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SG Susan Garrett
SG Holiday celebrations are just a great time for all of us, aren't they? But they can be a very stressful time
for your dog. So today I want to help you reduce the stress for your dog during holiday celebrations. Hi,
I'm Susan Garrett. Welcome to Shaped by Dog. When I think of Christmas at my home, and I'd go
home with my then three dogs and all of my brothers and sisters would be there. That would be nine of
them. Most of them with their wives. Most of them with three to four children. That meant our home at
Christmas had 40 or more people in it.
Many of them very small children under the age of six. It could have been a disaster. It was a great
opportunity for a small child to be bitten in the face, particularly because two of my three dogs were
Jack Russell Terriers. Cue the dramatic Terrier music. Is there such a thing as dramatic Terrier music?
My Jack Russell Terriers were as sweet as sweet could be. But hey terriers got this bad wrap, don't
they? So, let's just go with it. How are we going to make sure that the holidays are every bit as amazing
as they are meant to be requires a little bit of preparing on your part. But it's going to be worth it I
promise because the holidays could also be incredibly overwhelming for your dog. Please don't take for
granted that your dog is going to be a hundred percent fine with everything that's going to go on. Or
your dog is going to be a hundred percent fine with every person that wants to touch him.
Your dog may have been up to this point, but they may be sore, they may be getting older, or you may
have a puppy in the house. So, let's start by asking this question. Will you be holidaying at home and
having family and friends come in, or will you be visiting somebody else? Similar, but a couple of
differences. And so, we'll talk about when you go out visiting later in the podcast. For now, let's discuss
what we can do when we are the ones who are the hostess for the big holiday celebration.
There's really three stages. The stage one is what we do beforehand. Stage two is what we do the day
of, and stage three is what we do in the midst of all these people in our home with our dog or dogs.
Okay, prepare. Brush your dog up on Crate Games. You can never go wrong with a dog who's happy
to just chillax in their crate. And if you have not played Crate Games yet my friend you are in for the
surprise of your life. I'll leave a link here in the show notes. If you're here watching this on YouTube I'll
leave a link, actually I'll leave a little tag. I’ll put a tag right there you can just click on.
So, Crate Games will give your dog an opportunity to know “This is my home I'll be chillax and this is
cool”. And you're going to have your dog play all the different levels of Crate Games. And so, if by
chance on the day of the big celebration you decide “You know what I think my dogs had enough of all
these people. I'm just going to have my dog go and chill in a back room.”
They're going to go, “Oh, thank you.” We'll get more into what that looks like in a minute. So,
preparation is going to be Crate Games. Preparation number two, we'll be taking a deep dive into some
of the many games I have here on my podcast. I'm going to leave you a link to several different
episodes where I teach you how to teach your dog to do different behaviors.
Why would this be a preparation? Because it would be a great opportunity to share with your family
maybe three or four behaviors that can show that “Hey, dogs are brilliant. This is why I spend so much
time training my dog. Look at how much joy this brings to the dog and how much joy it brings to all of
you watching these behaviors that my dog can do.”
So, brush them up and we might be showing off a little bit at Christmas or Easter or Valentine’s Day
whenever we're having our big celebration, but that's okay because that helps everybody learn what
dogs are capable of. So, we've got Crate Games, we've got digging into a few of the behaviors that I'm
going to share with you here in previous episodes of the podcast. Then you're going to do things like
stuff some Toppls or some Kongs to have something that when you want to put them away by
themselves that they can have some interactive games. Start playing things like hiding cookies around
a certain room, like a quiet, furthest bedroom away from all the action.
So, you might hide some cookies around there with it and tell the dog search and have a search party.
You might walk in and out of that room. So, we've got a game that the dog can do and then they're just
going to relax and go to sleep with all the craziness going on in your house. I would make sure that
your exercise is on point prior to people coming over. So, you're walking the dog regularly. You have a
routine that takes the edge off the dog emotionally and physically before you have all these people
coming into their home.
