Whether it’s spilled candy, a terrified kid or a soiled rug, dogs without decorum can make their presence known during the holidays.
To the rescue? New York-based pet expert Charlotte Reed, author of The Miss Fido Manners Complete Book of Dog Etiquette. “Well-mannered people and their well-mannered pets are more pleasant to be around, are treated better by everyone and get invited to more places, including restaurants, parties and vacation homes,” says Reed. She offers the following solutions for common holiday problems:
For dogs, Halloween involves strange kids with scary outfits coming to the door and yelling, “Trick or Treat!” It’s no wonder many canines run for their lives — or worse.
Reed hosts a Halloween party for her four dogs and their guests at a doggy day care center, but you can do something similar at your home. Begin by decorating with an appropriate theme in mind, such as a haunted house. Send out invitations to friends, including those with dogs that your pet knows.
Reed says the highlight for her is the doggy costumes, with invitees getting more and more competitive each year. “My favorites are a Yorkshire terrier dressed as Sherlock Holmes and a mixed breed disguised as King Kong.” Take care that your dog is comfortable in the costume, which should have no potentially dangerous parts. Bows are usually out, since they can unravel and make your dog trip or choke.
Don’t forget to think up activities for your guests. “Dogs and their owners love the trick-y games, such as bobbing for apples,” says Reed. She also gives each owner treat bags full of great books, fun toys and tasty snacks.
Thanksgiving is always a busy time for doctors, according to DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, Ore. Animals often get sick because of distracted or careless pet owners on Thanksgiving Day and the days that follow. Most of the problems are gastrointestinal and can be prevented.
Reed advises that you allow your dog to practice good canine manners at mealtimes each day. “When these are used routinely, you will not have to worry about the emergence of bad doggy behavior, whether you are eating alone, having guests over at your home, or feeding your dog,” says Reed.
You must instill respectful habits in your dog by controlling its access to food. To achieve your dog’s best dining behavior, feed it twice a day at the same time, for approximately 20-minute intervals. Doing this gets your dog used to the routine and confirms your role as the “food boss.”
Without such reinforced training, dogs can succumb to temptation. Reed recalls how her friend Nancy’s niece set the dinner table before leaving the room to bring in a dozen guests. When all entered, they found the family dachshund standing on the table feasting on the holiday meal. When the little dog realized she was caught, she simply looked them in the eye and barked, as if to say, “A fine meal awaits you.”
Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa
Animal shelters tend to fill up around Valentine’s Day, since many people receive pets as gifts over the holidays. By February, many of the shelters are trying to find homes for these unwanted four-legged purchases.
Unless you are adopting the dog for yourself or for a family member whom you have already consulted, do not give dogs as gifts. It’s better to offer books and DVDs about dogs to the potential canine owners. This way, they can decide for themselves when — and if — they are ready for a pet.
A few other do’s and don’ts for the holidays include:
- Keep candles, holiday ornaments and other delicate valuables away from anxious dogs.
- Give gift certificates and favorite doggie biscuits to canine recipients. Remember, dog clothing is not usually one-size-fits-all.
- Feed your dog its usual meals. Gorging on rich foods can lead to stomach upset.
- Keep your dog safe and sound in a quiet, secure part of your home during parties and while you’re giving out Halloween candy.
- Let your dog eat chocolate. Ever.
- Decorate with edible items that could make your dog curious and possibly ill, such as popcorn garlands and candy canes.
- Use artificial snow and preservatives in the water for Christmas trees.