Guest blogger ... Debra Ekman of Your Dog’s Friend
December is a stressful time for our furry friends AND our two-legged buddies. Baywater’s animal expert and blogger, TalbotTouch’s Lisa Benshoff shares an article on reducing pet and guest stress.
The key … educating humans!
While Debra focuses on dogs, this blog is definitely applicable to the human component for cat friendly homes! As cat lovers know, cats expect us to read their minds and can appear (in fact, cats LOVE appearing) a bit standoffish.
You, Your Dog & Your Guests Will Give Thanks
by Debra Ekman for Your Dog's Friend, a non-profit in Rockville MD whose goal is to help keep dogs out of shelters by educating and supporting their humans.
The holidays are upon us and it’s too late to train your dog before Aunt Mabel arrives. Even if you have trained your dog, the holidays present a whole new set of challenges. Your dog is excited (or stressed). You are excited (or stressed) and have less time for your dog. There are all sorts of distractions (including food). Be patient. This too shall pass.
Don’t assume that everyone likes dogs (even yours). Be sure to ask your guests ahead of time. It's not fair to your dog or your guests if you allow your dog around people who are afraid of dogs. Your guests will feel uncomfortable all night, and your dog will get in trouble for simply being himself around the wrong person.
If you have a timid, anxious or reactive dog, don't force him to be part of the activities. It's best to allow your dog to spend "guest time" in his crate or in a separate room with the door shut and something super yummy to chew. Be sure to do this before your guests arrive. Your dog would rather be in a safe place than around all those “scary” people.
Teach your guests, both adults and children, how to interact with your dog. It's a hectic time; so, if your dog joins your guests, either you or someone else responsible should have your dog's leash and keep your dog feeling safe. When people approach dogs head-on, look them directly in the eye, reach over them, pat them on the head or lean over them, dogs feel threatened. So, ask your guests to angle sideways and pet your dog under his chin or on his chest. If your dog looks away or backs up, respect your dog’s wishes. He is not comfortable and would rather not meet and greet.
Being around young children is stressful for most dogs. Kids have high-pitched voices, move quickly and are unpredictable. Don’t let children crowd your dog, chase him, pick him up, hug him or get their face in your dog’s face. Let your dog go somewhere safe, where he won’t be bothered by children’s antics. Even a good dog will bite when he has had enough.
If you have a small dog, don’t hold him when people approach. Small dogs may feel trapped and become growly if held during greetings.
Your dog may be excited when guests first arrive. When the doorbell rings, we rush to the door, talk with enthusiasm, hug. Obviously, the doorbell means that something exciting is happening. Before your guests are due to arrive, put your dog in another room or crate with a safe toy or stuffed Kong. Once your friends and relatives are in and settled, you can bring your dog out to greet everyone.
Your dog should be on leash when greeting your guests. This will help keep your dog from jumping and running around. It's is more pleasant for your dog than being yelled at for saying "hello" the way that dogs say "hello".
Ask your guests NOT to feed your dog. The emergency vet offices are full during the holidays with dogs that have had too much "holiday cheer". Well-meaning friends may not know that raisins are bad for dogs or that macadamia nuts (think cookies) could kill your dog. Instead, have some of your dog's healthy treats around for your guests to offer your dog.
If you don’t want your dog to eat off the kitchen counter or beg at the dinner table, keep him out of those rooms. Put up a baby gate, or put your dog in a crate or room with a special treat – like a Kong stuffed with goodies or an interactive toy that will drop kibble if moved the right way. Don’t feel guilty: Your dog will get plenty later when he helps you clean up by eating all the crumbs.
Don’t tempt fate. Even the most well-behaved dog will be tempted to commit "a crime of opportunity". If you're planning to leave your dishes out, so you can watch the game or move to another room for dessert and coffee, make sure your dog comes (and stays) with you. If your dog does get something such as a turkey bone, offer your dog something yummy in exchange, instead of trying to reach into his mouth to get it.
Lisa serves on our Board and is instrumental in helping keep our animals happy!