Did you know that all of these holiday plants will make your dog sick: Amaryllis, Christmas tree Pine needles, Holly, Mistletoe & Poinsettias? Be sure to keep them and their shed leaves out of reach of your pooch.
Holidays are hectic and sometimes stressful for us and our pets. Lots of food smells, new people and interesting decorations are all big deals to pets. Here are a few ideas that you can start on now to help the season go by smoothly.
Train, don’t complain. Your dog relies on you to teach them acceptable behaviors. Jumping up, stealing food, barking, and digging are normal dog behaviors. Unfortunately for dogs, they are also behaviors few people find enjoyable. The arrival of holiday house guests often introduces ample opportunities for dogs to engage in unwanted activities. Even trained dogs can benefit from brushing up on basic skills. Help remind your dog what’s expected of him by practicing and rewarding desired behaviors on a daily basis. Basic obedience can help keep your pet safe and happy.
Here is an example of something that I plan to work on over the next few weeks:
If the doorbell triggers your dogs to start barking, it’s time to start desensitizing. Using treats for this one is a good idea. Start teaching your dog the doorbell is nothing to get excited about. Always stay calm and start this process outside on your front patio. Put your dog on leash and ring your bell. The dog will bark, you stand still and wait. When the dog stops barking (it may take some time) praise and drop a few treats on the floor. Then repeat this process. After a few times your dog is going to be looking for the treat when the bell rings not barking. Be careful with your timing, you want to reward the wanted behavior and either ignore or correct the unwanted behavior. In no time at all you will be doing this inside your home. You don’t want to move inside the home until they are responding properly outside. When you do move inside, do it the exact same way.
Once your dog settles down inside, you can start teaching him to sit or wait 20 feet away from the front door. One step at a time. Remember in most cases it’s the doorbell that’s getting your dog excited. If you can desensitize them to the doorbell and then teach them the ‘Sit and Stay’ command, your front door will be a breeze! It will take effort on your part but it’s easier than you may think.
Manage the situation. Normally our dogs behave beautifully under any circumstances (wink, wink). When we live in the real world, management tools are a wonderful way to help create and maintain calm under challenging conditions. For example, if your dog is an avid counter-surfer, consider baby-gating him out of the kitchen when preparing that five-course feast. Baby gates, crates, tethers, and x-pens are all useful tools to help ensure correct behavior even when around high-level distractions.
Give your dog something to do rather than letting him become unemployed and seek out trouble. Complex food delivery puzzles (Buster Cube, Kibble Nibble, Kong, etc.) are wonderful ways to keep dogs happily entertained. A secret stash of favorite chew bones will also be helpful. Plan ahead and have several doggy “sit quietly and color” activities on hand for your pet to enjoy.
Decorations. Be mindful of holiday decorations. Strings of lights, breakable ornaments, poisonous plants, and glowing candles attract curious canines. Management and supervision is a must during the holidays. With guests and parties in your home, things get moved and gifts are placed within easy reach. Keep an eye on what is being put in your dog’s line of sight or put you dog up until you have time to supervise them again.
The Food. Rich, fatty foods can cause stomach problems ranging from simple upset to pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas resulting in pain, vomiting, and dehydration. Dogs with this serious condition often require hospitalization for treatment. Ask your guests to refrain from feeding table scraps and be sure to dog-proof the garbage. Be especially mindful of cooked bones.
Alcohol, chocolate, xylitol (artificial sweetener), tobacco, and medications can be fatal when consumed in quantities proportionate to the size of the dog. Instruct guests to keep purses and suitcases closed and safely out of reach. Again chew bones or food puzzles are a good option. A bit of cooked turkey without skin or bones is a nice treat to hide in there.