I was at a new Home Dog Training client in Johns Creek on Wednesday working with his eighteen-month-old Boxer named Johnny. I have always been very fond of Boxers and Johnny was a very loving and playful dog. He clearly demonstrated that he was head strong by constantly jumping up on the family kids. Because so many people are pensive around the “bully breeds”, having your Boxer always jumping on children is not the best condition for most families.
The really good news was that Johnny responded quite well to the training program. He quickly understood that he was not allowed to jump on children, or anyone, for that matter. He calmed down, started to provide my clients with clear and respectful focus, and understood “his place” in their family.
My clients were overjoyed with the results of the training and had one more question. Christmas was less than two weeks away and they had been preparing Johnny for the celebrations. They asked me if I had any last-minute recommendations to assure that Christmas would be great for the entire family, including Johnny.
Even though it is already mid-December and “the Holiday Season” has been upon us for a while, the week before Christmas is really when “showtime happens”. I told my clients that I didn’t want to overwhelm them with an unending list of “watch out for’s”. Instead, I would offer a shortened list of things to focus on in the coming days. Here is the information I have provided my clients over the years:
- The Christmas Tree:
- Hopefully by now you have your tree, and you are finishing up with the decorations. Please be aware if your dog is “ball crazy”. If this is the case, don’t use Christmas balls when decorating your tree. Your dog will pull your tree down as soon as you finish decorating it.
- Check to see if your dog is too focused on the sparkly tinsel you may place on your tree’s branches. If he is, remove the tinsel from the tree.
- Have a “practice run” with your tree’s Christmas lights. Have your dog in the room and “light up the tree”. Watch his reaction. If he gets overly excited, starts to bark, or jump; you may not want to have the Christmas tree lights on when he is around.
- Christmas Gifts…
- Christmas presents introduce new objects and smells into the house. In the next week, you will probably be placing the bulk of the Christmas presents at the base of your tree.
- The new sights and smells of the presents will often encourage your dog to go after the presents and conceivably “steal them” for himself.
- If you are giving your dog Christmas presents, keep them separate. Do not place them under the tree with all the “human presents”. “Doggie presents” often have smells that will excite your dog. In all his haste and excitement of looking for his own presents, he could break many of the “human presents”.
- Make sure your dog has toys and goodies on the far side of the room from the Christmas tree. This will help direct him to a safe and manageable location.
- Place the gifts near the base of the tree. This will minimize the visual distraction the gifts would create and make it very difficult for your dog to “smash through the presents”.
- If you observe your dog beginning to approach the tree and presents under the tree, correct him with a low toned “No”. Next, guide him back to you. Redirect his immediate attention by playing with him for a few minutes.
- The Classic Christmas Dinner:
- Never, never feed your dog from the table. Do not give him anything that will be on the dinner table even if you are in the kitchen. These actions will tell him that he can have that food. Once this notion is established “in his head”, he will assume it is fine to demand that food from you at his discretion.
- If he approaches you as you are sitting in your chair and “begs for food”; ignore him. If he continues to demand the food, calmly stand up and firmly tell him “No”.
- Never let food remain unattended. When you leave food unattended, you have given up your “natural ownership”. This sends a signal to your dog that it is perfectly fine to take the food. This is a situation that you obviously did not want to occur.
- Feed your dog his “regular dinner” in “his regular spot” the same time that you and your family are enjoying your Christmas dinner. This action will redirect him away from your Holiday meal and provide him with a familiar and welcome distraction. Since he has just finished his dinner, he will be far less likely to come over to “bug you”. Why should he? He is now full.
- Don’t include items such as raisins and fruit cake on your holiday menu. These foods are quite harmful and poisonous to dogs. Your dog may accidentally eat something with these in it and become sick.
- Last Few Thoughts:
- Place your dog on a six-foot leash when you have guests over. Let the leash freely drag behind him as he calmly walks around. If he begins to become “crazy” or go somewhere inappropriate, you can quickly put your foot on the end of the leash and direct him to an appropriate location. This excellent little trick allows you to maintain maximum control and focus while using minimum effort.
- Please do your best to assure that the kids and “juvenile” adults do not “play crazy” with your dog inside the house. Their actions are telling your dog that it is OK to be nuts. A crazy dog in a house filled with food, family, presents and “breakables” is never a good thing.
Finally, “use your head”. By keeping your dog calm and managing the environment around him, you will have a wonderful Christmas and perfect New Years.
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 seventeen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.