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Enjoy Stress-Free Dog Holidays: A Guide to Tackling Unruly Behavior and Protecting Your Festivities

Metropawlitan Dog Training Inc. stress free dog holidays

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. Isn't it everyone's dream of having your dog being a seamless part of these festivities? However, the reality of unruly behavior or the destruction of gifts and gatherings can turn your dreams into a stress-filled nightmare. Fear not! We've crafted a comprehensive guide to ensure you and your dog have a harmonious and enjoyable holiday season.

1. Teach the Dog a Place Command: Boundary Stay for Festive Inclusion

One effective strategy to manage your dog's behavior during gatherings is to teach them a "place" command or boundary stay. This command enables your dog to be an active participant in the festivities without causing chaos. Here's why:

There are 2 rules to Place:

1. All 4 feet must remain within the boundary I designate, and

2. The dog must be calm and quiet on the Place.

Aside from that, I'm pretty flexible as to what my dog is doing on the Place. When my dog understands the rules of Place, it's easy for me to Place her in an area where she can be a part of the festivities, but not be chasing the kids, getting into presents, stealing food, or getting into any other mischief when I'm otherwise occupied.

Place is Transferrable - which means that, as long as the boundaries around the Place are easily definable, I can switch my dog from a Place in the kitchen (like a doormat here) to a Place in the living room (the area rug where she has more freedom to wander around within her boundaries). This gives me flexibility in keeping my dog with me and under control as the party happens to move to a different room.

I also use Place so that I can greet any new guests coming in the door in a peaceful and pleasant manner.

2. Utilize a Kennel or Playpen: Providing Quiet Time Amidst Commotion

During the hustle and bustle of holiday gatherings, know your dog well enough to know which situations will be too overwhelming or stressful for them to behave in. In these situations, planning ahead and having a safe "out" for your dog can be super helpful in keeping everyone safe and happy.

In my household, everyone, including visitors are respectful of kennel and playpen rules. I treat the kennel or playpen as my dog's sacred space. It's like her room. It's her space to rest, enjoy her interactive toys, and to just enjoy quiet time away from the world whenever she needs it without being interrupted or bothered. As such, everyone who comes to my home is made aware that this space is off limits to everyone but her. That means, also, that when she's in her kennel, no one is allowed to disturb her there.

As well behaved as Quorra is in our home (she's our staple host at big family gatherings), there are occasionally children that visit that have not been taught to respect boundaries and engage with animals in a gentle way. While Quorra's first instinct is to try to move herself away from the situation, it's hardly fair for her to continue to endure the torment of a child that will continually chase and harass her.

This is where kennelling time is vital for all of us to keep our sanity. She gets quiet time with her favourite chew or interactive toy, in a comfortable resting space for a while. And when the coast is clear, I have her rejoin the party.

3. Interactive Toys: Channeling Energy into Productive Means

To curb destructive chewing or attention-seeking behaviors, invest in interactive toys. These food dispensing toys keep your dog preoccupied and focused on appropriate activities:

Interactive toys not only provide mental stimulation but also serve as a constructive outlet for your dog's energy, keeping them happily occupied.

To create a high level of focus on the toys, I recommend feeding your dog's daily meal out of the toy itself. Think about it - if you just got to eat a big meal from a plate and then someone comes along and asks you to solve a puzzle for a piece of candy, you'd be far less motivated to do it because you're already full, wouldn't you?

To check out how we stuff our interactive toys for maximum enjoyment, check out our interactive toy video tutorial here.

4. Exercise: The Key to a Calm and Relaxed Dog Holidays

Metropawlitan Dog Training Inc.  Exercise During Dog Holidays

A tired dog is a well-behaved dog, especially during the holidays, so don't forget to implement regular exercise into your routine.

Exercise not only addresses physical needs but also contributes to a calmer and more content canine companion. I'm a huge fan of play-training exercises because it fulfills two of your dog's needs in one sitting: mental and physical exercise. Your dog will feel more satiated than if she were just allowed to free run without having to think about what she's doing.

When your dog is tired, she also has less energy to put into being mischievous and getting herself into trouble.

Plan a pre-gathering exercise/training session to drain excess energy. This way, you can ensure your dog is tired and relaxed by the time the guests arrive for dinner.

5. Travel-Ready Dog: Conditioning and Comfort

Metropawlitan Dog Training Inc.  Dog Holidays and Travel

If holiday travel is on the agenda, preparing your dog for the journey is essential. Follow these steps to make your dog travel-ready:

Condition your dog to changes in routine, ensuring they adapt well to new environments. This could include varying your daily feeding times, varying your daily exercise times, and even sending your pup off to a friend for quick overnight visit with them without you there.

Teach them that their kennel is a safe and constant space, creating a sense of security. For my dog and the amount of travelling we do together, her kennel becomes her one constant in our ever changing environments. It's her safe haven where she can rest and find all her familiar things that she loves. I've taught her to love her kennel from young puppyhood as this is the place she gets her interactive toys, where she snuggles her favourite stuffies, and where she gets her bully sticks and other tasty chews. Because she gets so many of her favourite things there, she'll often go to hang out there by herself even when the door is open.

Allow ample time for exercise before and after the journey to reduce anxiety. Having her a little tired will allow her to rest easier on the trip over. Giving her a chance to stretch her legs and explore her new environment in a relaxed manner can also help to reduce the stress upon your arrival.

When possible, take your dog for leashed potty breaks and to give her a chance to stretch her legs during travel stops. Not only is it a good break or your dog, but it's a good break for you as well!

6. Dog-Proof Your Home: Protecting Your Pup from Potential Hazards

Lastly, dog holidays come with tempting decorations and festive foods that can be harmful to your canine friend. Dog-proof your home to avoid health issues:

- Keep potentially harmful plants and foods out of reach.

- Use pet-friendly decorations and avoid items that could pose a choking hazard.

- Be vigilant about your dog's access to seasonal treats, ensuring their safety.

By taking these precautions, you not only protect your dog from harm but also create a secure and festive environment for everyone.

A stress-free holiday season with your dog is not only achievable but can be immensely enjoyable. Implement these practical tips, and you'll find that your proactive approach to training and understanding your dog will lead to a joyous celebration where everyone, including your canine counterpart, can revel in the festive spirit. Here's to happy and harmonious dog holidays!

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