personalities. While one family can have a dog that does swimmingly around chaos, change of routines, and a revolving door of people entering and exiting the house. Other dogs may not react so well to this type of action. You probably know what kind of dog you have. Below are some areas to be aware of as you plan for a pleasant and peaceful holiday season with loved ones.

Change of routines
Is your dog super sensitive to change of walk times and when breakfast and dinner is served? If so, here are two options to work around that:

1. Begin before the holidays to mix it up a little bit so the dog can get used to a varied schedule, if you know this is going to be unavoidable during the holidays. In essence, make the varied schedule into the routine.

2. If you know you can keep the same routines for the dog during the holidays then make a point to stick with it. It can give the dog a sense of comfort that at least the important events of the day have not changed in anyway.

Visitors
For a majority of dogs, greeting visitors at the front door is a very difficult skill to master. It usually is more effective to gate the dog away and invite the guests first and then let the dog out. If you can instruct the visitors to ignore the dog initially that will help as well; the more shy dog will feel more comfortable and a really exuberant dog will not get even more excited so it works on both ends of the spectrum.

1. If you can give the dog some good exercise before guests are arriving and have a Kong prepared for the actual visit that is even better.

2. For some dogs that have a hard time winding down, you may want to keep them confined in a different space for a while or hold them on a leash with a mat next to your chair, or tether them to a stationary object with a bone or Kong so they can participate, but without bothering anyone.

3. A really fearful dog may do best separated in another room with a bone and some soothing music playing as a buffer to drown some of the people sounds.

4. Visiting kids should never be left alone with the dog and all interactions should be actively supervised.

5. If people stay for a while they should probably be instructed to keep the doors with their personal belongings behind it closed and be reminded that when they enter and exit the home they make sure the dog does not sneak out.

Abundance of foods
The holidays are usually a time when we have lots of food around. It helps to keep food in the kitchen and gate it off from the dog or place the food in high places the dog cannot reach when you are not around. Especially things like chocolate or chewing gum with xylitol, etc. Along the same lines, it helps to make sure the trash can be safely secured.

Travel with the dog
If you are going to travel with your dog, it would be really helpful if your dog was trained to be comfortable spending time in a crate, an x-pen or tethered. Bring items the dog knows well, like their own blanket or bed, favorite toy, the Kong or a special bone, etc. During the initial time in the new space, avoid leaving the dog alone if you can until they have become more adjusted to the new situation.

Quality dog time
Discuss within the family how you will divide up the time you will devote to the dog. It can be anything from walks, playtime, doling out activity toys and bones, etc. If this is figured out before the holidays, it minimizes the case of arguments in the midst of the holiday cheer or the risk that the dog's needs were forgotten and nobody took care of them.

Festive decorations
Dogs have a tendency to want to investigate anything novel and especially new smells...so keep this in mind when you put up decorations. Snow globes could contain antifreeze, there are holiday plants that are poisonous for dogs; e.g. holly, lilies and poinsettias. Tree ornaments can look like toys...blinking lights can also attract special interest as well as a Christmas tree. Candles and fireplaces can also pose risks so make sure the dog has no access.

If you are ever unsure about anything your dog ingested call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center's 24-hour emergency hotline at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP.

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