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CANINE CONNECTION: Set rules for Christmas party animals

With the holiday season approaching, many people find themselves entertaining family and friends by providing yuletide merriment in their home.
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With the holiday season approaching, many people find themselves entertaining family and friends by providing yuletide merriment in their home.

As the host of these festivities, you may welcome the influx of people bringing tidings of comfort and joy, but depending on your dog’s personality, it could be anything but the most wonderful time of the year.

It would be a wonderful life if our dogs were perfect and behaved like silver and gold around guests but they often don’t.

Inadequate socialization, poor leadership and an inconsistent use of obedience can sometimes create a situation where both guests and Fido are stressed in each other’s presence.

But there are some things you can do to keep everyone laughing all the way, ho-ho-ho!

To help make your days merry and bright, start by being honest with yourself. Of course you would like to include Fido in the festivities. But if he’s anxious around people who are not his immediate family then he could behave in a way that would put him on Santa’s naughty list for a long time and that’s no fun for anyone.

Yelling at Fido to “OFF” while trying to serve Aunt Heidi some figgy pudding is not good leadership.

Good leadership is brushing up on your dog’s obedience weeks in advance of the house party, not an hour before guests arrive. Reinforce basic commands throughout the day, such as leave-it, and sit, especially at the front door and around people.

If Fee-fee is lacking in the socialization department and scurries into the bedroom at the sound of the doorbell, a noisy house full of guests is not the best time to start her re-socialization program. Instead, provide a nervous Nelly a quiet place where all is calm to retreat during hectic and noisy gatherings.

We can certainly blame the dog when things go awry but that’s not fair as there is always a human element to any situation. Allowing one guest to sneak a bit of food to Rover off of their plate may encourage him to forage the goodies off of any plate left at nose level.

Set some ground rules for the guest, such as: No feeding the dog anything but designated treats. Only praise and interact with the dog when it is calmly sitting. If Fido does not want to say hello, don’t force the issue.

If your dog is a social butterfly then turn their presence at the party into a reindeer game that will have everyone shouting out with glee! 

As an example, during my Christmas parties, I attached a bottle opener to the collar of my German shepherd –Zumi ( who has since crossed rainbow bridge). Anyone who needed an opener would call for Zumi. She promptly came from anywhere in the house or yard, then sat while they used the opener. Once their drink was open they reattached the opener to her collar and she was then given affection and a treat.

She really enjoyed the game as did the guests, in fact she went down in history!

. . . Gosh I miss her.

Having an all-adult party is one thing, but if kids are involved then extra preparation is required. It would be best to introduce the children one at a time to the dog and set rules for the children on how to interact with the dog.

I normally suggest telling children to ask permission from their parents every time they want to interact with the dog.

Set up a safe place for your dog away from the guests and activity. There will be a time where your dog gets tired or over-stimulated by the activity in their normally quiet and routine-filled life, and they will need a place that is free from disturbances so they can chill out from the partying elves.

Speaking of routine, try as best you can to stick to your dog’s routine of feeding, walking, going out to do their business and bedtime despite the energy of the party.

Finally, if you find yourself running out of time preparing for the holiday festivities with little time left for training your pup, then consider segregating him for the duration of the party.

Then make a new year’s resolution that you will train your pup to be a welcoming house dog so that next year all your troubles will be out of sight.

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. k9kinship@gmail.com.

 




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