Now that the Jack O Lanterns and Halloween candy are memories of the past, I’ve started to hear jingles of silver bells on TV commercials, reminding me that the holidays are just around the corner. The holiday season brings joy, and excitement but it can also bring stress to humans and canines. Having a plan established for ways to make your pups feel more comfortable as house guests begin to visit will also help you to feel more at ease. Read further for some helpful positive reinforcement training ideas that will assist you with planning for the holidays with your dog(s).
“Sit to Greet”
As guests enter your home, especially if their hands are full of goodies, the last thing you want is for your dogs to jump up to greet them. “Sit to Greet” means that your dog remains seated as friends, family, strangers, say hello to them. This is a really helpful training tool for individuals who have children, especially if the dog is larger in size to avoid the dog knocking over a tiny human in their excitement.
This training tool take practice and multiple steps. The first being, your dog will need to know “sit” before this command can fully be trained.
Once your dog is sitting, approach it and stroke her. Provide treats while she remains seated. If she stands, the treats stop. The person working with the dog can literally freeze in space until the dog sits again, which is when you can begin treating again. They will notice the behavior that gets them treats and catch on quickly.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Start to include other folks like those people currently living in the home.
Next, invite a new person to approach your home and enter the house without any fanfare. If your dog jumps, the guest should turn away from your pup and not make eye contact. As soon as your dog sits calmly, the guest should praise and treat.
Repeat with more people entering and more energy. Keep rewarding as soon as the dog is calmly sitting to greet guests.
As folks gather in kitchens to prepare food, it’s inevitable that some food morsels may drop to the ground. I’m sure you’re aware that certain foods are dangerous for dogs. I’ve included a helpful infographic listing some of those dangerous foods from Really Useful Girl, a blog I hadn't heard of until searching but looks to be full of great information.!
We’ve recently shown a video on how to train “leave it” for Halloween in a post that you can connect to through this link. It’s a super helpful tool to ensure your pups stay safe.
When your guests are coming to visit, they may be bringing notions of how to treat your dog that differ from what you’d prefer. It’s okay to tell your guests what you expect in relation to the treatment of your pets. That includes: the types of food they eat (“we always fed scraps to our dog fluffy.”) doesn’t mean that flies in your home; how they are handled (especially with children giving hugs that are a bit too aggressive); and where your dog spends his time.
Be firm and polite. Saying things like “I totally understand that you used to feed your dog Fluffy table scraps. I’m sorry to say, due to Bean’s allergies, we can’t risk feeding her foods that aren’t in her normal meals. I appreciate your understanding.”
In relation to children, NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN AND A DOG UNATTENDED! Regardless of how gentle your dog is, if they become stressed for any number of reasons, they might defend themselves in a way that could physically harm a child. If you cannot be sure that you’ll always have a set of watchful eyes on your dog and guests, I recommend finding a quiet, comfy and calm space where you can tuck your dog away until your guests go back over the river and through the woods.
Give Your Dog Space
Read the physical cues that your dog is giving off to indicate stress. Here’s a helpful infographic, created by Dr. Sophia Yin to illustrate some of those signs. If you notice any, make sure your dog has a way to find a comfortable and calm place to tuck away. Our dog’s crates are always placed in a guest bedroom downstairs with some low, calm music playing. They normally tuck themselves away whenever they feel like they need time away. Some dogs may not know to do this, or may not know that you’ve moved their bed. If you notice signs of stress, it’s okay to help guide them to a comfortable area. Speaking of space...shameless plug here. Have you entered our giveaway for a Molly Mutt Crate Cover or Dog Bed? If not, follow the link for a chance to win!
I hope this helps you prepare for the holidays! What other types of skills/training pieces would you like us to help explain in preparation for the holidays? Comment below and we’ll help! Next time we’ll get our act together to make a video for you.