Holiday Guests? Pets Trained?

Holiday Guests? Pets Trained?

As you hurry to ready the house for guests this holiday season, have you said to yourself quietly, “I hope the Pets behave themselves when everyone is here.”  Maybe wishing you had brushed up on their Basic Manners skills a bit with a few training exercises?

Don’t panic.  You’ve got this.  It’s great that you are aware of the potential for chaos and possibility of calm.  With this awareness, some minor prep and a few guidelines, you and your Pets will be successful this holiday.  Please re-commit to your Pets that you will help them improve certain skills once the guests leave.  Otherwise, pat yourself on the back for taking a few moments to sort this out and enjoy your holidays.

Now is not the time to insist you and your Pet master whichever Basic Manners are rusty or not refined.  This is the time to come up with a clear management plan to prevent stress, also known as Mr. Buzz Kill, from attending your party.

Take a History
With paper and pen in hand, walk around your home and visually remember which interactions with visitors your Pets have had difficulty with in the past and at which locations in your home.  Record all of them even if your Pet has done better with this behavior outside of the home since then.  Success in some locations does not guarantee success in another.

Dare to Dream
Now turn those memories on their heads and picture a video playing of your Dog or Cat behaving how you want them to in each scenario.  Actually picture the body movements.  Instead of, “I just don’t want her to jump on Grandma again” see your furry girl in a calm Sit as Grandma reaches under her chin to scratch her and say, “Hello, Sweetie.”  This will greatly inform and empower your strategy.  How you ask?

Next to each interaction in your list, rate from 1 to 3 which behaviors your Pet has experienced the most and least difficulty.  1 denotes “Little Difficulty” and 3 represents “Extreme Difficulty.”  This is where your plan takes shape.  Let’s use the behavioral issue of a Dog who jumps when greeting as our working example.

Put It on Lock Down – For the 3s on your list, it is your mission to not let this behavioral interaction happen at all using prevention.  Why stress you, your Pet or your guests. Using our above example, a 3 would indicate that a Polite Greeting is not yet possible for our pooch.  One option is to place your Pet in the room furthest away from the front door with no direct view of the door to remove visual and audio stimulus of people entering your home.  Unlock your front doors and place a note outside which tells guests “Please come right in!” so they don’t knock or ring the doorbell (assuming your needed safety and comfort levels for doing this are in place).  This will help minimize stimulation further.  Let your Dog enjoy a quiet room with a frozen, stuffed Kong you give her before anyone arrives.  Have a second one loaded and ready for her should the need arise.  There will be no need to feed her a regular meal at dinner time, she will be quite happy with this fun treat and have a nice nap afterwards from all the yummy Kong-cicle she just enjoyed.

Manage Heavy – For behaviors numbered 2, perhaps you have worked on Polite Greetings but have hit a roadblock.  Your Pet recovers well after the greeting has happened (behaves calm after the initial presentation of this interaction) but gets jumpy when people first arrive in your home. Let’s use the same scenario with your Dog in the designated room with her stuffed toy.  One option to consider is to allow all of your guests to arrive then bring her out on a lead tethered to you to greet everyone.  To tether, attach the lead handle to a belt loop with a carabiner or loop the leash around your waist and through the handle then attach it to her collar.  This frees up your hands but allows you to keep her on a short lead to prevent jumping on guests.  She will have had time to enjoy her Kong and work out some of that extra energy she has from hearing visitors’ voices and footsteps.  This gives you the opportunity to create a structured experience in which you help her succeed with minimal strife to anyone present.  Once she has had a chance to take everyone in with a sniff or petting in a relatively calm manner and displays calm behavior, then remove the lead and return to your fun.  If not possible, then simply return her to the back room with that extra stuffed Kong you were smart to prep.

Manage Light – Our 1s on the list allow us to practice the Polite Greeting skill our girl has almost mastered, but has not yet perfected.  We are going to use a management tool to allow our Dog to be present when merry makers arrive.  As in the above example, tether her lead to you or another adult family member who is the official greeter.  Keep a bowl of training treats just inside the front door or in a bait bag attached to you.  If you are asking guests to enter on their own you may handle greetings one of two ways; find a comfortable place in the main room inside the front door where you stand with her as guests arrive or you could simply go about your socializing in any part of the house and instead have people greet you as they enter.  Either way, ask your Dog for a Sit when each person is saying hello to you.  If this is not likely to be successful, don’t ask for the Sit but use your management tool, the lead, to prevent jumping.  If we ask for a Sit over and over without the proper response being given by the Dog, we will poison the cue and lessen our chance of success later where we do have a chance at practicing this skill in a more controlled environment.

If able to work on Sit, treat for the initial Sit and treat again if she remains in a Sit for greetings.  Remember, people don’t have to actually pet your dog.  The goal is simply to prevent jumping and enable a Sit.  In this scenario, it may actually be preferred to ask people, “Please don’t greet/pet her today since we’re working on Sit.”  Most people are very happy to be a part of the progress.  You can ask them to “Step back if she breaks her Sit.”

There are many ways to use Management in training, but hopefully these ideas will get your creativity brimming with other ways to prevent unwanted behaviors from being practiced and help minimize stress until you can practice in a low stimulation environment.  Knowing from experience which social situations are difficult for your Pet can arm you both with an informed strategy for the holiday’s festivities and further your bond.  Your Pet will appreciate your support and you will understand her needs better too.




