Summer is so much fun for us and our pets. There are more outdoor activities, playtime, visitors, and excitement. Our pets might be confronted with new scenarios and people than before. Children with lots of energy or elderly people with special needs and situations they are not used to.
What can you do to prepare your pet for these busy times? Here are 5 simple ideas.
#1 Take stock
My first suggestion is to take stock of your animal. How are they with strangers? With multiple visitors? In the past, if your dog got overwhelmed or found this difficult, what reactions did he have? Were you able to manage them and have things easy? Please be honest with yourself. It might be easier for all concerned if your pet was confined somewhere during the busiest time of the event (use a crate if that works or an unused room in your house) .
Look around your home for an area that could accommodate your pet with ease. It might be the laundry room, spare bathroom, or even the garage.
Once you have picked a suitable spot, make it a comfortable and desirable space for your pet to spend time in. Don’t wait for the holidays to train them. Start confining your dog daily, at random times, with fun things to do. Like a Kong toy that you can stuff with wonderful treats that will allow for hours of happy licking and chewing.
Keep the time of confinement short at first and increase it as needed and in preparation for your visitors.
Practice feeling joyful about keeping your dog there and being happy about the ease it will create for you also! Expand your energy when you lock the animal in that space and include your dog energetically as you walk away. If the dog starts crying, please keep her there, but sit close by. Expand your energy, and keep yourself in a happy place. If you are frustrated, your dog will get more upset. Only let her out again after she settled down and was quiet for a little while.
#2 Make your comfort a priority
Preparing your pet to be in a secluded area will give you more confidence that they are cared for so you can feel relaxed and peaceful, rather than guilty for ‘excluding’ them from the holiday buzz.
Asking questions like:
• What would make me and my pet more comfortable?
• Do I have any concerns about my pet creating problems with the visitors?
• Am I confident about my pet’s behavior?
…can assist you to have more ease.
Would you be willing to look for a solution now rather than creating a situation that could lead to regrets? Especially if you know that your animal doesn’t always enjoy being around visitors.
I often see people try to make things work at the last minute or brush off their concerns by saying, ‘Oh, she will be fine with the family’!
This could lead to unpleasant situations like a dog growling at someone or even taking a bite.
#3 Always supervise kids
Especially if you have smaller kids coming over for the holidays and your dog is not familiar with that, please do not ever leave the kids and dog unsupervised! Most kids don’t realize when your dog had enough or is giving a warning that he requires some quiet time.
And you can always allow your pet to join the group when your visitors are resting or having some quiet time. That’s a great time because everyone will be relaxed, the dog will be watched, and the buzz has subsided!
#4 Practice crowd control
Some animals love being around people. If that’s the case with your pet, be aware that holidays might still overwhelm them. Generally, there are more people around and different energies than your dog is used to, and all sorts of unusual things going on that he has no clue about.
Another way to prepare your animal is by exposing him to larger crowds and observing his behavior. Take him to town during the busy shopping time and familiarize him with lots of people laughing, talking, and reaching for him.
Walk past a busy school during break time where children run around, play, and make lots of noise and see how that affects her. How does she respond to kids that are running toward her or screaming? How does she do with kids reaching for her?
Have others touch and reach for your dog more often than normal. How is she with that?
# 5 Remove triggers
You know your animal best. So, if your dog has had moments of protectiveness around sharing her toys, make sure you pick up all their toys and hide them from visiting children or other pets.
How is your dog around his empty food bowl? Would it be better to pick that off the ground to avoid another animal or kids creating an unexpected trigger?
And right before the event, I suggest an activity with your dog that makes him tired, like a long walk or some other energetic outlet.
Having been a dog walker myself, I remember many people asked me to walk their dog for an extra-long time on the morning of a holiday to make sure that they were less inclined to be ‘over the top.’
Last but not least, please educate your visitors! A calm dog is less likely to be triggered to do something unexpected or ‘bad.’ So, less excitement during greetings at the door, less touch, less eye contact, and less talking at the dog can make a huge difference.
What would it take for all of us to have a great time? Happy Holidays!
Are you looking for more tips and tools with pets? Consider joining my next Talk to the Animals online class.