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Ask the Trainer: Safety Training Tips for the Holidays

dogs during the holidays

The holiday season is a wonderfully exciting time for most of us, especially this year. We love all the decorations, the food, and the parties. Some dogs thrive on the excitement, but many find all the new sights and smells of the holidays overwhelming. Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to help your dog get the most out of the holidays!

Can my dog meet houseguests during the Holidays?

It’s important to remember that, while some dogs love all the excitement of a typical holiday party, many find all the novelty a bit overwhelming. Also, most dogs don’t really understand how to conduct themselves around a lot of strangers. They are too amped up by all the excitement to settle easily and may not understand that they should give guests space.

Many dogs can learn how to behave themselves in these situations with training and experience, but management is much easier when you have a new puppy or a dog without much impulse control. I’m personally a huge fan of management for every dog, including my own. It simply means managing your dog’s environment in order to prevent him from doing things you don’t like until he learns the house rules. My all-time favorite for this situation is a people-free zone where dogs can relax undisturbed. I use a specific room in the house, but a crate is also a great idea, especially for puppies.

Keep this area off-limits to all people. Even the dog-lover who “just wants to meet the puppy!” If possible, lock doors to prevent small children from wandering into your dog’s safe zone. Provide your dog with some water and a couple of his favorite toys. I usually play some soothing music for my dog and diffuse calming essential oils to help her relax. Check up on your dog throughout the festivities to ensure he’s doing well. Keeping your dog separated from the party might seem cruel, but most dogs really appreciate having a safe space like this.

If you do decide to keep your dog out with the humans, it’s important to keep an eye on her. Make sure to be her advocate by preventing guests from feeding her a bunch of delicacies that could make her sick. Also, don’t let her interact with small children without adult supervision. Kids are adorable, but it takes them several years to learn how to behave around animals. Do not allow them to pull fur, ears, or tails, jump on the dog, or engage in any similarly rough behavior. If your dog does get overwhelmed after a while, allow her to recharge in her safe zone.

How can I keep my dog away from the Christmas tree or other holiday decorations?

There are few things more enticing for a dog than a tree in the house, especially a tree with wrapped gifts under it. To our dogs, trees smell fantastic, and the presents often smell even more exciting. Plus, many dogs consider gifts toys, placed under the tree for their enjoyment. It’s pretty miraculous for any dog to behave in a civilized manner around so many temptations, so let’s not set them up for failure. Instead, try these techniques to keep gifts safe, and dogs out of trouble.

Once again, management is going to be the key. If your dog adores opening presents, and you insist on the traditional tree set-up, try putting a folding fence around the whole thing. Years ago, the only folding fence options were industrial-strength X Pens used by dog people. Happily, there are now a lot more choices when it comes to management fences. They come in wood, lots of colors, and a variety of shapes and designs. You’ll be able to find any number of foldable fences on Amazon.

Another option is to simply put the tree in an area of the house where the dog doesn’t have access. This is a perfectly reasonable solution for everyone. It’s also probably the safest way to go, especially if you have a determined pup.

What can I do about begging or stealing food during the holidays?

Even dogs who don’t usually beg or steal food can relapse during the holiday season. Foods are novel, plentiful, and often available in all kinds of unusual places, like on low-sitting tables. It can be tough for any dog to exercise restraint!

The easiest and kindest way to help your dog at parties with a lot of food is to let her hang out in her safe zone that we discussed earlier. Since it isn’t realistic to expect dogs to exercise self-control without a lot of training, this is the most straightforward option. Even professional dog people use management rather than training for situations like this.

If you’re baking delicious confections, be sure to keep them stored out of your dog’s reach. You really don’t want your pup eating an entire pan of fudge while you’re at work. You may need to get creative with food storage if your dog is prone to scarfing down things he shouldn’t.

These are all proven techniques to keep your dog safe and happy during every holiday season. They help promote good behavior, safety, and a positive relationship between humans and canines. Happy Holidays from our pack to yours!


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