Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holidays, Company and Dogs - Part 3

Old habits die hard. Once you’ve had a dog a number of years, he (and you) will have established some habits. Save yourself from the frustration that comes with retraining and manage his habits instead! In this third blog of a three-part series on surviving the holidays with your dog, we will explore a few strategies for dealing with dogs with well-established habits.

Easiest Management Option: Separation

Don’t feel badly about separating your dog from the company. Separation will make your evening much less stressful. Bottom line, separation is all about protecting your dog. If your dog isn’t uncomfortable in a situation, he will be happier being separated.

Separation can be achieved in a variety of ways: a crate, an X-pen, an outdoor kennel, a bedroom or a basement. Whatever the space is, make sure:

1.      Your dog is relatively comfortable (outside won't work in the Canadian winters with a short-coated breed)
2.      No one can enter unless you allow it (sometimes, a bedroom may be too easy for someone to walk into without your knowledge)
3.      The space is sound proof (protect your dog and your guests from excessive noise)
4.      You give him a bone (separation anxiety can be easily rectified if your dog has something else to focus on)

If such a space is not possible, consider keeping the dog with a neighbour or at a kennel.

To Separate or Not To Separate … That is the Question

Protecting your dog is the main goal. Be realistic with your expectations. No one knows your dog better than you. If your dog appears uncomfortable in a situation, get him out of it! Don’t expect your dog to “deal with it” because chances are, he will deal with it in a way that is not satisfactory to you.

Here are a couple of common occasions when you may wish to consider separating your dog:
  • when people arrive
  • if your dog is uncomfortable with people (it will depend on how many people are coming, sometimes bringing him out later in the evening might work best)
  • if your dog steals food (he only comes out after the food is put away)
  • if your dog is not great with kids (he can come out when you can pay attention, keep him close on a leash, reward lying quietly with you)

The cardinal rule for when dealing with dogs and company: Be aware of what is going on and be prepared to remove your dog from the situation

Monday, December 9, 2013

Holidays, Company and Dogs Part 2

In this second part of a three-part series on surviving the holidays with your dogs, we will explore a few strategies for dealing with puppies.

by Erika A. Photography 
Everyone loves puppies, but it's amazing how many bad habits a puppy can learn at one family gathering. Yes, you will tell everyone "don't pet him if he is jumping" or "don't feed him from the table" but company, especially family, will ignore you completely. Don't expect your company to train your dog; it never works out.

This is your opportunity to establish some great habits in your puppy or dog (no matter how old) about how to behave when there new people in your home. The ability to roam around when the company is around is a privilege, not a right. Your dog has to earn that privilege through good behaviour.

Setting the Scene

(1) Make sure the dog is well-exercised before your guests arrive.
(2) Set a timer for bathroom breaks if there's a lot going on.
(3) Contain the dog until you are able to give him your full attention (or a member of your family). Try a crate in the party area so he gets to be part of the action but not in the action to misbehave or to steal food.

Introducing your puppy to guests
by Erika A. Photography 

Before you make your rounds with your puppy, keep the following in mind:

  • Use a leash when the puppy is out of his containment area.
  • Have some good treats on you.

Now that you're equipped, wait until your puppy is calm. As you make your way around:
  1. Step on the leash at each guest to prevent jumping, rewarding any and all good behaviour.
  2. When you are done making the rounds, have a seat with a dog pillow beside it.
  3. Have him lie on it and again rewarding generously for lying there quietly.
  4. When you want to go back to enjoying the party take him out to potty and put him away.
As the dog gets older, allow a little more freedom each time. Do the rounds, sit him on his pillow and if he has settled for a few minutes, take the leash off and let him wander around. Does he behave as you had hoped? If so, leave him loose the rest of the night, always keeping an eye on him. If not, go back to basics.

Watch next week for strategies on how to deal with company and an adult dog.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Holidays, Company and Dogs Part 1

The holiday season is a joyful time full of gatherings and occasions. It’s easy to forget the effect all this can have on your dog. Everyone has the picture of the perfect dog: one who walks calmly over to the company, gets a little pet, and then lies in the corner until the company leaves. He never jumps, never steals food, and never gets uncomfortable when people touch or corner him. This is rarely the case. Let’s be realistic. If you’re busy cooking dinner and playing host, you may not have time to constantly monitor the dog with your company.

Keeping your dog and company safe begins with protecting the dog at all times. What can your dog truly handle? Remember, your dog is used to sleeping all day. All of a sudden, everyone is home for a week and then you add company. All this activity can lead to an overtired dog which can be a recipe for disaster. Protect your dog.

This is the first of a three part series on strategies to make your holiday gatherings go smoothly. This week, we're going to prepare for the arrival of company.

Preparing for the Arrival of Company

Before the company arrives, take the dog for a huge run. The 60 minutes you spend here will make the rest of the day much more peaceful.

Have a plan for the dog when the company arrives. Here are a few tricks to try:

  1. Put the dog outside, in a crate or in a room until everyone is in and settled. This avoids the dog getting out or jumping and licking while people are trying to get their boots and coats off.
  2. Throw a handful of kibble in the backyard before you answer the door. This will keep your dog busy hunting so he doesn't bark the whole time when the guests arrive. Do this regularly enough and when the doorbell rings your dog will run to the backdoor to be let out instead of running to the front door to greet the company. 
  3. If your guests are arriving close to feeding time, feed the dog before they arrive. Not only does this get it out of the way, full dogs settle easier.
  4. Create a safe space for your dog. Make sure there is somewhere he can go when he has had enough. Keep a bedroom or a basement door open where the dog can go and be alone. This will allow your dog to make the right choice of leaving when he has had enough. Once he has left the party, respect his choice. Leave him alone.  

Remember, not everyone loves your dog like you do. You may allow your dog to do things like curl up next to you on the couch but your company may not be comfortable that. Rather than constantly harassing the dog for behaving the way he is usually allowed, give him a big juicy bone and put him away until the company leaves.

Next week, we'll explore some strategies for puppies and company.