5 ways to ensure your dog has good holiday manners

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Source: CVDaily Feed
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1. Have realistic expectations. So many people expect every dog to behave just like Lassie, to know all the good guys from the bad, to communicate “verbally,” and to understand and comply with our every wish. Sadly (for the dogs), this is just an unrealistic expectation. Don’t get me wrong, dogs are incredibly good at reading and understanding us, but they’re also dogs and will behave as such. In fact, much of what we people deem inappropriate, is perfectly normal dog behavior.

Don’t expect that your dog knows anything is “wrong.” All of the dog shaming pictures and videos that have flooded the internet have done dogs another disservice. Dogs don’t feel guilt, they don’t have a moral sense of right and wrong. Dogs do understand what works, and since they’re good at reading people, they understand when you’re upset with them. What people so often perceive as guilt, or “knowing they did something wrong,” is actually a dog’s way of trying to diffuse your hostility, to make peace, to appease you.

2. Don’t overwhelm your pet. If your pet isn’t accustomed to having many visitors, hasn’t met children, is afraid of men with beards, doesn’t like to travel, etc. keep that in mind when making your holiday plans. If your dog is stressed, she’ll be more likely to act out in ways that won’t fall in line with your joyful activities. We all would like to include our pets in our family events, but consider your pet’s emotions and abilities when doing so. You don’t want to be taking a trip to the ER due to a bite that didn’t have to happen. You don’t want to spend your holiday searching for a dog who bolted out the door and ran off out of fear.

Provide your pet with a comfortable space that’s just for her, so she can escape the hustle and bustle if she needs to. Watch her carefully for indications that’s she’s getting too stressed. Body language such as lip licking, yawning when not tired, avoidance, tail tucking, and showing the whites of their eyes are all signals from your dog that she’s getting overwhelmed and could use some help. Pay attention to those signals and intervene early to avoid any serious trouble.

3. Manage, manage, manage. Don’t put your Thanksgiving meal at risk, if you’re still working on teaching your dog good kitchen manners, don’t expect him to shine when there is so much extra yummy food around. Make good use of baby gates and doors, or just make sure your dog is well supervised. Train your guests on appropriate interactions with your dog. If you’ve designated a space for your dog to be left alone, let them know not to bother her there. Make sure guests know the household rules when it comes to letting the dog in or out, getting on the furniture (or not), and feeding special treats.

If guests will have a hard time following the rules, ask them to get involved in the name of training. Show them how your dog is learning to sit at the door to go out, or to wait outside the kitchen. Training guests can be as easy as training your dog, just keep it positive and fun for everyone. Make sure your guests know if your pup doesn’t like to be patted on the head (most dogs don’t), or to have her belly scratched. People fall into the trap of assuming every dog is the same, and there are some pretty common misconceptions when it comes to dogs in general.

Make sure visitors know what kind of training is acceptable and what’s not. There will not be any hitting, rolling, pinching, or poking in my house. It’s my job to protect and advocate for my dogs and your job to do the same for yours. I don’t care what uncle Bob has seen someone do on TV, or what worked on Grandpa’s dogs 50 years ago. My dogs, my rules.

4. Teach them what to do. It is unreasonable to expect your dog to know how you want her to behave if you have not taught her what to do; it’s as simple as that. I don’t care how many times you’ve reprimanded her for barking or stealing food off of the coffee table or any other offense, if she still does it, that’s on you, not on her. Try to think in terms of what you want her to do. Instead of “don’t bark,” think “sit quietly,” it’s a lot easier to reinforce what you want than to try to correct everything you don’t want as it comes up.

Make training a part of everyday life, set aside part of your dog’s daily meals to catch her in the act of doing something you like. Too many dogs only really get attention when they’re in trouble, and they’re behavior rarely improves much. This is often because dogs find social interaction so rewarding. If they only get it when they’re naughty, that’s a good enough reason for them to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Notice and reward your dog when she’s lying quietly on her bed, when she sits near you for a scratch behind the ears instead of jumping up, or when she’s playing with one of her toys and not chewing on your shoes. This also works well for children, spouses, and coworkers.

5. Make special time for them too. Most dogs thrive on routine, and that can be tough around the holidays. Do your best to make sure your dog gets to eat at her regular times and gets to enjoy her regular walks and playtime. Try to set aside a little bit of time just for you and her, whether you spend it grooming, training, or just hanging out. Remember you’re the most important thing in her world, don’t forget to give her just a little of your time. Pets are family too, make sure they get to enjoy the holidays with you.