Basic Pet Supplies List

Basic Pet Supplies List

A friend of mine adopted a Dog not long ago and asked what basic items she should be sure to have on hand from the start. The following compilation evolved from that. This is a high level list and by no means definitive, but I hope it is of some help to those of you bringing a new Pet into your home.

You may need an item right away and run out to the nearest pet supply store for that item. By all means, it’s best to keep your Pet comfortable and healthy and get any needed supply or grooming tool sooner than later.  However, when you can plan ahead, ask your locally owned shop to order any items you need that they don’t already carry.  When asked they can often meet or beat online prices or at least come very close enabling a win-win for you and the local pet supply store.  SouthPaw has several favorite shops in town we work with for our many needs.

In the rare case you must buy online, here’s a list of a few of my preferred supplier sites. Feel free to contact me for help in finding any specific or specialty items or with any questions.

General and Medical Supplies

Pet Product Reviews

Leashes: For training you will need a regular leash at least 4ft. long and no longer than 6ft. in length in nylon, hemp or leather. For training, do not use any leash that is very thick and round in design like rope leashes. You need something that will be fairly light, transmit the feel of movement between you and your pet well and yet is still durable.

Collars: I like leather ones but they’re harder to keep clean.  Whether nylon, hemp or leather, consider your breed’s size and opt for a wider collar over thin.  Thinner collars can create harsh pressure on your pet’s neck.

I recommend a snap-on instead of buckle closure – easier on/off, but if you are like me, you will end up with a collection of collars of all types. Be sure to always latch/unlatch with clasp positioned at back of neck to avoid pinching skin.

Poo Bags: Grocery bags or newspaper bags are great and make good re-use of an otherwise single use item. Otherwise, please use biodegradable poo bags available online or in stores and please use them.

Heavy duty plastic or metal crate (if crate training): Measure length and height of dog and order accordingly so pet can stand and turn when in the crate. If unsure, order down in size.

Crate pad: Should fit inside crate with pad cover. Buy one with a removable cover to wash frequently (indispensable tip: use white vinegar in the wash. Then when you put hairy doggy items in the dryer, the hair will be easily wicked out of the fabric. Otherwise it will cling to the material – ack!)

Do not use this foam pad until you know he will not shred what is placed in the crate. Until then, use old towels and/or blankets that have your scent on them. If need be, sleep with the items for a night or rub them on you then place in crate – major bonding occurs with this due to your pheromones being left on the items and it will keep pet calmer.

Feeders: Ceramic breeds bacteria more easily and is, therefore, hard to keep clean.  If you insist on ceramic, it is fine, but know that you will need to clean them very regularly.

“Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus” (“GDV”), commonly known as “Bloat” is a bloating of the stomach often related to swallowed air (although food and fluid can also be present).  It usually happens when there’s an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach. Size the feeder to height of pet’s chest level so he takes in less air when eating. This goes a long way to prevent gas and “Bloat.” It is generally better for their digestion.

We use the “Neater Feeder” for all our critters. A lip around the edge lessens food and water on the floor. A bit expensive but the best I’ve ever seen/used for tidier, healthier meal times.

Kibble, Wet Food and Water: Though choosing between all kibble, all wet food or a combination of the two involves personal preference, there are other reasons to take a moment to consider what and how you will feed your pet. My dogs eat kibble with a little wet food in the a.m. and mostly kibble in the p.m.

Feeding all kibble or a diet primarily containing kibble (or other healthy whole foods) helps maintain tooth and gum health. An all or mostly wet food diet can increase gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath as the food clings to mouth surfaces more and for longer periods of time.

I recommend foods with whole food ingredients, no preservatives or fillers = happy, healthy pet. As an added perk this also equals less money going toward vet bill.

A full raw or partially raw diet is also a wonderful option and many dogs benefit from it greatly. Be sure to consult a knowledgeable professional who has extensive experience with managing raw diets for pets before embarking on this regimen. When done properly, there are extensive health benefits for your furry friend.

Feeding twice a day instead of once is also recommended for optimum energy and digestion.

Purified water, please. “Extreme,” you may think? If you believe in it for yourself, believe in it for your pet – see above about health. We installed a water purifier at the tap level for our convenience and to save money.

Brushes, Combs, De-matters, Nail Clippers, etc.: Grooming your pet to some degree, even if you take them to a groomer for the big jobs, serves as a wonderful bonding time between you and your pet.

Call a groomer (or a former groomer like me) and do an online search about which tools are appropriate for your breed or mix. Buy those supplies and use them. I like the Millers-Forge brand for many items. Go with Stainless Steel whenever an option for durability, strength and life of the product.

Dental care is not fun but has big benefits. Preventative care will lessen the need for your pet to going under general anesthesia for a full cleaning by the vet. Be sure to use an enzymatic tooth paste. TropiClean brand has a good oral care line. I’ll admit I don’t brush my pets’ teeth every day, so for between brushings we use the Clean Teeth Gel and the Water Additive.

Training treats: Have a “high value treat” on hand for training. I’ve used “Train Me” and “Zuke’s Mini Naturals.” Great flavor, size and consistency. Yes, I tasted them. What can I say? I care.

Coat: If your dog is short haired and/or spends extended periods of time in the cold, it is a must.

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