‘Tis the season for parties, yule log TV, and gift giving, and while we may enjoy all the festivities, our pets might need a bit of extra help coping with all of our holly jollies. All the extra commotion can be really confusing to our pups and it can be difficult for them to stay calm and collected in the face of all the new additions to the house... like wrapped gifts, trees (“but you never let me bring my sticks inside!” - Rex), and plates upon plates of sweets and meats.
Though there isn’t any surefire training you can do in just a few short days before Christmas to avoid the present spoiling of a lifetime, what you can do is manage and prevent unwanted behaviours. Real change with training takes up to three weeks, so management and prevention are a key component in any training plan, but it’s important to remember that it is temporary - don’t expect miracles, people!
Now, lets get down to the nitty gritty... generally, I find there are a few “types” of dogs during the holidays. See which description best fits your dog, and read along for tips on how to keep your pup off the naughty list and lumps of coal out of their stocking:
My Remy is a recovering present peeker. He has always loved to rip open paper and packaging, and wrapped gifts under a tree is pretty much what I envision the other side of the rainbow bridge looking like for him. And, since he can’t read, he is indiscriminate with whose gifts he opens. It’d be so much easier if he’d just open his own to not spoil the surprise for anyone else, but alas, that is wishful thinking! If you have a PP, the best thing to do is limit access to the present area. If your tree and presents are in a room with doors, great! Close them. If not, considering using a baby gate or x-pen to keep your presents safely out of reach. Neither of those are an option? Only have gifts out when your dog can be supervised. You could also consider tethering your dog to you with a leash around your waist so they are always within eyesight.
This is my festive way of re-naming the counter surfer. Dogs who scrounge or beg for food are an annoyance at any time of year, but especially during the holidays when our tabletops and counters are overflowing with tasty goodies. There are many things that our dogs shouldn’t have: chocolate, sugar, nuts, alcohol and especially cooked bones. If you want to give your pup a treat, moderation is key. A little piece of turkey or some peas and cranberry sauce can be a really nice way to include your pup in the holiday meal, but don’t give anything from the table or counter. Instead, put it in their food bowl, just as you would their regular meal. Any food that comes off a plate and straight to your pup will only encourage them to linger and bulge those puppy eyes even more. If your dog prefers to help themselves, keep them out of areas with food. During meal time, make them a plate or food-dispensing toy full of goodies to keep them occupied and out of the way. The umbilical cord exercise as I mentioned for Present Peekers is also a good alternative.
Now I don’t mean a dog who literally has accidents in the house during parties (that’s a whole other blog post), but I do mean a pup who may not be the best party guest. Maybe they are unsure of house guests or are easily excited and overwhelmed by them. Instead of keeping your dog in an uncomfortable situation, provide them with an “out”. Set them up with a room where they can relax and be away from all the hustle and bustle. Just make sure to give them something to do - puzzle toys, food-dispensing toys and bones that are safe to have while unsupervised. You could also consider some quiet music to drown out any loud noises. Diffusers are really popular right now and can be a useful aid to keep our dogs (and all pets) calm. Put some lavender essential oil in a diffuser to encourage calm and relaxation.
These dogs can be especially tricky to manage if you put up a real tree during the holidays, for a couple reasons. Even the most solid, house-trained dog can become confused by the alluring smells of a real tree in the house. Plus, look at all those branches within reach! Just as I advise for Present Peekers, the best way to keep your dogs away from a Christmas tree is to prevent access, whether by closing the room off with a door, baby gate or x-pen. When first bringing a real tree into the house, keep your dog on-leash so you can re-direct them outside if they give it a sniff and think about lifting a leg. Sometimes, a couple reminders that “business” is best suited outside can be enough. As for the decor, skip the glass ornaments and tinsel, or at the very least, put them up high and out of reach. Tinsel, like ribbon can cause complications if ingested, and do you really want to help your dog pass it? We’ve all been there before, getting that pleading look over the shoulder of our crouched dog as if they’re saying “a little help here?”
Whether it’s your first Christmas with a dog, or you and your pooch remember the dark days of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze, it’s always good to keep some tips in mind when approaching the holidays. The most important thing, however, is to enjoy the holidays and revel in the love we all share with our family and friends, human or otherwise. So here is my toast to everyone who has a Party Pooper, Present Peeker, Tree Trimmer and/or Turkey Taster out there, try to be patient, okay? We’re all just trying to get through the holidays in once piece, so lets try and do with with a little peace. Happy Holidays!
I would love to hear about what “type” of holiday dog you have at home! Does your dog fit into one of the above categories or are they in field all their own? Let me know by posting in the comments below!