Tis the Season to be STRESSED!!
Some say it’s the “Most Wonderful Time of Year”….. But is it really??
The “Holidays”, what a joyous time! A time to celebrate and be of good cheer, to love one another and, let’s be honest, stress more than you do all year. Most likely you started your Holiday shopping. Your list may include toys for all the Nieces and Nephews, scarfs for Grandma, football gear for Dad and so much more. You also probably have the month of December almost planned out! Example: Making sure you INK IN the Holiday Office Party on the 16th, Mom’s House on the 24th, your Christmas Party on the 25th and your Friend-mas (Friend Christmas) on the 26th!
Now, after all is said and done, the running around, driving across the city, managing a full work week, and trying to keep your head on straight have you remembered to take the DOG out?? Have you ever really thought about what happens to our pets during the Holidays? All the guests, all the food dropped on the floor and all the times you come home much later than you usually do effect your Dogs more ways than you think!
An “Occasion Setter” in Dog Training is defined as anything that signals to the animal certain contingencies are in effect. For example, before leaving for work you tie your shoes, grab your car keys and zip your jacket. Your Dog maybe jumping up thinking you are taking them with you, (because in some of these contexts you do) stressing because he knows you are about to leave. Or, in some cases run into their kennel because those “occasion setters” are the cue for them to “kennel up”.
When the Holidays come into play many of your routines or occasion setters that your Dog relies on become broken. This may cause them to be more anxious, destructive, or more “needy” of your attention. DO NOT forget about your pets over the Holidays! This includes cats, and other small animals.
Prepare for more “management tools” around this time of year to keep your Dog happy and stable.
Management Tools are wonderful ways to keep your Dog occupied during your chaotic new schedule. Here are two of my personal favorites to help my three dogs when things get crazy:
1) Chew Toys/ Puzzles – In our house I typically choose Nylabones. I chose this particular management tool because it is specifically for my Dogs. Not all dogs may enjoy them as much as my dogs do. When we have guests over to our home I want to make sure that we have plenty of bones out. Bones are a huge stress reliever for my three. Under supervision, letting them chew keeps our dogs occupied and releases energy as well. Guests = extra energy in our house, so pre-planning is a must. Other great tools are Kongs, Himalayan Chews, Antlers, Snuffle Pads and Puzzles. Choose something that is reinforcing for your specific dog and practice leaving them with it before the holidays. Start with short intervals and work your way up to 30 minutes to an hour.
2) Kennels – Each one of my dogs has a comfortable place to go when we leave the house. Otis and Dahlia go in their kennels, Skully, our Pit Bull goes behind a babygate in the kitchen. I have also trained my clients dogs to be comfortable in a particular room or x-pen as well. An area that your dog is comfortable in without you around also comes in. Everyone, including your dog needs a break during the Holidays.
Remember to create a comfortable routine before the Holidays so your dog is comfortable when you need to apply it. Practice leaving the house more, practice leaving them alone even when you at home. Apply the new occasion setters so your dog can understand what your asking them and they won’t stress because of it.
Baby it’s Cold Outside
Well, Portland, I hate to say it but the rainy season is here and we all know it’s here to stay for the next seven months!! All that fun hiking you did in the summer with your dog seems a lot less appealing now, doesn’t it? Most of the time that doesn’t matter to your dog. Instead of running in the sunshine Fido now wants to roll in the puddles – allow them to do it! Remember that during the Holidays (and after) your dog still needs to let out energy. They still deserve to get fresh air, a nice walk, run or hike to stretch their legs. If time during the Holidays does not permit this please consider a “dog walker” than can do it for you! A real treat would be to hire a “dog hiker” to take your pooch on an adventure for a day.
Trust me, this is the best Holiday cheer you can give to your DOG!! Have Yourself A Very Merry Holiday!
Instead of saving and getting them sweaters, raw hides and stuffed toys for Christmas, think about a new training class. An extra long walk every couple of days. And a new puzzle game. As much as things are changing for you this Holiday Season, try to not let it change your pets!!
Even while visiting Santa, we had treats in hand, toys in our pocket and a clicker to reinforce all that patient, good behavior!example of a puzzle toy : snuffle pad
Happy Training! The Doglady