Training Time!

Tips for a Dog Gone Good Holiday Season

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Alexandria, VA – The Holiday Season is upon us–filled with excitement, merriment, and cheer. While the holiday hubbub can be stressful to us humans, dogs can be 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, here are some tips and guidelines to keep your four-legged family members safe and happy. After all, our pets deserve a very merry holiday season too.

  • Create a “safe zone” for your family pet, 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, and strangers coming and going can be very stressful to dogs and cats alike. Remember to train your furry friends to like their safe zones by making positive associations with them before the onslaught of friends and family.
  • Give your dog lots of 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 wonderful smells and goodies, designate a place for your dog to go so they can enjoy their own smorgasbord instead of trying to lap up yours.
  • Never leave your dog unattended with children. Even if your dog loves kids, be sure to supervise all interactions. Always think about safety first!
  • Instruct children on how to interact with the 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—a safe zone away from the kids.
  • Interactive treat dispensing toys, snuffle mats, and other passive calming activities 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. Challenging your pup’s ability to problem solve and lessen his boredom will make for a calmer, more relaxed dog.
  • Don’t tempt fate by leaving delicious holiday goodies within your dog’s reach. Mince pies, plum puddings, chocolate, and sugarless chewing gum all have ingredients that can be super toxic for our pets. The Christmas Poinsettia and holly berries are also poisonous to dogs, so keep them out of reach too. Remember, even the most well-behaved dog can turn into a “counter-surfer” if tempted.
  • Trash cans filled with turkey, ham bones, or other foodstuffs can tempt your dog. After all, dogs 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 a small child’s reach. 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.
  • Dogs may be intrigued by the live foliage that suddenly appears in their home. 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 a knocked-over Christmas tree will add to your holiday cheer!
  • Consider enrolling your dog in a pre-holiday manners class. Wholistic Hound Academy offers a few classes and workshops to help set your dog up for success. Just Chill! and No Barks! Silence is Golden are two upcoming classes designed to help your dog be calmer and more relaxed during the holiday season.

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. 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 door greeters or kitchen helpers while the ham and sweet potato pie are sitting on the counter.

The holidays can be a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends. Following our tips and guidelines, you and your dog can have a merry and safe holiday season.

Happy Holidays to you and yours from the Wholistic Hound Academy team!

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 to enroll in our programs, and like us on and follow us on Instagram at

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