Christmas Bites

Quick Fix Training Help for Christmas and the Holidays

The beginning of December means only one thing…Christmas is coming!
A time of celebration, gifts and food; all the things that can cause chaos with the canines in the house.

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I dare not have posted about Christmas before the first of December so, at this stage, we don’t really have time for elaborate training plans, but there are certainly lots of things we can do to prepare and even some quick, simple exercises that you can start practicing NOW for some improvement by the time the celebrations begin.

Plan ahead

Well, if you’re here, that’s likely what you are considering. We know that celebrations and festivities can be a bit hectic; add in some over-excited pets and it’s chaos-to-the-max!

Getting ahead of it and making it a normal part of your Christmas planning and preparation will help things run more smoothly on the day.

We have some Christmas Bites planned to help you get ahead and prepare for fun and festivities:

  1. The Quickest Fix
  2. Entertaining Canines
  3. Doors, greetings and all that drama
  4. Chill out
  5. Don’t eat that…don’t chew that…don’t touch that…
  6. What’s Santa Paws bringing?
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Holiday Hazards

Lack of routine and lots of potentially harmful food available can lead to ingestion of toxic and harmful substances, sometimes requiring urgent veterinary care.

  • chocolate, ‘sugar free’ treats, sweets and wrappers/packaging
  • grapes, raisins, Christmas puddings, mince pies
  • alcohol, caffeine, pain killers and medications (even those for pets)
  • cooked bones, high fat foods
  • decorations, Christmas trees, poinsettia, holly, mistletoe…yes, pets often eat these…
  • garlic, onions (and similar), some nuts like macadamia nuts
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  • bins, rubbish and recycling – there’s lots of it about so make sure it’s out of pets’ reach
  • lots of dog treats and toys, and many other general products, come with little silicon or silica packets in the packaging, bag or box; if eaten by pets, they can cause serious problems and these packets in dog treats will smell of food making them more tempting – dispose of them before you give your pet their present and make sure that you put them well out of your pet’s reach, for example, in the wheelie bin outside or other inaccessible area
  • doors opening, comings and goings – make sure your pet is secured, one person is responsible for the, they are wearing a collar and ID, microchip is up to date
  • candles and extra electricals may lead to burns, singing of coat, chewing of electrical wires, hazards associated with oils and similar for burning
  • it’s best not to put wrapped foods under the tree or in reach – the dog’s nose knows and they may break through wrapping paper and packaging to access tasty treats, some of which may be harmful to them

Have your pet’s emergency OOH vet details ready, just in case!

Holiday Stress

I am sure most humans will agree that holiday celebrations bring about all sorts of stress. Your dog is no different. But the things that bring your joy, might be the very things that cause your pet stress.

  • changes to the house, garden and world around them

With decorations becoming more and more elaborate each year, pets may become overwhelmed by the transformations in their own house and garden, as well as in their neighbourhood.
Extra cleaning and re-configuring furniture, including things relevant to the dog such as his bed, feeding areas and so on, may cause them confusion and concern.

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Some decorations, particularly outdoor ornaments, can really spook dogs such as life-size figures, moving or noisy displays, and hanging things, especially as they seem to suddenly appear. If you notice this, bring your dog away calmly and choose another walking route.

Some dogs show extra interest in projected lights (often projected onto the exterior of houses) and reflections caused by twinkling lights. Bring your dog away, try to reduce their exposure by removing the dog or removing the decorations and contact us or another suitably qualified behaviour pro.

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  • routine changes and lack of routine

Dogs find holidays hard – they don’t know what day of the week it is, after all. With the hustle and bustle during holiday periods, dogs may get less exercise, entertainment and attention, putting them out of sorts.
These changes can lead to disruption to toileting behaviour, sleeping and nighttime behaviour, eating behaviour, and may see the resurgence of destructive behaviour, over-excited behaviour, barking, jumping up and other unwanted behaviours.

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If you’re off work and home for a period of time, it’s important to attempt some level of routine in terms of alone-time for your dog throughout. This helps prevent the dog becoming upset when you go back to work and leave them alone again.

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  • lots of comings and goings

Social gatherings, energetic children, shopping outings, deliveries and guests leads to more doorbells and knocking, which most dogs, at the very least, will find arousing.
This can lead to susceptible dogs becoming sensitised to door-activity, making their behaviour more difficult to manage and possibly even dangerous.

Know your dog!
A dog who barks at the doorbell and then recovers once visitors enter, is probably doing ok. But, dogs who continue to bark when guests come in, dogs who move forward in a direct manner, or dogs who move away and attempt to avoid interaction, will require closer management and care.

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  • resource guarding

With the availability of lots of high value food, new possessions and toys, items left lying around, most dogs will be very tempted. So-called ‘stealing’ behaviour may increase, leading to inappropriate interactions between pets and their people.

This can lead to resource guarding related behaviour where dogs will take items, cache them, show aggressive responding (e.g. whale eye, freezing, growling, snarling, snapping and even biting) and may attempt to ingest items to prevent anyone else getting them.

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  • children, vulnerable guests and general increases in activity within the house

Celebration means everything is go-go-go, children are hyped, new gifts and toys must be explored and tried out, elderly guests may be present, and everything is up a notch on normality.

Children, and their activity, may be particularly worrisome for dogs, and with holidays from school, dogs may not get their usual relief from this sort of activity.
Kids will often have costumes, new noisy and moving toys, and will be excited – this can increase the risk of dog bites, so extra supervision and separation will be required.

Elderly or vulnerable individuals may be bowled over by an exuberant dog, be jumped on or knocked on the stairs.

It’s a great idea to assign one sensible adult responsibility for the dog throughout the gathering so there is someone consistently monitoring the dog, supporting them and keeping them safe.
Get the entire family on board with planning and preparation so everyone is on the same page.

  • great expectations

We expect our dogs to deal with whatever we present, regardless of how well, or not, we have prepared them. Dogs need support during holidays and it’s up to you to help them. Planning and preparation goes a long way, but a sensible approach to managing your pet during celebrations is really the key.

Start by lowering your expectations and re-aligning them with reality, understand that all this will be overwhelming for your pet and that they will respond accordingly.

Feeling under pressure about our pet’s behaviour may lead us to exert more pressure on them, resort to scolding and reprimanding, and letting your frustration get the better of you. If you feel that frustration bubbling, remove your pet to another room with an irresistible stuffable or chew to work on in peace – everyone can get a minute to take a breath and gather themselves.

Ask, “does my pet need to be part of this?”. Their behaviour is information telling you how well they are coping, or not, so removing them from the action may be best for everyone.

During holiday seasons, dressing our pets up and posing them for photos can add to the pressure they feel.
Dogs who show reluctance to have costumes fitted or freeze when wearing silly jumpers or props are experiencing a high degree of distress.
You don’t need to put yourself or your pet through it – there are countless apps that allow you to add emojis and animations to photos and videos, without your pet every knowing about it.

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  • stress related behaviour

‘Crazy’ behaviour is often interpreted as happiness, but more often than not, it’s the first tier of stress-related behaviours indicating that the dog is losing control and not coping well.

This means your dog can’t listen or respond normally, is more likely to have a more demonstrative response, and his behaviour may appear less predictable.

All this excitement may be associated with trigger stacking. Just this list of stressors, one on top of another, will cause your pet’s behaviour to intensify, even though one or a small number of stressors may normally cause your pet no concern at all.

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Join us for Christmas Bites to help you prepare your pet for festive fun!