By Sandy Modell
Alexandria, VA – It seems like just yesterday that we were getting the grill fired up for the July 4th barbeque. Now, the Holiday Season is upon us, filled with excitement, merriment, and cheer. Although holiday hubbub can be stressful to us humans, dogs are particularly vulnerable to holiday stressors because they can’t prepare for what may be in store: visitors they’ve never met, things being rearranged, and even a large evergreen tree planted right in the middle of the living room.
Because the gayety of the holidays can be overwhelming for many pups, I’m providing some tips and guidelines to keep your four-legged family members safe and happy so that everyone can have a very merry holiday season:
· Create a “safe zone” for your family dog, such as a crate, a comfy room in your home, or on the other side of a baby gate. Kids running around, doorbells ringing, noise, strangers coming and going can be very stressful for your pet.
· Provide your dog with some mental and physical exercise before your guests arrive. Play some recall games, treat search, ball retrieve, or tug. “A tired dog is a good dog!”
· Prepare some frozen Kongs, stock up on bully sticks, Himalayan yaks, etc. Before you sit down at the holiday table filled with all sorts of wonderful smells and goodies, designate a place for your dog to go so they can enjoy their own smorgasbord.
· Never leave your dog unattended with children. Even if your dog loves kids, be sure to supervise all interactions. Always think safety first!
· Instruct children on how to interact with your dog. Many dogs don’t like to be hugged or patted on the head. If you know your dog is timid around kids, provide a safe and comfortable space for the dog–away from the kids.
· Interactive food puzzles and treat dispensing toys can occupy your dog and keep him relaxed while your guests are in the next room having some holiday cheer or ringing in the New Year. Not only will you engage him physically, you’ll challenge his ability to problem solve and lessen his boredom while you’re tending to your guests.
· Don’t tempt fate by leaving delicious holiday goodies in your dog’s reach. Mince pies, plum puddings, chocolate, and sugarless chewing gum all have ingredients that, unfortunately, are super toxic for our pets. The Christmas Poinsettia is also poisonous to dogs, so keep it out of reach too. Remember, even the most well-behaved dog can turn into a “counter-surfer” if tempted.
· Trash cans filled with turkey bones or other foodstuff can be very tempting to your dog. After all, they are scavengers and resourceful animals. So, keep trash receptacles out of reach or use a trash can with a locking lid.
· Keep small toys, wrapping paper, tinsel, ornament hooks, etc., out of your dog’s reach just as you would keep them out of reach of a small child. Dogs investigate the world with their noses and mouths, so prevention is truly the best medicine. Gift ribbons and decorations can be very harmful if ingested by pets.
· If your dog has a long waggy tail or is overly interested in the lovely Christmas tree with sentimental glass ornaments, you may want to put a baby gate or x-pen around it. Neither broken ornaments nor knocked over trees will add to your holiday cheer.
· Consider enrolling your dog in a pre-holiday manners class. Wholistic Hound Academy offers classes and workshops that can help set your dog up for success. Home for the Holidays and Mats, Crates, and Other Boundaries are just two upcoming classes geared towards teaching your dog to be calmer and more relaxed during the holiday hustle.
Everyone appreciates a dog with good manners. A dog that can gracefully interact with family and friends during the holidays is a joy to behold. While not all dogs are there yet, others may not even want to interact with the guests. If you haven’t brushed up on your dog’s door manners or addressed his excellent counter surfing skills, then you may not want them to be the holiday greeters or helping in the kitchen while the ham and sweet potato pie sit on the counter.
The holidays can be a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends, especially after last year. Your dog is part of your family, and you should include her in some of the festivities. By following our tips and guidelines, your dog can enjoy this holiday season, and you can have a very merry and safe holiday season.
Happy Holidays from Wholistic Hound Academy!
Sandy Modell, CPDT-KA, is the Founder, Owner, and Head Trainer of Wholistic Hound Academy, Alexandria’s award-winning, premier canine training and learning center — offering classes and private lessons in puppy training, adult dog manners, behavior modification, agility, dog sports, and canine fitness and conditioning, kids and dogs, pre-pet planning and pet selection. Classes are starting soon! Visit www.wholistichound.com to enroll in our programs, and like us on Facebook.com/wholistichound and follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/wholistichound.