Want your holidays to have less mess and more magic? A little preparation can make all the difference.

Here are some quick pointers:

Make a list of upcoming events that will impact and include your family dog.

Assess

  • Who will be there? Will there be children?
  • Will there be people who perhaps aren’t as ambulatory as they were last year?
  • What is your dog’s comfort level in this kind of situation?
  • Is he relaxed and happy to have all the attention or is he the more introverted type?

Plan

Often families try to fit too much “to do” into too little space and time. Ask yourself…

  • What would Rusty’s vote be?
  • Would he be happier at a boarding facility or hanging out with a neighbor during your holiday party?
  • Would doggie daycare be a good fit?
  • Will he be content in a crate in the back bedroom?

Often dogs don’t have (or want) to be included in everything. Remember your dog will likely need breaks from the action. Get your dog comfortable now with being separated from you in the house for breaks. The holidays can be overwhelming for him, but it can also be dangerous. There are lots of hazards during the holidays from chocolate to tinsel. A digestive misstep can be uncomfortable for everyone.

Start Practicing Now

If your dog jumps on guests start now practicing getting it right. The holidays can be a fantastic time to work on manners because your dog will get in lots of practice. Rearrange furniture remembering to keep escape routes in mind for your furry friend. We encourage at least two and preferably three in each space. By rearranging early, your dog gets more comfortable and you can see where space may get pinched when there are extra guests.

Reframe

Instead of what you DON’T want your dog to do, think of some options of what you WANT your dog to do. During meal time should she be in her crate? On a mat? Playing in the fenced backyard? In the back bedroom? Start practicing those options now, so your dog is fluent with the skills by the time the family arrives later in the month.

Kids & Dogs

The holidays are not a great time to do introductions between kids and dogs. Everyone is excited and overtired there’s not a lot of space. Great relationships take time and work, they are built over time. If you must introduce kids and dogs, start now with a plan. You might start getting your dog comfortable with the sounds (YouTube is a great resource) of kids… or watching kids at the local park. Work on having your dog offer relaxed interest in kids. If your dog is too friendly, he or she is likely to overwhelm kids. Use a leash and take things slowly, watching both the dog and the kids for signs of stress. Don’t force interactions.

The Rule of Threes

If your dog is friendly when meeting other dogs or people teach the pup to ignore one in three people and or dogs (and focus on you), to quietly greet one in three and to be more interactive with one in three. This way your dog starts to relax and when someone doesn’t greet your dog he or she is not frustrated. Letting over-excited dogs greet, often leads them into unintended mischief. Instead, wait until your dog settles down to allow greetings.

Following these few simple tips will make your holidays safer and sweeter for everyone, including our furry friends.


Tina M. Spring

Tina M. Spring is the owner of Sit Happens Dog Training & Behavior, LLC in Athens, GA. She is the creator of the Hounds for the Holidays program to help prepare dogs for the stress of the holiday season and prevent dog bites.