I was in Snellville yesterday morning working with a new Home Dog Training Client and his eighteen-month-old Pit Bull named Champ. As many of you “regular blog readers” are well aware, I have always loved Pit Bulls. Champ was no exception. Champ was somewhat over-exuberant, focused on getting his way, and loved to jump on anyone within “jumping range”.
Because so many people are afraid of Pit Bulls, having a big Pit Bull come up to you and jump on your chest can be a very traumatic experience. We needed to curtail this immediately. Champ quickly learned that he needed to respect my clients’ rules and stop jumping on anyone he could find. By the end of our lesson, he was a wonderfully calm, focused, respectful, and happy dog.
Our clients were very happy with the results we were able to achieve. As I was finishing up, they had one more question for me. Christmas was almost upon us, and they had been doing their best to prepare Champ for all the festivities. They asked if there were any “last-minute” things they should do. They just wanted to make sure that Christmas was going to be a superb experience for everyone, including Champ.
To tell the truth, a lot of the “Holiday Festivities” have been going on since the turkey was carved at Thanksgiving. Christmas Day is often the crescendo of the Holiday Season with the most unique excitement and unique distractions. Instead of going down a long list of “watch out’s”, I told my clients I would provide them with a review of “the biggies”. Here is what I offered:
- The Family Christmas Tree:
- Tree Decorations…
- Unless you are a true procrastinator, the Christmas Tree is now up and decorated or you are in the process of putting on the final touches. The one thing you have to take into consideration is if your dog loves to grab and play with balls. It he does, you may have a lot of targets of opportunity (Christmas Ball Ornaments) on your tree. If this is the case, don’t use those types of ornaments on your tree.
- I hate putting tinsel on my Christmas Tree, but some people do. The tinsel hanging off the tree limbs can become a large point of focus for your dog. If you see that he is beginning to give the tree “a little too much attention” after the tinsel has gone up, take it off. If you believe your dog is “fine with the tinsel”, check out one more thing. Turn on the Christmas Tree lights after the tinsel has gone up. The lights will make the tinsel sparkle and that may get your dog’s inappropriate attention. If that happens, the tinsel should come off.
- One more note about the tinsel. During the course of having the tree up, the tinsel often will naturally fall to the ground. Your dog may find this interesting and eat it. Eating tinsel can possibly be harmful to your dog.
- All Those Christmas Presents…
- Having all those Christmas presents in the house introduces an entirely new group of unique sights and scents. Since the big day is just around the corner, the foot of the tree is properly inundated with gifts.
- All of these recently introduced new and unique sights and smells will often stimulate your dog to investigate, open, and often take the presents off to “his place” for “further review”.
- It is never a good idea to include your dog’s presents with the others at the foot of the tree. “Dog gifts” often have a specific smell that excites a dog to locate and “open them”. Your dog’s excitement in trying to locate his presents could damage other family members’ presents in the process.
- Have some toys and food treats available for your dog at the far side of the room away from the Christmas tree. Someone should be the “Doggie Santa” and give your dog his presents at that “far from the tree” location.
- Group the “human presents” as tightly as possible around the foot of the tree. This will decrease your dog’s view of “all this other stuff” and will discourage him from wanting to check it out.
- If you notice your dog beginning to approach the tree and all the presents under the tree, you must immediately correct him. Stand up and firmly verbalize “No” in a low and demanding tone. Call him back to you and away from the vicinity of the tree. Once he is back to your side, engage him with one of his toys, give him a treat, or give him another one of his Christmas presents.
- Tree Decorations…
- Christmas Dinner:
- I have always warned my clients of the on-going issues when it comes to feeding their dog from the dinner table or even when standing at their kitchen counter. The same is true when it comes to Christmas. Since dogs learn through consistency, once you feed a dog at the table or the counter, it begins to make that activity acceptable all the time. At Christmas time, a lot of people in the house will have food. They may be at the dinner table or the family room sofa. If your dog begins to approach and focus on their food, they must initially ignore him. If he continues to “want some food”, they must then stand up, face him, and verbalize a firm and low toned “No”.
- It is very important that you never leave food unattended. From your dog’s perspective, unattended food means that you have given up any form or ownership of the food and have given them permission to take it.
- Feed your dog their dinner at the same time you are having your Christmas Dinner. Feed him at a location away from the table in his normal “food spot”. This will direct him away from your food and guests. It will provide him with a sense of normalcy and consistency.
- Check your dinner menu and “human goodies list” to make sure that you aren’t including anything that may be poisonous or harmful for your dog. Ask your veterinarian for a list of harmful food items for your dog. This will ensure that you aren’t making a trip to the 24-hour vet hospital on Christmas Eve.
- Some Final Thoughts:
- Keep your dog on a six-foot leash when you have guests in the house. This will allow you to easily step on the leash to immediately gain control of your dog in the event he gets a little overexuberant. If he starts to act up, quickly step on the leash, pick it up, and remove your dog from the “problem area”. When he is calm, you can let him return.
- Don’t allow your guests to “ramp up your dog” inside the house. This will only cause (or increase the) chaos and will probably result in broken stuff. If your guests want to play with your dog, tell everyone to go outside. Make sure they only play with your dog in a confined area (i.e. fenced-in back yard).
The bottom line is to have a little common sense. Do this and you will have a great Christmas Eve and Day with your family and your dog.
Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years. We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and excellent families and are ready to help you.