I Forgot to Train My Dog!

Pumpkin pies are in the oven, wine is chilling and the guests will be arriving tomorrow, so you’ve got a couple minutes to spare. You sit down for a quick second to check Pintrest for last minute decorating ideas and your dog nudges your knee… Hey! You! Hey! ME!Marbles

The dog! Oh, no! You were going to do TRAIN THE DOG before guests come over, remember? Not to fear – we’ve got your back. Here are 7 easy-to-implement ideas to keep your holiday party happy, your dog off the table and you out of trouble.

  1. Comfort Center. If you have a shy dog, chances are, she’s going to be MUCH more comfortable away from the hubbub. Create a canine comfort center in your bedroom. In a corner, put a soft blanket or your dog’s favorite bed (or crate), access to sturdy chew toys like nylabones and ropes and one or two fresh treats like rawhide twizzle sticks or a “part” like an ear, hoof, etc. Turn up the music (see #2), close your door and let her relax.
  2. Tune-In. Calming music is proven to help reduce anxiety in humans and dogs. You can download tunes like Through A Dog’s Ear or use the free playlist called Relax My Dog on youtube. Be sure the music you choose is actually calming. Neo-punk and hard rock might drown out the background noise but may increase your dog’s anxiety and frustration.
  3. Connect-Up. Is your dog pretty happy meeting new friends but sometimes a little too happy? Try simply put your pup on a leash and keep some cookies in your pocket to reward (or distract) your dog during comings and goings. This keeps your dog from jumping, door-dashing, counter-surfing and other unwanted behaviors, unless you are completely stuffed with turkey and asleep at the other end.
  4. Pack some Kongs. Take your dog’s daily kibble ration and put it in a bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of gravy, peanut butter or yogurt (something you know your dog likes). Mix it together and pack it into appropriately sized Kong toys. Freeze. Deliver to your dog while you are enjoying your meal. You’ll both be glad you did. Need a little more help? Click here for more Kong stuffing ideas.
  5. Relaxation Station. Some dogs don’t mind being tethered near a comfortable resting spot so long as they can watch the action. This is for dogs who are able to share their space (in case toddlers are present!) and who don’t bark when restrained. Your leash can work as a tether if your dog won’t chew it. Just slip the handle under a sturdy leg of furniture, give your dog a bed and a chew and return frequently to drop a cookie on the bed, letting your dog know he’s not forgotten.
  6. Say What? Check in with your dog’s body language often to keep track of his emotional state. Understand that all the excitement may be too much at any given time for your pretty pooch. Stress can trigger aggression, so be on the lookout for signs your dog has had enough. Not sure what to look for? Here are our recommended videos to learn about signs of stress.
  7. In and Out. Be sure to give your dog breaks from the action. You may be a party animal, but most dogs, even great and social dogs, need a break about every 20 minutes. Just letting her out into the backyard for a potty break or offering a drink of water is a good way to check in. If your dog refuses treats, it’s time to revisit tip #1. Chances are, she’s had enough!

We hope you have a fantastic holiday season – from Thanksgiving through the New Year.  If you find just a little time for a quick training tune-up, check out our 2-week Holiday Tune Up class. Otherwise, when you are ready to get back to training your dog, we will be ready to help you get off to a great start with our January classes and private consultations! Happy Holidays from all of us to all of you!

Catherine Comden, CPDT-KA