Holiday training tips

The holidays are just around the corner!

This time of year can be a challenge not only for us humans, but for our dogs. It can bring up a host of behavior problems, too–jumping, countersurfing, begging, destructive behaviors, hiding, and house soiling can be some of the most common. Some of these problems are because dogs are too happy, excited and not in control of their impulses, while others may be based out of fear or anxiety. Punishing dogs for these behaviors usually doesn’t help or work, so I wanted to put together some tips to help both humans and their dogs be better prepared for success!

Hidalgo has a great default down on his mat!
  • For the fearful dog: Remember, if your dog has a hard time with people coming into the home, with strange new sounds and decorations, and anything in between, that she or he is not doing it because they want to “ruin” your time, but because they are afraid and uncertain! These dogs should be able to have their own space away from the festivities where they can relax. Placing them in another area of the house just for them, with soft music and/or white noise and great enrichment activities can be key to their happiness and less stress for everyone.
  • For the hungry dog: Many dogs find it hard to resist the temptation of items left out on counters and other surfaces. Dogs are natural scavengers, so it’s up to us to manage the environment and teach them what to do. By keeping items out of reach as much as possible, we’ll have less to contend with, and less temptation for them to possibly give into. Beyond that, teaching a default LEAVE IT is key; I love this video from Emily Larlham/Kikopup on addressing countersurfing (and there are several other LEAVE IT videos on her channel too)!
  • For the super-social, I MUST RUN UP TO YOU AND JUMP ON YOU TO TELL YOU HOW HAPPY I AM TO SEE YOU! dog: Jumping and being happy to see you in an exuberant way is all very normal and natural for that friendly dog. You can teach your dog that standing or sitting are much preferred ways of approaching you by teaching and reinforcing these behaviors; I will typically give soft praise and maybe one treat for standing while sitting gets more! By “grading” it this way, the dog can learn that sitting is the most valued way to greet. You can also manage this behavior by keeping your dog on a leash or tether, or behind a gate when guests come over. Management is important so a dog won’t get more practice at the undesired behavior, and you can then prompt for a sit and reinforce it–not only with treats, but by ultimately getting to meet the guest! If the dog breaks the sit, the guest can walk away. Only by sitting does the guest get to come say hi, and give attention.
  • The magical mat: I am a HUGE fan of teaching dogs to relax on a mat, and use it as an alternate behavior in many situations. By having a dog learn a default down behavior on a mat, you can pair it with going there to greet guests, to get their own special stuffed Kong while guests enjoy their meal, and many more scenarios. By reinforcing the dog lying down on the mat, being relaxed on his hip, putting his head down, etc., he will view the mat as a place for doing those calm behaviors. You can also teach him how to go to the mat when the doorbell rings! There are many applications for this tool; we also love this list from The Modern Dog Trainer.

We hope these tips can help you survive this special time of year. Please contact us if you need more help! We do have openings in our schedule, and would love to work with you.

Happy Holidays!
Owner, Delightful Doggies

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