As crazy as it seems, the year is coming to an end and the holiday season is upon us. This usually involves getting together with friends and family, gift exchanges, and big meals. All of a human's favorite things. It’s so fun for us that we often forget how hard it can be on our pets. Their schedules can change and their home is filled with new people and things all around them. Not to mention the neighborhood walks are now plagued by inflatables. The good news is there are some things we can do to help our pets have a festive holiday season as well.
Meet Their Needs
It’s important to keep our dogs’ schedule as normal as possible during the holiday season. They still need their puzzle toys, frozen treats, walk, and rest. It seems strange to say, but rest is often what we forget about. Typically, our dogs get a good midafternoon nap while we work. We often feel bad, thinking that they’re bored, but this is totally normal and good for dogs. They need their afternoon nap. The average dog needs more sleep and rest than we do. It’s important to set up a quiet area for them to sleep and rest in peace. This is beneficial both for our introverted pups who need to recharge their social battery and our social butterflies who may get too excited because they don’t want to leave the party. Be sure to have this area established before the holiday festivities start. And remind guests to give the dog some space when they are resting. On the other side of rest is activity. While we are pretty exhausted after a day of cooking and entertaining, our dogs may be restless or having trouble settling. The holidays are a great time for decompression walks. The weather is nice, the school grounds are empty, and there’s plenty of smells to sniff. Let your dog decide where the walk takes them (as long as it’s safe.) If you’re having trouble fitting in a Decompression Walk, we can help cover that while you tackle the holiday shopping.
Wait at the Door
An open door can be an opportunity for our pups to escape. And, with the kids home and visitors coming and going, the door will likely be open a lot. Teaching and practicing a wait at the door can give us some piece of mind. Even if you've taught this skill in the past, it can be beneficial to practice and fine tune in preparation for the holidays. Though this skill can be really helpful, I would also recommend putting in some management around the door. I’ll often set up a baby gate or x-pen around the entrance. This is an additional barrier in case we get distracted and forget to close the door. This is all to prevent our dogs from escaping and wandering. As a just in case, we can also practice our Name and Recall Games. It never hurts to practice this a few times with some really amazing treats before we need it. Practicing Recall in the backyard or on a Decompression Walk is also a great way to get our pups running and burning some energy.
The skill Place is an implied stay. I use this all the time. And it’s particularly helpful when welcoming guests, preparing meals and eating meals. I have a unique, elevated bed that my pups know as “place.” It only comes out when they are getting reinforced to stay on the bed. They stay on the bed while I open the door, invite people in, cook food, and sit down to eat. They love this skill because they get a lot of treats and all they have to do is stay on the bed. It becomes a comfortable and relaxing place to be. Of course, this skill takes some time to build upon. While we build this skill on a particular bed, we can also practice reinforcing our pups for settling, especially around guests. Many pups are just as excited for visitors as we are. It can help to practice reinforcing our pups for settling on leash or behind a barrier while our guests are visiting.
This is another skill that, even if you’ve taught in the past, can be helpful to practice leading up to the holidays. With so many tempting food and gifts around, it’s asking a lot of our pups to not try to take a bite. This is a great time to up our management to prevent temptation. Management and Place can help to prevent temptation. But, if we see our dog going for food that they shouldn’t, a quick “Leave It” can save the day. Be sure to praise and treat your pup heavily for leaving some tempting food. When I have to use a “Leave It” from something so fun, I’ll later practice the “Leave It” with an easy or boring item. I also like to treat pups for avoiding temptation in general. This can look like treating them for staying and resting out of the kitchen or for settling while I cook.
I always recommend practicing these skills before you need them. And, if you think you may need them soon, a refresher can be really beneficial. If you haven’t started these skills yet, or your pup seems to be struggling with them, please reach out to your Enlightened Hounds trainer. We can help get your pup off on the right foot. And, our Day Train Sessions and one time Workshops work great with a busy holiday schedule.