Another holiday is upon us, and that may mean much added stress, activity and company. Complaints of dog over arousal, jumping on people, getting into things it shouldn’t, and even biting or growling at kids happen a lot at this time of year. Instead of blaming your dog, think through how you can help your dog to succeed through the next few days.
With this being just a few days from Christmas and Hannukah, the reality is, if you have not already spent time teaching your dog behaviors you want to see in different situations, you more than likely won’t be able to teach those behaviors with such fluency by the time guests arrive.
However, now is the time to really do an assessment of your dog’s reaction to different stimulus. Management and other solutions will be very different for a dog that has great fear reaction to people, sounds, and strange sights than for a dog who jumps on people to get attention. If your dog growls, lunges at, or retreats from strangers, the holiday party is not a good time to be desensitizing your dog to people. A better choice is to keep your dog in a safe, quiet place away from company…or even sending it to a friend’s or a kennel away from it all.
If your dog is one that will jump on guests when they arrive, consider having it behind a gate, in a bedroom out of site or in a crate in another room until they settle in and your dog is in a calmer state. Be prepared to reinforce your dog for doing the desired behavior.
With adults often come children, and, as your pet’s guardian, it is your responsibility to ensure a safe environment for everyone. Any dog will have a breaking point when it comes to interactions with people who do things to make the dog uncomfortable. Additionally, children can run around which encourages your dog to chase them, potentially leading to over arousal. Children should ALWAYS be PRO-ACTIVELY supervised around pets, and should be redirected if they are doing anything that a dog does not like. Some dog body language to look for in an unhappy dog is: a tail held low or tucked between the legs; ears held sideways for an erect eared dog or flattened back with rapid panting; tense eyes that likely show the whites around the sides; tense body muscles; looking or moving or leaning away; a center of gravity over the rear legs or to one side. Dogs may also roll onto their belly in submission. If dogs freeze, become stiff, stand with their front legs splayed and head low, showing teeth or growling, interaction with them needs to stop immediately.
Ensure that your dog has a quiet safe where it can go if it wants to be alone, and instruct and enforce to all of your guests that they are not to enter the space around that quiet place.
At least during the most hectic times such as opening presents, serving food, guests coming and going, consider having your dog in its quiet place with a chew toy such as a stuffed Kong.
Make sure that your dog is wearing its collar and name tags in case it runs out the door. Of course, also managing its opportunity to be that close to the door is also very important.
If your dog is likely to grab some of that tasty holiday food, and you haven’t already trained alternative behaviors, management is your best solution. Tell your guests to keep food and drinks away from reach. You may also want to use barriers such as gates to prevent your dog from having access.
Can I be of help to you and your pet with your dog training needs? Please contact me.