This time of year is typically slow for me – everyone is busy preparing for the holidays, and no one is thinking about their dogs’ behaviour problems. We’re busy with presents, parties, concerts and planning for days off. However, once Christmas passes, I tend to be inundated with requests for training because of bites over the holidays. While we all work at avoiding the emergency vet over the holidays (no Christmas chocolate from the stocking!), here are some tips to avoid the emergency call to your certified dog behaviour consultant.
Exercise and Routine
Many of us get some extra time off at the holidays, but with that comes a super busy schedule – finishing up the last minute gift shopping, cooking and baking frenzies, visiting friends, family and neighbours, emergency trips to the post office – it is an insanely busy time of year. With all of these extra tasks, your dog’s exercise routine and training may go out the door – no time! Plus, depending on where you live, you now have to tack on an extra 5-10 minutes getting in and out the door with your dog due to bundling up for winter, snowy weather. As the big family get together approaches, and your dog is feeling out of sorts (why aren’t you going to work at the regular time?) and stir crazy with cabin fever, the potential for lurking behaviour problems increases.
Get up early (who sleeps in on their days off anymore?) and make sure your dog gets out before you head off to the mall. Take some of his breakfast and do a little morning training on your walk. If suitable, maybe your dog can go on some errands with you, and you can mix in a little training during them. It is amazing how a little obedience in front of the grocery store can burn off some steam!
A lot of my friends have children that have been bitten at family functions – sometimes very badly. In most of these situations, people are doing the best to manage the dogs and the children, but we tend to forget that while our dog may be good with our children, he may not be good with your cousin’s toddler, who has never seen a dog before and thinks he is a crash mat for gymnastics. Or your children may be able to go over to your dog and take her bone away, but they may not understand that they can’t do that to grandma’s elderly German Shepherd, who only gets a bone on Christmas day and guards it with her life. If dogs are enjoying goodies, make sure they can do so in a quiet space.
Having dogs over to your home? If you have a dog already living with you, make sure these are his friends coming over and put anything “valuable” (like bones, chews, toys, etc) away. Dogs aren’t always keen on sharing. There tends to be A LOT of food at Christmas – if there are multiple dogs around, you will want supervise the dogs closely as they may become competitive. All of the food may not be safe for animal consumption, so give guests plates to enjoy their snacks on, in hopes that less food falls on the floor. If you are taking your dog with you to a holiday event (my Carmac attended many Christmas dinners around Whistler), make sure your dog is going to be happy with all of the guests (two and four legged) who may be attending. Carmac was a great guest, but not all dogs are happy to lie at your feet and eat all unwanted brussel sprouts. Imagine Mulder at a Christmas dinner? If filmed, it would be a YouTube sensation – the Malinois that ruined Christmas!
Make keeping your dog safe from holiday health and behaviour hazards a priority this season. Find
some quiet time to go out and play in the snow, go for a walk, or snuggle on the couch with your best four legged pal. They are valuable family members too.