The holidays are rapidly approaching and you may be starting to worry about how your dog’s manners are going hold up when guests arrive. Let’s be honest, with all the shopping, gift wrapping, cooking, and traveling, taking a lot of time to train your dog before Christmas arrives, is not totally feasible. Here are a few tips that will get you through your gatherings as stress free as possible.
Set realistic expectations, identify problem areas.
The holidays are hard on a lot of dogs. We promise, your dog is not the naughtiest! If you know your dog is going to struggle with barking when the doorbell rings, jumping on guests as they come in, begging at the dinner table, etc. prepare for that ahead of time! Focus your efforts where your dog will have the hardest time. If your dog is less social and may be overwhelmed by the chaos, that’s okay too! Be realistic with what you expect your dog to handle. Set them up for success as best as possible.
Set up a place just for them.
Whether your dog wants to be in on the action or would prefer to watch from the sidelines, setting up a place for them out of the way can help keep their stress or excitement level low. This can be a bed in the corner of the living room or a crate in another room. Dogs do best when we tell them what to do versus chasing them around attempting to stifle bad behavior. Laying on a bed is an appropriate alternative to a lot of nuisance behaviors.
Stock up on your dog’s favorite chews.
If your dog is not used to staying on a bed or being kept away from your family while there are so many temptations around, stocking up on long lasting chews can keep them satisfied and out of trouble. Things like bully sticks, pigs ears, cow hooves, and frozen stuffed Kong toys are great options. Interactive feeders like the Kong Wobbler or PetSafe Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble are also good to have on hand. You have to feed your dog, why not make that time last a little longer? While you’re out shopping for gifts and groceries, make a stop at Copilot Dog Outfitters or Bentley’s Pet Stuff and stock up! Let them know you’re looking for long lasting toys and chews to keep your dog busy and they can hook you up!
Crates, gates, and xpens oh my!
While you’re out, grab a couple management tools to keep your dog from getting into trouble. Gates and xpens can be placed in doorways or around busy areas to reduce your dog’s access to temptations. One example is placing an xpen around your front door to allow your guests to come in and take their coats off before being bombarded by an excited greeter. The other benefit of preventing your dog from getting to the distraction or temptation, is that it makes it much easier to redirect them to their bed or crate. Once your dog has the opportunity to start jumping on a guest, it’s a lot harder for them to think about practicing good manners! Proactive management makes a world of difference in a short amount of time.
Have them drag a leash.
If you opt to allow your dog to be a part of the festivities, having them drag a short leash can give you quick access to guiding them back to good manners. Remember, it’s a lot harder for them to change their behavior while they are excited or distracted. Being proactive and keeping them away from areas you know they will struggle will always be more successful than chasing them around to redirect them. Once your guests are settled and the initial excitement has passed though, allowing your dog some freedom can be tested. If they do well, increase their amount of freedom. If they continue to struggle, guide them back to their designated place and remind them to work on their chews instead.
Tell them when they are being good!
When you’re so busy running around this weekend, don’t forget to tell your dog when they are doing the right thing! Toss them a small, high value treat when they lay on their bed or make an effort to choose good behavior. Don’t forget about them just because they are quiet and out of the way. Think of each reward as a deposit in a savings account towards good behavior next year!
Train for next year!
Even if you follow all of these tips, realistically, your dog may still struggle and you may get frustrated. Try your best to keep from taking your frustration out on your dog and take their “failures” as information for what you need to work on for next year. If you have some time to train before your parties this year, we encourage you to work through our Five Days of Impulse Control Challenge on YouTube. After the holiday commotion settles, contact us for private training, Day Camp, or group classes to get a head start on your dog’s training. Manic to Mannerly, Beyond Obedience, or any of our drop in classes will cover the skills your dog needs to be ready to party for years to come!