Giving Your Dog A Spot For The Holidays
Giving Your Dog A Spot For The Holidays
Thanksgiving 2016 just passed!
The older I get, the more I realize how fast time passes.
How many of your dogs showed some horrifying behavior in front of family and friends?
Ironically, or not so ironically, I am very, very busy as a dog trainer during this time of year!
Because, the average person inadvertently forget or don’t understand that their furry friends need to be literally TAUGHT how to behave with counters and tables full of food and dozens of people coming and going.
I Never Understand
I never understand how people can just expect their dog to know how to deal with these kinds of distractions with grace, confidence and refinement.
After all, canines aren’t born with human rules.
They aren’t children with fur.
Although they pick up on a lot of our nuances, tones and behaviors; they are a whole different species.
And, if a wolf walked passed a buffet of food laying out unattended in the wild; he would be sick and going off to die.
Although I believe dogs are usually nothing like wolves (they have been changed and domesticated for so long), when it comes to food both are usually opportunists.
A wild dog doesn’t know when his next meal will be available.
It is almost instinct for a dog to be always hungry, because of this example.
So stop expecting him to be a human!
Unfortunately many many dogs are dropped at shelters and euthanized most during this time of year.
Instead Teach Him!
I utilize a leash on a young or new dog in the face of counters and tables full of food.
I also keep an eagle eye on my furry friend.
If I allow him to escape my gaze and be alone with a scrumptious buffet that he decides to pillage; that, my friends, is my fault! Not his!
If I don’t have time to watch him, or have him on leash… I have a crate for that!
I will provide him with some very strenuous exercise and then let him nap while I deal with food and/or people.
And for a great video series that shows you how to teach your dog to keep calm during the holidays, click here.
Teach Him Spot
Last weekend I met with some clients of mine.
They were apprehensively awaiting Thanksgiving and all kinds of company, and they wanted to be able to integrate their 3 year old well trained dog into the festivities without worry.
He already knew how to go to his “spot” or his “place”; a bed or a mat where you want your dog to go and do a long down stay but he didn’t really like this command.
After all, who wants to go and do a down stay when exciting people are coming and going?
So we had to change his mind set before the holiday.
Make It Fun
Dealing with a dog, is kind of like dealing with a toddler when it comes to mentality.
If it is not fun; your dog is not typically interested in doing it.
So I teach my dogs this command by integrating relay races.
Relay Races Are Fun
Relay races are fun!
You might even have some fun teaching your dog!
- Grab some treats
- Toss a dog bed, mat, towel, blanket or whatever you like down on a spot in your house that is conducive for your dog to do a down stay.
I like allowing my dog to watch the festivities but be out of the general foot path.
Restrain your dog by grabbing his collar, or putting him on leash (a tab leash will work).
Restraint causes your dog to pull against his collar or leash (this is why pulling on your dog’s leash when you walk is counter intuitive.) But using his natural desire to pull away will help you with this game.
When you release his collar, dash off toward his bed or “spot”.
He will likely be so excited he might even beat you there, once on his “spot” command down and release a couple treats when his elbows hit the ground.
Allow him a moment to eat his treats before walking off and doing this again.
As your dog gets a little more proficient and knows where to go, you may begin adding the cue “spot” “place” etc.
Then you may begin to signal to his “spot” and dawdle behind him as he dashes off toward it and waits for you to get there.
You want his initial excitement when he hears the command, because, eventually this command becomes a little more tedious than fun. So we want to condition him that the command and game is fun.
Instead of trying to reward him quickly for getting to his bed, reward him handsomely for staying on his bed and waiting for you.
Now is when you may use the “stay” command.
Be sure to jack pot often!
And, pay substantially! I try to give my dogs’ good chewies like elk antlers, rawhides, bully sticks, or stuffed bones if and only if they remain on their bed. If they break and get off of the bed, the chewy goes away!
The more fun and more rewarding this command or cue is; the more apt your dog will not only do it, but also enjoy doing it!
Then, you must add some distractions!
A dog can’t be expected to learn this command or cue and then also understand that he can do this while you have company over!
Remember his mental acuity is like that of a toddler and toddlers also LOVE company!
Begin by inviting one person over and go back to playing the game with your dog while ignoring the person. Reward often and reward well!
Eventually, if you continue to do this with a few different people and several different times. Your dog will learn to stay on his “spot” when commanded.
And, you will have a well trained dog that all your friends will envy!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.