Robin and I were in Canton last Monday working with a new Home Dog Training client and his two year old Australian Shepherd named Jimmie. Jimmie had a tendency to jump and nip on anyone that came in the front door. He also loved to steal food from the table and pull on walks. The first thing we told our clients was “Congratulations, you have a perfectly normal Aussie!” We quickly followed that up with “Now, let’s fix it!” Jimmie, being “a dog”, responded very quickly to our training direction and exercises.
Our client was very excited with the results and was looking forward to continuing what he had learned that day. As always, we explained that he needed to stay consistent with what he and Jimmie had learned. As we were finishing up, he had one more question for us. Thanksgiving was just a few days away and they were going to his brother’s house in Athens for that. Over Christmas he was having “a whole lot of Midwest family” coming to visit for a week or so. This was going to be a big test for Jimmie. Did we have any special tips?
We told out client that the Holidays are always a crazy time, especially when out of town family descend on (visit) us. All of our guest rooms and every sofa in the house now become a Holiday Inn for Uncle Jim and Cousin Mary. Our normal schedule is out the window and our life is turned upside down for about ten days to two weeks. Since all dogs like things calm and consistent, this is not a good time for them. I offered some suggestions that I tell other clients in similar situations:
- As the family initially arrives, have your dog somewhere else during the first stages of the crazy arrival time. Introduce your dog after everyone is settled and in their spots. This will be a time where the adrenaline is lower and your dog will react calmly when greeting everyone.
- Tell everyone not to go nuts when they greet your dog. They are not to encourage “run-run, yell-yell, jump on me-jump on me” games in the house. This is a recipe for immediate disaster.
- Your dog should only be fed dog food. Do not let anyone give your dog all the holiday treats that are now in the house. First of all, you aren’t sure if the food may be poisonous to your dog. Many foods can make your dog sick and make a big mess in the house. Dog throw-up and messy poop is not a good addition to a house full of people.
- Do not feed your dog at the table. This should have been obvious from the bullet point above, but it is something that family members love to do. Once they leave, your dog will still assume he can get stuff from the table. You now have a bad behavior that will take time to correct. Just don’t give your dog stuff from the table.
- Assign “a companion” for your dog. If you have some kids who are twelve years or older, ask them to be your dog’s buddy. They are the ones who keep track of him, play with him, help feed him, and just keep him busy.
- Put a leash on your dog. If he starts to get a little crazy, you can easily step on the leash and regain control.
- Maintain a constant watch at the front door. Place sign on the front door that says “WHERE IS THE DOG?”. This will make everyone aware where he is before you open the door. If you aren’t watching where he is, he can easily run out the door. If he is close to the door when you want to open it, you can easily move him back before you open the door.
- Include your dog in as many family activities as possible. Make sure he has some presents and that he opens them with you. Remember that your dog is a very social animal. The Holidays are a social time. Make sure that you and he enjoy the special moments!
- Try to maintain your dog’s schedule as best as possible. I know that this will be really hard, but it will maintain a sense of normalcy with your dog and minimize his stress and anxiety. Try and feed him at his normal times. Take him on walks like you always did before the family arrived. Most importantly, try not to deviate from his play and exercise schedule. A happy and exercised dog is a sleepy and quiet dog. That is always s good thing…
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over fifteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.