In a perfect world all dogs would love the holidays. They would be socialized with all different types of humans and other animals. They would be trained to observe human rules like not jumping to greet and not dashing out open doors. They would know that the routines they have so come to depend on will return to normal once the holidays have ended.
But if your dogs are like mine, they are not perfect. My dog Gavin barks excessively at noisy people and likes to herd the small ones when he gets too excited. My shy dog Annie becomes more withdrawn and nervous when her routines are even slightly altered not to mention what happens around the holidays. My newest dog Elbee, well he is just Elbee and still has many of his former stray dog issues to work out. My funny girl Tosha is the most laid back dog I have and she is well adjusted to people; but that eating poo thing does tend to upset some of the Christmas party attendees.
As stressful as the holidays can be for us, they can be downright nerve-wracking for our dogs. Routines are interrupted, strange people and stimuli abound, and new rules are suddenly made up for them to follow while old rules that haven’t been practiced or enforced for a year are suddenly punishable offenses. I once overheard a couple tell a trainer that their dog would suddenly start to misbehave around the holidays. I wasn’t privy to the rest of the conversation but I tend to think that the dog did not suddenly start to misbehave, it just wasn’t aware that it suddenly had been thrust into a new universe where new rules applied.
Some of the best things we can give our dogs this holiday season are the gifts of patience, understanding, and forethought. We need to be patient with them when they get excited around new people and unfamiliar situations. We need to understand that their behavior is not directed at irritating us, it’s just their natural reaction to things that they have not been trained to deal with. And we need to have the forethought to plan for our dogs during the holidays. To make provisions for the behaviors we already know they have, instead of expecting them to read our minds and do what they have never been asked or trained to do.
And finally the best gift we can give our dogs is the gift of training, so that next holiday season their routines are interrupted a little less— and they can be included a little more.
Happy Holidays from
Kevin, Jackie, Gavin, Annie, Tosha, Elbee