I’m letting you in on a little dog training and behavior industry secret – the time period between Thanksgiving and New Years is my busiest season for aggressive behavior calls! If you think about it, it really isn’t that much of a surprise. Lots of food everywhere, schedule changes, visitors and vacations are a recipe for canine stress. Fortunately, with just a little advanced planning, you and your canine pal can have a happy and peaceful holiday season.
1. If your dog is a little shy or uncomfortable with visitors, then your dog really does not want to hang out with all of your family and friends during holiday activities. Make arrangements for your dog’s care in a dog daycare, kennel, or just confine your dog to a quiet part of your home away from visitors during holiday events.
2. Watch your dog and give him breaks in a quiet area. Even the canine social butterflies can get overwhelmed.
3. Be aware of triggering guarding behavior. Dogs that may growl when given a bone or other item, have easy access to food during the holiday season. Be aware that even if your dog does not guard from you, he may guard from a visitor who tries to remove something from the dog’s mouth. If there is any possibility that your dog would resource guard, the middle of a holiday party is not the right time to try to modify the behavior. Instead put your dog away.
4. Don’t put your dog in situations he can’t handle. Large family gatherings are not a good environment to try to address dog behavior challenges. If your dog doesn’t like other dogs, it’s ok to say no to canine visitors.
5. Pro-actively address your dog’s behavior concerns with a professional trainer. Ideally you contacted a qualified professional as soon as you noticed that your dog was exhibiting some fearful, anxious or aggressive behavior. Realize that behavior problems like aggression take time to address, so do go ahead and call a qualified behavior consultant or trainer now but realize that no, the aggressive behavior will probably not be addressed in time to include your dog in your aunt’s huge family Christmas party.
Use common sense, be pro-active and realistic, and think about what your dog needs so both you and your dog can enjoy the holiday season! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!