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Entertaining with your Dog during the holidays

Roseann Deluca
Cold Creek Dog Training

(12/2013) Some dogs are really fond of all the activities during the holidays. Is your dog a "party animal" that thinks all guests coming through the door way burdened with packages and slipping on snow are coming to see him? And all that all those exciting things are just for him? If you have one of these sorts of social souls, you know how hard it can be to even get company through the door. Here are some tips to help you deal with your dog and company during this busy time of year. When people are coming, always take a moment and put your dog on a leash before you open the door, use your treat (kept handy right by the door) to get his attention and get him to relax, stand just a little bit in front of him. This gives him he impression that you are "first" as we've talked about before. Then when he is calm and relaxed open the door! Easier said than done you say? Well it does take practice and patience, and especially developing that very important attention work. If youíve been working on some obedience with your dog (and all dogs deserve to have at minimum the basics of obedience training, for both of your sakes) have him sit before you open the door, pay attention to you and give him a moment to compose himself and become calm. This is something you should practice each time you have people stop by and it gets easier and easier. Plan ahead, before Aunt Mary (who is really a cat person) comes over for Christmas dinner and is greeted by paws and barks before you can even say hello.

Does your party animal pace and stare at folks as they are eating? Does he try to sneak the odd bite here and there? Teach him some boundaries. Donít expect your company to correct your dog. You should step in and address a situation "before" it happens so your company isnít uncomfortable. Being proactive is extremely important in preventing simply naughty things or major holiday catastrophes (remember the Hounds and the turkey in A Christmas Story!) Take action before your Christmas tree lands on the ground and the balls go bouncing round! You know your dog, you can "read" or predict his actions, just like child in anticipating what they might get into. Step in towards your dog with a firm No or Aaack ! to divert his attention away from his prize before something happens. Have him keep four on the floor while he is being petted and only when a guest encourages it, not when he throws himself on Aunt Mary's lap.

Another good tip is to "show off" your dog to your guests, this will wow and impress them in a wonderful show and tell demonstration and it will be doubly beneficial in that it will give your dog the chance to practice his attention and obedience skills in front of an audience that he really admires. Give him 10-15 minutes of full glory in front of family and friends, then put him away in his crate for a rest. This will give him time to reflect and process his learning and it will give you a break to relax and devote time to company without having to keep all attention on your party animal.

If you have a dog who is on the other side of the social scale and hides or really frets when company comes, do something positive to divert his attention from what is happening as his home is invaded by holiday festivities. Itís very important not to baby him, or coax or support any of his anxious behaviors. Act like you are not worried at all; about the surroundings of company and chaos or about him being worried. Any time you feel like saying- awww its ok! Stop and think, what type of behavior you are supporting and paying attention to? It will always be; a behavior you really wish wasnít there. For your shy guy, donít put him through the pressure of interacting with guests. Do get him out at a distance and do the same "show off" routine of his attention skills and obedience maneuvers to company. After the show is over, simply put him away for a break. This will build his confidence and he will feel better not being pressured to interact or be uncomfortable with all the commotion going on.

When you think of what to buy for that special four-legged love of your life, think of enduring lasting, mind engaging toys for something to put under the Christmas tree. These presents to open are always great, but the gift of time spent together is what your dog really wants most of all. Think about taking your dog to a class as a wonderful way to spend time together and learn new skills for the both of you! The gift of knowledge is the most lasting thing. Besides practicing in person with hands on experience, its a fun night out that everyone can participate in- for less then the cost of going to the movies! There are lots of choices out there of what to do, obedience, nosey dog scent work, agility, tracking and much much more. Come out and see how much fun it can be to learn together, itís the greatest gift of all. And our wish for you all, on two legs and four, on land, water and air very great or small, a wonderful peaceful Christmas (Holiday) season!

Read other articles by Roseann Deluca