Holidays mean changes in routine. Some people have extra free time during the holidays. Others work more during holidays than at other times of the year. Whatever a holiday means for your schedule, chances are it will represent changes in your dog’s routine, too.
If you travel on holidays, you’ll want to prepare your dog to handle trips with a minimum of stress. Depending on the nature of the trip and of the dog, sometimes the dog may be able to accompany you, which requires training. Training also helps when the dog will be left in someone else’s care. Even the way you manage your dog on a day-to-day basis can be geared to make things easier when you travel.
A dog trained reliably for the following behaviors has a distinct advantage for travel, whether going with you or remaining behind:
1. Walk on a Loose Leash. Dogs who pull on leash put harmful pressure on their own throats. People caring for your dog might not be able to hold on to the leash and your dog could be hurt or lost as a result. Travel means you’ll be carrying things when you walk with your dog on leash, and a pulling dog can easily make you drop or spill what you’re carrying-possibly on the dog. The dog walking politely on leash is more acceptable to people trying to decide whether to allow your dog admittance.
2. Come when Called. Dogs who don’t come or who run the other way when you call can be in jeopardy.
3. How to Learn New Behaviors with Treats. You may need to get your dog to walk through something that looks, feels, smells or sounds scary to the dog. A dog who has learned to trust you and who can respond to treats in learning situations is easier to manage through the unexpected for which you couldn’t have known to train in advance.
4. How to Ride Calmly in a Vehicle. Dogs who get scared or get motion sickness when riding in vehicles don’t enjoy travel. Such problems also make it more difficult to get them to and from boarding facilities, and for a caretaker to transport the dog for veterinary care if necessary.
5. How to Rest Calmly in a Crate. The dog who goes along on trips needs the skill of resting calmly in confinement for those times you cannot be with the dog. The dog who stays behind will need the same skill, even if crating is not part of the plan. It can suddenly become necessary in an emergency.
6. Wait at Doors for Permission to Exit. Dogs dashing through doors can wind up in tragic situations. Since various people may be opening doors around the dog, some of them not accustomed to edging tightly through a barely open door to keep your dog from getting through, this is something you’re going to want your dog to know
The Considerate Guest
Housetraining doesn’t necessarily transfer from your home to other places you and your dog stay. Until you’re 100% sure your dog won’t make a mistake, either keep the dog on leash with you or in an accident-ready confinement area.
Destructive chewing is unwelcome in even the most dog-loving homes, so make sure your dog won’t be redecorating the place you’re staying in this manner.
If your dog makes noise when left alone, as a considerate guest you’ll need to keep the dog with you in any situation where the noise would bother others. It’s tempting to say the barking dog is not as bad as the people partying down the hall, but acting on that belief can get you kicked out of the place and the next traveler with a dog turned away.
If you’re staying in someone’s home, make sure the dog is welcome before you go. While there, prevent things from happening that would keep the dog from being welcome on the next trip!
Get your veterinarian’s help to be sure the dog isn’t going to carry fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites, mites, or infectious disease along to cause problems for other people and their dogs. Make sure your dog is free of dirt and tangles in the coat both for travel and for boarding.
Home for the Holidays
For a happy holiday at home, dog-proof your house, including any special decorations, guest rooms, doors guests will be going in and out, and people food. Smart dogs in particular may find the temptation of new edibles impossible to resist. Keep in mind that guests won’t be used to putting things out of your dog’s path of temptation.
The dog might be happiest with more private time, accompanied by a nice treat, such as a treat in a Kong toy. If the guests include preschool-aged children or children of any age who are rowdy with dogs-or if your dog is rowdy with kids-do whatever you need to do to make sure the kids CANNOT access the dog’s private area without you there to supervise. You can always install a lock on a door just for that purpose.
Ideally there should be a skilled adult managing the dog and another one managing the child for any contact between a preschool-age child and a dog, particularly when they are strangers to each other.
If the guests bring a dog, arrange to keep the dogs separated until (and unless) you’re sure they will not fight. Separate them, too, if either dog shows signs of stress. Not all dogs can get along well, and they are much more at the mercy of their own instincts in these matters than people are. Have this understanding with your guests in advance.
The Bottom Line
Whatever you’re doing for the holidays, it’s likely to be a fairly hyperactive version of everyday life. Learning to function well in your everyday routine has not necessarily prepared your dog to handle holidays with grace. Learning holiday-savvy behavior WILL make everyday life a breeze for you and your dog, though!
Traveling with a dog is a good way for the two of you to get closer by spending a lot of time together. By making the right preparations in advance, training with your dog, and providing your dog with diligent and loving supervision throughout the holiday, you and your dog can have a great time.
By: Kathy Diamond Davis