The holidays can be exhausting with all the social engagements and parties, guess what? Your dog can be just as stressed by all the chaos as you. Just like you’ve got tricks to keep your own nerves under control, you can help your dog be on their best behavior too! We have included some ways to set your furbaby up for success this holiday season.
Supervise or Confine
The easiest way to keep your pup from getting hurt or misbehaving is to set up an environment for success. This is a good idea no matter how old your dog is truly. Does your pup like to sneak food from the counter? Make sure there aren’t treats or food left within reach and that your dog is not left alone in the kitchen. The American Kennel Club has a great rule of thumb, “supervise or confine”. That means when you’re not able to keep an eye on your pup, go ahead and put them in their crate or in a puppy-proof area. This will give you peace of mind and your pup less opportunity for trouble.
Create a Private Space
Just as we all may find ourselves needing a break every once in a while, your dog does too. Find a private area– whether that’s the laundry room, a another quiet room away or even their crate– this can give your pup a chance to relax and take a break. Even the extroverts in our family need a breather! It's no different with our furbabies.
Move their crate to a place where your guests aren’t likely to wander. Remember, your pup’s crate is where they can go to be “off-duty.” We want to create a place where they can take a break. Use a baby gate/ dog gate to keep your pup inside the room or space if you need to. Give them a chew, treat, a puzzle or a game that can help them relax by keeping their jaws or brain busy.
Keep Visits Short
Still trying to acclimate your pup to new people and crowds? Stick to short interactions with new people. These training sessions will be far more successful than extended ones. You don’t want to exhaust your pup. Just like an overtired toddler is ripe for a meltdown, don’t expect stellar behavior from an overstimulated dog. 🙃
Introductions can be a lot of stimulus for your pup. You can try putting your dog in "place", or their crate or even another room and let them come meet everyone after the hubbub of hugs and squeals and kisses have calmed down.
What’s Rewarded is Repeated
Use positive reinforcement to encourage the sort of behavior you want. Is your pup sitting patiently? Give ‘em a treat! Are they settling onto the floor calmly? Are they staying in place? Give them extra love! It doesn’t always have to be a treat, it can be pets on the head and verbal affirmations too! If you’ve got a big family in for the holidays, assign someone to buddy-up with your dog. This is a great idea for kids who are shy around visitors and need a confidence-boost or even for friends who are particularly anxious in crowds. Give them a job they can be proud of! You will also not want to let your dog jump on family either. You may have to ask your family to join you in not rewarding that with any kind of attention.
Bring Everyone in on the Plan
Most of all, don’t force your dog to interact with visitors. Let your family and friends know how you want them to engage with your dog. It's no different from introducing shy toddlers or overactive kids to new people. Model how you reward your dog for good behavior to encourage guests to do the same. Show your little ones how to play with or pet your dog. Communicating and setting expectations enables your guests to help you and puts everyone at ease– including your pup!