I was in Decatur this morning working with a new Home Dog Training client.  He has a three year old English Springer Spaniel, Diamond, that he had rescued several months ago.  We worked through some obedience and walking issues and he was very happy with the results.  As we were reviewing what we had accomplished at the lesson, he mentioned that the entire family, including Diamond, were heading off to Uncle Bob’s in Savannah for Thanksgiving.  Would Diamond pose any special problems?

When on a trip you will have to be extra vigilant in managing your dog's behavior and maintaining your leadership

I told my client that Diamond, that naked, furry family member; is a dog.  Things that stimulate and entertain your dog are not always the same things that stimulate and entertain you.  Things that give your dog a sense of safety while you are out and about can be very different than how you perceive safety and security.  What does your dog actually think of Uncle Bob’s house (full of strange people and possibly other dogs)?

Let’s first think of the situation your dog is walking into.  Here is a new, strange place filled with all sorts of “strange” people, smells, sounds, and other dogs.  You generally think “Oh, let’s put all the dogs in the back where they can play”.  Let’s see what really just happened:  

  • You just abandoned your dog in a strange area with other dogs with different behavioral characteristics outside his own “pack”.
  • Since you have established yourself as your dog’s leader and protector, it is your job to keep him safe by being in his sight or in his sight on a regular basis.  This isn’t happening (you are inside with Uncle Bob checking out his new High Definition 75″ TV)!
  • Dogs and kids are kind of like chocolate sauce and milk – they always want to mix.  Now the kids are out with the other dogs and your dog.  The kids could be pulling his tail, running at him, screaming, and all the other wonderful things that little kids like to do with dogs.  This could really stress and scare your dog and you aren’t there to direct and protect!

Bottom line:  Your dog is probably not having a good time at Uncle Bob’s.  Here comes your action plan:

  • Slowly transition being away from your dog when you get to Uncle Bob’s.  Stay outside with him for ten to fifteen minutes playing with him and everybody else.  Observe which dogs might be aggressive towards him and how he responds to their body language.
  • Check on him on a regular basis.  “Hey Guy, how are you doing?”  This goes a long way in allowing your dog to clearly understand that even though you aren’t right there, you are always close at hand.  This goes a long way in his understanding that he is safe because you are always there.
  • Bring him inside every so often (on a leash) to see the rest of the group.  This assures that he has not been thrown out of your pack.  It helps to build his self importance while keeping focus on you as the leader.  You are always giving him his safety.
  • Give him the water and food he needs.
  • Help supervise the kids outside when they are playing with the dogs.  Kids can do things that cause dogs to “nip” and many parents call a “nip” a “bite”.  No need to cause “extra holiday family fights”.
  • When you are leaving Uncle Bob’s, praise Diamond for doing such a great job.

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 fourteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.