It’s December and that means the holiday season is upon us. That often comes with parties, big family dinners, and visits from friends and extended family. It’s a great time of the year but not every dog will have an easy time getting through the holidays.
Our dogs are all unique individuals who have their own personalities and genetic makeup that makes them either highly social or more of a recluse (and everything between those two). The holidays are not always an easy time for dogs. They might be forced into social interactions they aren’t comfortable with which can be hard to spot. If your dog loves people, maybe too much, that can also be an issue with dogs jumping up on kids and other visitors to our home.
Don’t worry, I’ve got some tips to get you and your dog through the holiday season.
First, set up some treat stations in your home. Find some nice jars or containers and fill them with some high value treats. Then find a spot for them in the high traffic rooms in your home, such as the entrance, kitchen and living room. Make sure your dog can’t reach them. Use these easy access treats to reinforce behaviour you want to see more of, such as having your dog sit to say hello to guests, go to their bed while people are coming in or eating, and practice their skills with guests as a fun way to generalize training skills.
The treat jars will also be handy if your dog struggles too much with people coming in. If they are barking non-stop, get those treats up against their nose and lure them away to a bed. Sprinkle treats on the bed and then go grab a special bone or chew for them to focus on instead. You might need to reset them multiple times if you haven’t practiced this before.
Being stocked with lots of chews, frozen kongs, and toys is also a good idea. These can give your dog something to do if they are adding a bit too much energy to an already excited room. Get stocked before your guests come over.
Finally, recognize if your dog is not the best in social situations. Sometimes, the best choice for our dogs is to give them a quiet space to hang out when we have a house full of guests. Some social situations are just too much for them. Watch for signs of stress such as pinning the ears back, panting, pacing, whale eye (seeing the whites of their eyes), and lip licking. If you see these in your dog in social situations, grab a high value chew and go settle them in another room or tether them to furniture, put their bed down, give them the chew, and ask everyone to ignore them and give them space. If your dog guards resources, then it’s best to put them in another room with that high value chew.
I hope these holiday tips will help you and your dog get through this busy season. Wishing you all a happy holiday season!
Lynn Gagnon is a certified professional dog trainer for Stoked Dogs. She has a BSoc.Sc. and CPDT-KA.
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