Leave Me Out of It!

This is the time of year when trainers are answering a lot of questions about how to manage dogs during holiday festivities.  My answers to those questions depend a lot on the age, experience and personality of the dog.

Puppies (birth – 5 months):  By all means use this time of year to socialize your pup!  All of your holiday guests should be handling the pup, giving her treats, practicing sits & downs and saying the puppy’s name.  It’s especially important to give the pup plenty of positive exposure to children, but it MUST be supervised in order to protect the puppy.  It’s also important to remember that the pup will need constant supervision to maintain house training habits and will also need frequent crate breaks with a nice chewy to avoid over-arousal.

Adolescents (5 months – 2 years):  Here’s where we have to make some individual decisions.  A well-socialized, well-mannered adolescent who doesn’t jump up on people, is comfortable with all sorts of humans and listens to verbal cues like sit, down and go to you place should be no problem at a holiday party.  You will still need to constantly supervise your dog and give frequent breaks.  It’s best if your dog has a place to go lie down and get away from it all if he so chooses.

If your adolescent dog has issues with basic manners, the size of your get together and your ability to train while you entertain will be a deciding factor.  A few close friends and family might be fine with helping you teach your dog to sit for greetings or be quiet when the door bell rings.  However, a large group of people who are dressed up and there to relax and mingle might not appreciate having to help you train your dog.  If your dog doesn’t fit into the scene or is too much work to manage, don’t push it!  Either send your dog to a trusted pet sitter or put him in a comfortable room/crate with food-stuffed toys and chewies to keep him occupied.  Remember to pop in on him for some loving and a quick walk outside.

Adult Dogs (2 years and older):  The rules for adult dogs are the same as for adolescents.  Think about how stressed you, your guests AND your dog will be if your dog is part of the scene.  If it will be easy on everyone, go for it!  If it will cause undue stress for anyone involved, make other arrangements for your dog and don’t feel guilty about it for a second.  It’s more important that everyone is comfortable than it is to include your dog in a holiday that means nothing to him.

Senior Dogs (7 years & older):  Elderly dogs should be treated much like puppies.  Remember to supervise and watch for signs of stress.  Allow for quiet time breaks and don’t forget to let the dog to potty!

Regardless of your dog’s age, experience or personality, it’s important that someone is in charge of keeping an eye on the dog.  Unless it is someone’s designated responsibility the dog can get lost in the shuffle.  This is when problems are most likely to occur.  Even if the problem is merely an upset stomach because the dog ate something she shouldn’t have, it could be prevented with proper supervision.

If your dog (of any age) has any reactivity to people, resource guarding issues or other serious behavioral issues then she has no business being at a party!  It’s not fair to the guests and it’s certainly not fair to your dog.  A dog who is anxious or aggressive will be absolutely miserable (not to mention dangerous) in a holiday crowd!  Let everyone relax by finding alternative lodging for your dog or putting her up in a quiet area of the house with food-stuffed toys and chewies.

Remember, the goal is for everyone to celebrate, relax and have a great time.  Sometimes leaving your dog out of it is the best way for that goal to be reached.