Simple steps to take before the Holidays begin.
Management is very important as most undesirable behaviors happen when our dogs are at a heightened emotional state; either too scared or too excited. There are many new sights, smells, and routine changes at Christmas that can easily overwhelm a dog that is used to a quiet house. Added company or traveling can easily over-excite your social dog as well. So here are a few management tips that can be extremely helpful.
- Watch your dog's emotional state closely. If they start to be overwhelmed or overexcited, both of which look very similar, take some time out of the hustle and bustle to do one of your dog's favorite activities. Doing something together can really help bring your dog back down to a more neutral emotional state.
- Before the craziness begins, work with your dog to see what helps them calm down the fastest. A sniff-a-bout in a low distraction environment can meet your dog's needs for exercise, bonding time, and potty needs all at the same time. But this can also overstimulate a dog if they are not used to this type of walk. The same goes for belly rubs as they can be calming or add to the stimulation. Learn what works best before your dog and practice it before your company arrives or before you head out to your party location.
- Contact friends and family that will be interacting with your dog beforehand to explain the "rules" you want them to follow with your dog. Examples: When you come in, ignore the dog until they have settled down a bit and wait for me to give permission to greet or play. We aiming for maintaining calmness so do X, Y, & Z with our pup, but avoid doing these things which make our pup more hyper. It's also best to discuss your plan with anyone that you plan to go visit with your pup joining in the fun.
- Use a leash during introductions (unless your dog is leash reactive!) which can help you maintain calmness or remove the dog more quickly if they become overexcited. This also helps you to prevent your dog from jumping on family members that might not be able to hand an excitable pup. Also make use of baby gates to create distance between your dog and people or pets when you are too distracted with other things to remind your dog that house manners apply even around our friends.
- Prepare your dog's meals ahead of time to make it quick and easy. You can place a kibble servicing in Ziplock baggies to make it easy to feed as training rewards or drop into your snuffle box or bowl at feeding time more quickly. If you use licky mats, kongs, or other food delivery resources, stuff them & freeze them a few days before your holiday plans so you can pull them out when you need your dog to relax by themselves. Don't stress out if your dog doesn't eat as much as normal during the holidays! Travel and schedule changes can often make a dog eat less and you never know if Uncle Joe, Aunt Betty, or whoever is slipping your pup some people treats. If your dog is on a special diet, make sure to let everyone know what they should or should not feed your dog. Sometimes it's easier to ask everyone else NOT to feed your pup, but even that is still not always happening unless you're hyper vigilant about watching people. I tend to let my dog have a few more puppy safe human foods during the holidays, but that can be very hard to track if everyone is slipping them food.