Tis’ the holiday season of parties and dinners with friends and family that we’ve waited for all year. Everywhere you turn there are delicious foods and the air is filled with fun and laughter from people of all ages. Your mind races with the excitement of plans until it hits you, “What about the dog”? Today you will successfully learn how to prepare your dog for big events so that they, too, can enjoy them as much as you.
Start your dog out right from day one, by socializing them. Dogs are social creatures and we socialize them by going out into public places. They need to be around different sounds, people, smells, other animals and touches. Keep your dog close to you to maintain control and ensure your dog doesn’t get hurt. A sociable dog learns confidence and becomes more apt to relax in social gatherings over time.
Is your canine companion easily spooked? Start out slow. Walk them at your local big box store or pet store until they become more confident and relaxed. Rewarding with treats is also a sure-fire way to make sure they associate new experiences with positivity.
Understand that not all dogs can tolerate social settings. Sadly, we find a history of abuse and neglect in rescue pets. I have this problem with my rescue dog, Zach. He is sweet and funny as can be, but out in public, he’s afraid of his own shadow. These loving dogs are not broken, they simply need more time to adjust. Be patient and seek alternative care options for the event. Doggy day care or a boarding kennel during these events may prove to be more comfortable for them.
While you’re out being a social butterfly with your dog – and at home as well – get to know your dog’s triggers. What makes them tick – or go ‘boom’? Learning these triggers in advance can give you that needed edge to correct them. Working with a trainer can help provide valuable insight to quell bad behaviors.
Expose your dog to children of all ages in advance and assess their response. Kids are a big part of the holidays, but they can be loud, get up in the dog’s face, tease, and pull tails. Even the most gentle dog can snap under these circumstances. Monitor the situation closely. Not all dogs are children friendly and some children are petrified of dogs. Big events are not the time to find out, nor correct a dog’s trigger from going “BOOM”!
Teach your zealous canine a focus word that commands that their attention be on you alone. This is that pivotal pause bringing their attention into focus. Practice using a word like “wait” frequently. You and your pet have a “boomerang” energy connection. Energy that you project out is the energy that comes back to you. Your calmness begets their relaxation, just as your anger brings out anxiousness.
Understanding and setting realistic goals is a key training foundation. Acknowledging their quirks, practice, patience, and acceptance are your tools. Never, under any circumstances, use physical force or withhold affection to correct your dog.