With the holiday season upon us, it’s time to start making the plans and preparations we’ve been dreaming of all year a reality. If you have a pet, it’s crucial that you factor their well-being into the festivities to ensure they behave well and don’t form a negative association with Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are steps you can take in preparing your dog for the holidays and for situations such as guests coming over, environmental changes and lots of unfamiliar and exciting sights and smells.
With enough forward planning and clear ground rules, dogs adapt exceptionally well. What’s more, just like in any situation, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog! Make sure your dog gets plenty of physical exercise and attention, and do your best to implement the following tips and advice.
Maintain Your Dog’s Normal Routine
While it’s normal for your routine to shift around during the holidays, the best thing you can do to keep your dog in a calm, steady state is maintain its routine as normal. Dogs respond best when their mealtimes, exercise excursions and bedtime are consistent. Even the smallest shift can leave them feeling out of sorts. Of course, every now and again you’ll feed them or put them to bed late, but with holiday foods, decorations and a family in endlessly high spirits, it can all be overwhelming.
And while your dog is likely to love all the fun and festivities, overexcitement can lead to unwanted behavior. Encourage good behavior by making sure all family members and visitors are aware of the boundaries you’ve put in place to keep your furry friend relaxed and happy.
Decorate Piece by Piece
Moving bits and pieces around in the home and adding new items brings people joy, but it’s a different story for a pet. To a dog, these minor changes to the environment are shifts in their universe. Instead of putting the tree up, showcasing holiday plants, moving furniture around and hanging decorations all in one day, do it gradually so your pet can take in one change at a time.
Pamper Your Pet
The kids are getting presents, adults are celebrating with food and drink and your dog notices! We’ve all seen the look of longing in a dog’s eyes when it sees everyone having fun. It’s crucial you don’t give in to begging or accidentally reinforce this type of behavior. Instead, be sure to give your dog extra food, safe toys and attention around the holidays so it doesn’t feel left out.
Remember, dogs love being pampered and looking their best almost as much as we do. Take them to the groomer or give them extra-special baths so they can take pride in their appearance too.
Showcase Its Skills
Another great way of getting pets involved is by showcasing their best tricks at parties. Gatherings provide a great opportunity to teach your dog a new skill, and giving it the chance to show off helps it feel involved and loved. A dog loves nothing more than delighting an audience full of attentive eyes and ears, so get it involved with a doggy talent show. You can get your friends’ pets involved too.
Create a Dog Care Schedule for Parties
Many dogs only misbehave if they get something positive out of it. If every family member seems busy and loses sight of what pets are doing, mischief can ensue. During potentially stressful situations like parties and dinners with lots of guests, designate a member of the family to be responsible for keeping an eye on the dog. To avoid bickering, set a schedule and make sure everyone has a turn.
Provide a Quiet Spot as a Safe Place
If your dog is crate trained, perfect — just make sure you have its crate ready and send it there for high-risk times such as meals and present-opening. If your dog isn’t crate trained, planning ahead is essential to make sure the big day goes smoothly. Get your dog used to going to another room for time out while you eat dinner or have guests over so it knows what to expect once festivities start ramping up. If possible, keep it behind a door or baby gate so it can’t make a break for it.
Instead of treating this like a punishment or negative experience, make sure your dog has lots of treats and toys, with a familiar smelling dog bed and blankets. Keep telling your pet it’s a good dog and offer a treat when it behaves well, and do your best to ignore negative behavior.
Keep Potential Holiday Season Hazards Out of Reach
It’s vital that you think about dog-proofing your house at the same time you’re making it look awesome. Don’t forget that items like chocolate, tinsel and wrapping paper can be toxic to your pup, so aim to place decorations and treats well out of reach. Factoring its needs into your holiday plans is the best way to prepare your dog and your house for celebrations and parties.
Prepare Your Holiday Guests In Advance
While you can never guarantee well-mannered house guests, communicating your and your pet’s needs to them is the best insurance plan. Let people know about your dog’s personality and preferences, in addition to hard rules such as no human food and outlining how much attention is appropriate. If your pet looks like it’s starting to get overwhelmed, take it to its safe place and check on it regularly to make sure it feels comfortable and safe.
Practice Makes Perfect!
When it comes to situations such as lots of guests arriving at the front door, practice is the best way to avoid unwanted behavior. Ask a friend or family member to role-play a guest arrival situation with your pet. Get them to knock at the door and then tell your pet to sit or stay. Give it a treat every time it follows your command, and firmly but calmly say no if it barks or gets overexcited. Repeat over the course of several weeks in advance until it sits or stays every time.