The Christmas Setup With Hounds


Oh, the cute puppy in the bowed box under the tree.…

When I was a kid, I thought it was so adorable and, boy, did I wish for one for myself!  Now that I’m older, and a dog trainer, I can’t help but wonder what happened to all the “after” photos depicting the ripped-up box, the ornaments knocked from the tree, and the family cleaning up the puppy’s defecation! 

Whether you are gaining a canine family member this season or already have one, here are some hints to keep your hound and your holidays happy:

  • Provide structure:  The holidays can be a time of casual bedtimes for the kids, lots of food around, the door to the outside opening and closing over and over with the arrival of guests; heightened excitement and physical activity when greeting and when opening gifts.  Dogs, however, thrive on structure.  Without it there may be housebreaking accidents, chewing or swallowing of items not meant for dogs – some, like poinsettia plants, are poisonous – and dogs escaping outside. 
  • Provide supervision:  The majority of dog bites happen to kids with known dogs.  If you’re having kids over, even if your dog knows and loves kids, be careful.  The increased time together provides increased opportunity.  The increased emotions (greeting, opening presents, playing with new toys, fighting over playing with new toys….) increase the reactivity of dogs, too.  
  • Provide distraction:  Since your own time may be stretched to the limits, plan ahead for the time and attention your dog will need.  A tired dog is a good dog, so assign a family member or hire a neighbor kid to walk/play with your dog to make sure he/she is as worn out as possible.  Get or make some toys that will keep your dog busy.  Toys that take a long time to chew or that get your dog to use their brain are the most functional for this task.  A stuffed Kong toy is a favorite of many dogs.  Busy toys provide both chewing and mental stimulation.  Slicing open a tennis ball and putting kibble inside will keep a dog busy for a while (don’t use this idea if your dog will eat the ball!).

If you provide the dog with things to do, enough exercise, and timely trips outside to potty, don’t be afraid to use a crate to keep the dog safe and secure while you focus on the festivities.  Not that you should shut your dog in there for the duration but “party participation” is a time for trained dogs, not for training the dog.  Don’t feel guilty about keeping your dog safe and secure while you celebrate, especially if the dog is new to you, has a proclivity for dashing out the door, jumping all over guests, or stealing food.

By Marilyn Marks,
Owner of The Good Dog Spot, a daycare,
boarding and training facility in Bloomfield.

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