Lessons Learned: How to Have Happy Holidays with the Hound

This week’s post is by our guest writer and dog trainer, Deborah Rosen of Good CitiZEN Dog Training, whose franchises span from coast in coast in WA State, Denver, and Florida.

 Every year Deborah shares her list of helpful tips for the holidays, also known as “how to stay out of the emergency Vet Clinic” with your favorite canine companion! Make sure your holidays stay positive and mishap free, this year and every year!

 Tip #1 – Stow presents until Christmas morn!

Young dogs have energy to burn and enjoy exploring novel things. So, DO NOT put holiday presents under the tree until it’s time to open them. We love to display presents, but keeping them hidden beats the disappointment of a present destroyed before it’s been opened. And it’s certainly better than making a trip to the emergency vet to surgically remove whatever was ingested. No harm, no foul!

Tip #2 – It’s All About the Food, 'Bout the Food, No Begging!

We know feeding the dog from the table will encourage begging. And, there’s nothing worse than a dog begging at the holiday table. And an occasional bit of turkey or holiday fare should be no big deal. But, if you multiply that bit by the number of people likely to be present you’ve got a serious problem. Of course, no one will admit to slipping the dog just a little tidbit. The only one who knows is the poor puppy with her belly stuffed with rich foods she’s not accustomed to eating. End result? You’re up with a sick dog and your merry holiday is now a wretched one involving you cleaning the carpet in the middle of the night. Good times!

I suggest the following with just a tad bit of mocking. Hang a sign above the dining table that says, “Human Food is for Humans Only!” When queried about this tell your guests that if the dog gets sick in the night, each person at the table will receive an immediate phone call to come help with the cleanup. Problem solved – on with the merriment!

Tip #3 – Exercise and a little training!

Whether it’s raining, snowing, cold, or sunny and warm, exercise the dogs before your guests arrive. A dog that has not been attended to will be much more difficult to handle when your guests arrive. Dogs that jump up on guests will jump more if not given any exercise.

Better yet, do some advanced training leading up to your holiday event. Have someone ring the doorbell and insist that the dog “sit” at the front door before opening it. If the dog does this fairly quickly, deliver a treat along with a verbal praise. If necessary, put a leash on the dog and step on that to prevent the dog from jumping. Practice this every day for a week leading up to your event and, along with a good long walk, you’ll have a better chance of guests arriving without incident.

Tip #4 – Keep the licks and kisses coming up roses!

Are you a household with a variety of pets – perhaps cats? If so, the holidays are a busy time and the pets are often neglected while cookies are baked and presents are wrapped. Remember, if you do not attend to the kitty litter, the dog will! Whether the dog is hungry or well fed, cat poop (known in the dog training world as “kitty rocha”) will attract many dogs and your guests may be the unfortunate recipients of a kiss delivered shortly after feasting on kitty rocha. Eck! Do everyone a favor and put “clean the litter box” on the “to do” list for the day the guests arrive.

Tip#5 – Tidy Fido will make guests happy!

Store a dog towel by the doors where the dogs go in and out. When your guests arrive in their holiday finery, nothing will make you feel worse than having muddy paw prints all over your guests’ new clothes. People are good-natured, but why put a damper on the holiday by “muddying” things up? Attend to your dog’s comings and goings and wipe their paws when they come inside, especially when you live in wet areas like in the Northwest.

Tip #6 – More About the Food, Bout the Food, No Trouble!

By now everyone knows that certain foods will make dogs sick. Chocolate, raisins, grapes, onions, and garlic are some of the common foods that most people know will make dogs unwell.

Here are some others that are more obscure, but very dangerous, if consumed by dogs. Macadamia nuts and nuts, in general, may be toxic. Raw bread dough is another food that can make dogs very sick. According to the ASPCA’s website, “the warm, moist environment of the stomach provides an ideal environment for the yeast to multiply, resulting in an expanding mass of dough in the stomach.” The stomach may become so distended it becomes difficult for the dog to breathe. Keep bread dough that is rising in a safe place where the dog cannot reach it.

While you are preparing your holiday foods, it’s best to give dogs something to do. A frozen marrowbone or a bully stick or a stuffed toy is something that will keep most dogs occupied and happy and not looking for things that might make them ill.

In general, the holidays are a time when family is home, people are happy and the family dog is enjoying attention from everyone. By taking a few precautions and making time for a bit of extra training, the holidays can stay happy and healthy for everyone!

Feliz Navi-Dog!