Day One: Start Now

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As I mentioned on Friday, I’m going to be running a series this week about helping your dog cope with holiday stress. It’s hard to give advice without sounding pompous, so please forgive me in advance.

Let’s start with some little things you can do now, before we really get into the busiest time of the season. If you’re like us, your holiday schedule ramps up starting later this week. So, right now, let’s start with four quick-and-easy things to make your life easier.

First, fill and freeze every Kong and kong-type object you own. If your dog isn’t a Kong fan, go out on your next errand and buy a good supply of whatever chewies your dog can be trusted with while you are away. Now you have something ready to hand to your dog when you need to go to your third party in two weeks, or when you have to make yet another trip to the grocery store for butter. Chewing and licking are calming, and it gives your dog something to do besides make trouble.

My go-to Kong filling is a can of pumpkin, mixed with a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, a few spoonfuls of yogurt, and a few chunks of freeze-dried dog food. Just crumble the dog food or toss in a little handful of kibble and mix everything together. This “recipe” fills three medium and one large Kong, with enough left over to fill at least one more Kong if I had it. If you feel more ambitious, Jodi over at Kol’s Notes just posted a good looking holiday Kong recipe last week, and I’m sure she has others. If you’re going to be gone at dinner time, you can even just put your dog’s regular meal in the Kong.

Secondly, let’s do a little training before the holidays, shall we? One of the biggest behavior problems this time of year is, you guessed it, jumping up on guests. Here’s a great article from the ASPCA about how to train your dog not to jump. If you start now and practice every time you come home for the next few weeks, you can go a long way toward eliminating the problem.

If you have a very determined jumper, it may be easier to manage the problem. Now is the time to decide how. You might train your dog to do an alternate behavior, like going to his crate or other safe place when the doorbell rings. Or, put a gate between your dog and the front door, so that he has a few minutes to calm down before greeting a guest. If your guests are frail, small, or carrying food or heavy packages, it’s polite to put the dog away until they’re settled anyway. Do you need to buy a baby gate? If so, put it on your shopping list.

Thirdly, are you crating your dog during your holiday party? Will your dog’s crate need to be in a different place than it is right now? If it’s at all possible, move it now, so that your dog has plenty of time to get used to his quiet place being in the guest room instead of the den.

Finally, make your holiday pet sitting arrangements. TODAY. STOP PROCRASTINATING. In fact, please tell me that you’ve done this already, so that I can quit worrying about you. Your dog will be much less stressed if he can stay with his usual pet sitter or at his familiar kennel.

What’s your dog’s favorite Kong filling or chew toy? Is your dog a devoted jumper on guests? Or are you sitting with me on the “no parties in my house!” bench?

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(The fine print for the whole series: Don’t trust anyone on the internet for advice about serious training issues. If your dog has a history of biting, separation anxiety, extreme fear, resource guarding, or generalized anxiety, please get professional help.)

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6 thoughts on “Day One: Start Now

  1. We find using a leash at the front door helps with the jumping. When lots of people come in, Honey really struggles with her excitement. And it’s also harder for us to supervise with all the distractions.

    What works when one person comes to the door, might not work when six come to the door.

    BTW, I love this series. I think it’s a great idea and I’ll be sharing it.

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    1. Thanks!

      I have almost no experience with managing actual door-greeting behavior, so I’m glad someone else chimed in. We’re a long way from Silas meeting people who come into the house.

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      1. How awesome is it that WordPress JUST notified me of this. I want to chime in and second Pamela’s leash reco. I used to do that with Kol and instead of holding it in my hand, I would stand on it with just enough slack for him to sit, but not enough for him to jump. (We actually had a heavy duty tether hook screwed into a stud by the door and had a special short least on it, so that I was hands free.)

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    1. Cutting down on events is one of the Wednesday tips, in fact. This is our first year with a lot of non-family commitments. And by a lot I mean two or three–we’re basically hermits.

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  2. We have a small balcony/deck on the front of the house, we typically put the dogs out there while guests come in. I know it’s the lazy way to do it, but it’s what works at the moment. 🙂

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