Ease your stress with these tips for dog-friendly holiday parties

Keeping families and dogs happy in the home during the holidays is a worthy goal.  Read more to learn how to ease the stress your dog feels during the holidays. You’ll feel less stressed too. 

The hustle and bustle of the holidays are upon us. It’s a busy time of year. Homes are often turned inside out when decorating or wrapping presents or readying for a gathering of friends.

It can be a stressful time, 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 forethought, you can reduce the stress your dog feels during the holidays.

Tips to Reduce Your Dog's Stress

Adhere to Your Dog’s Regular Schedule

Walk, feed, and exercise your dog the same as you do on regular days. This may mean adjusting your own schedule to meet your dog’s needs.

Physical Exercise

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 former girl, Willow, and now Cailie, loves a flirt pole.  It’s also a great way to work on impulse control.

Mental Stimulation

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. 

Cody the dog exploring Lowes.
Cody enjoys a trip to Lowe's on the day of a party at our home.

Put Your Dog on Leash 

With your dog on a 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

If you have children or grandchildren, give them games to play or books to color. For your dogs, stuff a few Kongs (a rubber toy with a  hollow center) with something your dog loves (soft cheese, peanut butter, soft dog food) and let your dog enjoy them throughout the evening. Or you can add some Brain Games

Teach an Incompatible Behavior

If you teach your dog to Go to Mat at the sound of the doorbell, your dog won’t be jumping on guests.

Crate Your Dog

If your dog is too exuberant or fearful when guests visit, it’s often easier to crate your dog away from the busyness. Use a stuffed Kong or other enrichment toy to occupy him.

Think Twice about Dressing 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, keep your dog’s wellbeing and comfort in mind during the holiday season. Taking time to focus on your dog’s wellbeing helps you keep your family happier and less stressed.

Create space in your schedule to spend quality time with your dog each day. You, your family, and your dog will be much happier!

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 of Dog Training and Behavior, and founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. The company s trainers specialize in separation anxiety and provide virtual dog training and behavior consulting to clients around the globe. www.coldnosecollege.com

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