Because let’s face it, this is different, you know, it might just be one or two people coming over and one
or two may be enough. If you go to episode number 112 here on Shaped by Dog, I talked about
something called trigger stacking. Now it could be, oh you've been doing a lot of baking and you're a
little bit more stressed and you’re, you know, it's Christmas. So, you’re wrapping presents and you're
doing all sorts of weird things. So, your dog may have been noticing things are different. And then we
have a couple of people coming into the house and now in the other room there's kids squealing.
Trigger stacking. I want you to be aware of that so we can be prepared and not have the dog get
So, preparation is going to be increasing the confinement time, playing a lot of Crate Games, teaching
your dog and brushing your dog up on those tricks and having him get used to being alone in a
bedroom. Now it could be in an ex-pen. It could be in a crate in that back bedroom. Also make sure you
brush up on your Hot Zone. You might do Hot Zone with a leash on to prevent your dog from jumping
on the guest. You might say, “Hey Susan, my dog's a rockstar at Hot Zone. They know how to stay up
on their dog bed when guests come in, it's not a problem.” The other thing I'd suggest you do, I put
together a little cartoon that you can download.
And it's an educational coloring piece. If you have young children around your home during the
holidays, this will give them an opportunity to do something with some crayons. And you could explain
some of the times it's good to approach and not approach a dog based on this little cartoon episode.
Now you can also add little events that you know your dog would prefer.
Like for example, do not ever pat my dog's ears. So do not ever pat Rover’s ears or whatever is
specific to your dog you can just add it to this cartoon. So, preparation we've got it. And now we're
going to go do day of, you've got a lot of things to do so make sure you make a checklist. Set up the
ex-pen where you want it to be, set up the hot zone, get that back bedroom prepared, fill up a few of
those really cool enrichment games so that you can throw the dog in the back bedroom and give them
an enrichment game for him to play with.
That's after you've taken the time, if you have the time, to have him appropriately visit with the people.
Now day of, I want you to remember this one rule. We can't expect all of your guests to have watched
Shaped by Dog and learn about TEMP and learn when your dog is a little overwhelmed. But you might
want to revisit episode number 20, learn about the invisible bubble of pressure that our dogs feel. But
we can't expect all of our family and friends to be that dog savvy. What we can help them to know is
how a dog will say “no, thank you”.
If my dog moves away when you're trying to pat, he's saying “no, thank you”. If my dog turns his head,
he's saying “no, thank you”. If he licks his lips, just make sure your guests know ‘Don't chase my dog.
He is allowed to say, “I don't feel comfortable with what's going on”.’ Listen to the dog. That's all. And of
course, if you have a dog that you are unsure of because he's too young and you don't have a history
or he's a little old and he might be getting a little bit cranky, which he's allowed to, then you're going to
be those dogs’ best advocates and you are not going to have unsupervised time with anyone.
Now my rule of thumb, my dogs all love kids, but I still do not allow the kids with my dogs during holiday
celebrations. There's just too much trigger stacking. There's too much opportunity for somebody to say
something in the wrong way. I won't take the risk with any of my nieces and nephews.
So, when the kids want to visit the dogs, it's a special time and we all go down there together. So don't
be afraid to make very clear criteria for your family. It could just be one rule. You can post it all around
the house. It could be as simple as ‘don't touch the dog’, or ‘if you want to talk to the dog make sure I'm
around’. Whatever that is, you are your dog's best advocate. All right, day of, now people are coming
in. You might want to have your dog on leash so that they're not jumping on your guests. You might
have them on a Hot Zone. You might want to have them as I do.
I just have my dogs away from the front door while everybody's coming in and then they can come out
one at a time or depending on who's here “All right, go and visit.” and they all have at it all at once. But
it's your decision.
Just be intentional about it in the way that's going to set you and your dogs up for success. Don't forget
to play some rounds of ItsYerChoice. If you can get some Turkey or whatever you're going to be
feeding that day, put it on the counters to see if your dog wants to put their paws up or give it a sniff
because Turkey bones are not good for dogs, so we don't want any accidents. And let's face it there's
going to be a lot going on, on that during that big holiday celebration, you won't have time to be really
on point. So, brush up ItsYerChoice early and often leading up to that holiday celebration.
