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Pro Tips to Help Your Dog Through Holiday Stressors – Part Two

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Helping our inquisitive canines through holiday stressors is important for their well-being as well as the safety of your family and guests. The behavior of stressed-out pets can even escalate to aggression if things become overwhelming, particularly this time of year. As inquisitive pet guardians, when we dig deeper and look for the underlying need beneath a dog’s behavior, we can usually find solutions that are mutually beneficial to all of us, including our canine pals. For instance, in addition to possible changes in routine, is there a fear factor, something your pup might be afraid of, associated with this season? During this hectic time of year, accommodate your pets however you can and do your best to prepare them for potentially stressful times as  furry family members in our human world. 

In the previous post, we focused on problem-solving for holiday situations where dogs might be left alone more than they are used to – or asked to entertain themselves a bit more, when people are around, but busy. Now, let’s focus on ensuring safe, pawsitive interactions between pets and people by 1) preventing stressors from exceeding your pet’s threshold and 2) reminding family and visitors about pet safety guidelines.

golden retriever lying down

Prevent Canine Holiday Stress Triggers from Stacking Up

Most dogs don’t do yoga, so how can they respond to stress and how can you help? These pro tips are good a place to start:

  • Holiday festivities can be stressful for some dogs and to help them feel at their best, give them lots of positive reassurance throughout the season.
  • Be sure to watch for – and reward – your inquisitive canine for making good choices, like sitting calmly, rather than jumping up for attention. 
  • Knowing ahead of time that you’ll have to try to be a little more patient than usual with your pet can go a long way toward reducing your own frustration. Lowering your own stress level in this way will, in turn, help decrease your dog’s stress.
  • Remember to stay calm yourself so you can think clearly and help your pup. 
  • Speak soothingly to your dog and be generous in offering the comfort she seeks when she’s feeling worried or afraid.
  • Think about helping your pup learn to feel more comfortable about meeting new people, and experiencing new sights, sounds, and scents associated with the holiday festivities. You may want to do some pleasant association training to help create automatic happy excitement associated with the novelties of the season.
  • Maintaining consistency is essential to helping your inquisitive canine feel relaxed and ready to adapt to new challenges. From walking and exercise to mealtimes, it’s best to decide on and delegate feeding, sleeping, and potty routines before the holidays are in full swing. And make sure everyone in the household is clear on their roles.
  • Monitor for situations that might be considered emotionally challenging. Just like us, when too many stressful triggers stack up, dogs can reach their breaking point, or threshold – and might lash out.
  • Understand how dogs learn, how they communicate, and what would be considered their normal, species-specific behaviors. 
  • Be able to recognize signs of canine stress. Keep in mind that each dog is an individual; when dogs act in a way that is abnormal for them, they might be stressed.

Pet parents who would like to help a pet who is suffering from fear, anxiety or stress will want to first understand their dog’s stressors and then address them. (One or both of these steps may require assistance from a qualified force-free canine behavior consultant.) Addressing the root of the problem can mean having a more comfortable dog who can adapt more easily to day-to-day challenges, whatever the holidays have in store. 

corgi puppy

Dog Bite Prevention

Additionally, using strategic management, positive reinforcement-based training methods and looking at things from your inquisitive canine’s point of view, go a long way in keeping everyone safe and happy during the holiday season – and throughout the year! Include strategizing management of your dog’s environment, and communicating pet safety guidelines to family, friends, and guests, along with the rest of your pawliday preparations. Here are our top tips:

  • When approaching dogs, or any animal, it is wise to be very mindful of our movements and teach others to do the same.
  • Teach people, especially children, how to greet dogs in a safe and respectful manner. Guide well-meaning dog lovers that when asking if you can pet someone’s dog, it is essential to wait for the guardian’s response before reaching out to pet the dog. This is one way to prevent something unforeseen, such as a snap or a bite, from happening. 
  • Children are very good at mimicking what their parents do, so make sure you are modeling the behaviors you want your children to follow.
  • Understanding canine behavior is important in preventing aggression. 
  • Reading dog  body language is a great skill to have and to share with family, friends and neighbors.
  • Teach all children in the home how to behave around dogs appropriately and how to read a pet’s body language too. 
  • There are several telltale signs that can help clue you in when a dog is aroused, scared or defensive. These may include (but are not limited to): Hackles raised; stiff body, shifted forward slightly or lowered; ears either forward and upright or flattened back; lips curled or pulled back, and perhaps showing teeth; brow tense and furrowed; sniffing; tail either straight up and stiff in the air like a flag or tucked under the legs.
  • We need to show our pet dogs that we are never a threat. 
  • Prevent resource guarding. Pay attention to your pup’s likes and dislikes to help determine what he or she is more likely to guard. If the guarded ‘item’ is a person or location, awareness is key, especially during the commotion of the holidays.
  • It’s crucial to teach pups that the approach of a person does not mean that a prized item will be taken away. Teach dogs it’s good to share or relinquish desired items because there’s an even better payoff
  • The ‘Leave it’ cue can be handy as you and your inquisitive canine prepare to enjoy a successful pawliday season together. ‘Leave it’ means, “Stop what you’re doing and check in with me for an incredible reward!” 

From learning to leave things when asked to being comfortable with visitors, it’s important to lovingly teach our dogs. If this all seems like a lot, just remember, you’re not alone! At The Inquisitive Canine, our #1 goal in all we do is to strengthen the human-canine bond and help build and maintain a loving and joyful relationship. Let us know how we can help you and your inquisitive canine.

From The Inquisitive Canine family to yours, Happy Pawlidays!

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