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?
(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.)