So that's if family's coming over. What about if you are going to visit the family? Well, I would still do the
same preparing, print out that cartoon for the kids, bring some crayons along. You're going to practice
all of those games: Crate Games, ItsYerChoice, Hot Zone, sit to greet people. Practice all the things
that are going to be pertinent to your particular dog.
And when you're going to go make sure that you make this list ahead of time. You want to put all these
things in a bag. So first of all, you're going to be eating supper. Your dog should be allowed to eat
supper. Pack up your dog supper and take it with you. Of course, you're going to need a dog bowl and
a water bowl for your dog while you're away.
Now I'm assuming that it's just going to be a dinner or not like dinner and a movie and an overnight. So,
if it is you're going to have to pack more things. But water bowl, your dog's food and the food bowl. Of
course, you're going to need some cleanup bags because we're going to be walking our dogs once
we're there. You're going to need a leash and a collar or a head halter or a harness, depending on
what is your choice.
And a way for your dog to have time away, that could be an ex-pen, or it could be a crate. I don't like to
just rely on Hot Zones when I'm visiting somebody else. Because even my dogs who are super well
behaved, if they have another dog or if they have a lot of activity, they don't have a place that they
know is their spot in the house that they can go and chillax.
So, make sure that bring something with you. I personally when I'm traveling, I love soft sided crates.
But again, if you're going to use a soft sided crate make sure your dog has a history of it at home
because if they're anxious that trigger stacking can happen when you're in somebody else's home.
They might actually chew through that soft sided crate.
Something that I've never had happened because I prepare for it in advance. Now, just because you're
visiting somebody else doesn't mean you're not going to bring things that are going to enrich your dogs
during the day. So, it could be Toppl or Kong stuffed with things, treats or their food. I would bring their
training treats and I would bring a toy to play with them to take a break. You know, you probably want a
little bit of a break away from all the hubbub of the activity. Take your dog outside, do a little bit few
Recaller games or Home School the Dog games if you're in one of our programs. Just have some time
with you and your dog and then you can go back in.
Have it all ready. And of course, you're going to have your dog relieve themselves outside before you
go in the house. And when you do go in the house, I'm assuming that you've asked ahead and you've
cleared this so that nobody goes, “You've brought your dog?!” So, your dog is invited. I've made that
Make sure your dog's a little bit cleaned up. I mean, it's a holiday, right? Maybe take them to the
groomers, get them a little bouffant. And then you're going to have your dog on a leash, so they can't
go in, jump all over people. They may or may not go and see what's on the counter because even
though your dog may have great ItsYerChoice on the counters at home, they may surprise you with the
fact that that doesn't transfer super well in a new environment. But if you go in on-leash it's a great
opportunity to see if it does.
The final thing that I would bring when we're going to somebody else's house is a blanket that you can
put on your crate. So, your dog may not settle as well in somebody else's home. So, you put them in
the crate, you might give them their Toppls or an enrichment game. And then you're going to put the
cover over their crate so that they can finish their Toppl and then they can just chill because they don't
have to be looking at “Where am I? This is different.”
Now I would recommend that you practice this ahead of time, especially if you have a wire crate
because dogs can pull in the blankets into their crates. That would be a new form of enrichment for
And if you have a dog that does that, just put a piece of board on top or cardboard on top of your crate
that is bigger than the top of your crate so that the dogs can't get to the crate blanket. So, we've got the
crate or ex-pen, we've got their water bows, their food bowls, their dinner, their training treats, crate or
ex-pen, a cover for it, some stuffed Toppls, a training toy, of course a leash, harness, or head halter.
Put all that in a bag and you're good to go. Holiday time, let's face it, it's an amazing time to be with
people you love and care for. And it can be an amazing time to show them what good dog ownership is
like. Inspire them to say, “Hey, I wish I had a dog as well-trained as yours.”
That's what I wish for you. And it can come true if you prepare ahead. I'll see you next time here on
Shaped by Dog.