Keeping families and dogs happy in the home during the holidays is a worthy goal and it can be done! Happy Dog = Happy Human. Read on to learn how to ease the stress your dog feels during the holidays.
The hustle and bustle of the holidays is upon us. It’s a busy time of year and our homes are usually turned inside out for at least a period of time with decorating or wrapping presents or readying for a gathering of friends.
It can be a stressful time for us that’s for sure. Have you ever stopped to think about how this can also affect your dog? Dogs, not unlike people, enjoy predictability. The holidays are anything but predictable. With a little consideration you can easily reduce the stress your dog feels during the holidays.
Tips to Reduce the Stress your Dog Feels
Adhere to the Dog’s Regular Schedule
Walk, feed and exercise your dog at (or as near as possible) the same as you do on normal days. This may mean adjusting your own schedule to meet your dog’s needs.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of regular off leash exercise, particularly on the day guests are to arrive. Throw a ball. Play tug. Go for a hike with your dog. If you’re physically unable to walk or run with your dog, buy a Flirt Pole, a piece of exercise equipment for dogs that entices a dog to chase a fast moving lure. My girl, Willow, loves a flirt pole and during the game, it’s a great way to work on impulse control.
Give your dog some brain work an hour before guests arrive. Brain work can tire a dog as much as physical exercise. Use interactive food puzzle toys (there are hundreds to choose from these days) or play the Find It Game. Our two go to activities are taking a trip to town to visit Lowe’s and doing a couple of short training sessions on the day of the party.
Put Your Dog on Leash
With your dog on leash when guests arrive, you can prevent your dog from jumping on guests and also reinforce your dog with a food treat for any calm behavior, preferably sitting, when guests approach.
Give Your Dog Something to Do
With children or grandchildren we give them games to play or books to color. With dogs, stuff several Kongs (a rubber toy with hollow center) with something your dog loves (soft cheese, peanut butter, soft dog food) and let your dog enjoy these throughout the evening.
Teach an Incompatible Behavior
If you teach your dog to Go to Mat at the sound of the doorbell, then your dog won’t be jumping on guests.
Crate Your Dog
If your dog is too exuberant or fearful when guests are visiting, it’s often easier to crate your dog elsewhere. Use a stuffed Kong to occupy him.
Don’t Dress Your Dog
Unless you’ve slowly and appropriately conditioned your dog to LOVE that fancy collar with bells and frills or that dapper holiday sweater or those reindeer antlers, don’t do it. Refraining from dressing your dog, means a happier furry friend.
Whatever you do, don’t forget about your dog’s well being and comfort during this hectic holiday season. Taking the time to focus on your dog’s well being helps you keep your family happier and less stressed. Make space in your schedule to spend quality time with your dog each day. You, your family AND your dog will be much happier!
If you have other questions on ho to ease the stress your dog feels during the holidays, comment or contact us!
Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities and distance consults for dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S.