We've made it through 2021!
Our very best festive wishes to you and yours :-)
Amanda, Rodna, David and Ruth Gentle Modern School of Dog Training
Keeping festive gatherings positive for your dog
As much as we look forward to them (perhaps especially this year), parties and other festivities are likely to be a cause of some stress for us humans. Imagine what the experience might be like for our furry companions: they may never have experienced groups of unfamiliar people at your home or, with COVID-19, such gatherings may have been quite a long time ago. An article, The Development of Fear, by Kristina Spaulding is essential pre-Xmas/New Year reading.
"The most important thing we can do is pay attention to what our dogs are telling us and remove them from situations that are upsetting to them. Watch their body language. Are they tense? Yawning or lip licking? Are their tails tucked or their ears down? These are all signs that they are uncomfortable.
Also watch their behavior. Are they avoiding interacting with other people or dogs? Trying to get away from the situation? Refusing to take food that they would normally enjoy? These are also signs that the dog is struggling to cope. Even dogs that may seem happy and excited could be struggling to cope. If the dog cannot settle or is jumping up and mouthing at the owners (or another familiar source of comfort) repeatedly, that could be a sign that he or she is overwhelmed.
In these cases, moving the dog to a quieter place where they can get a break can be very helpful. Next time, consider how you can introduce them to the situation more slowly or do so in an area where the dog has more space to move away or choose a situation that is less busy and stressful.
The goal is to maximize the dog's positive experiences and minimize their negative experiences.
When they do experience something upsetting, giving the dog the choice to move away also teaches them they have the ability to escape something aversive. Learning they have control over their environment is extremely powerful and can have a major impact on their future stress resilience."
If you can, appoint a member of the family to be on 'dog-duty' during your festive get-togethers - they are going to keep your dog's comfort level front-of-mind:
ready to remove your dog to a quiet space if it's all getting too much
keeping an eye on the level of water in the drinking bowl
watching out for food left lying on plates on the ground
making sure no one is bugging the dog
putting your dog on-lead if you have concerns for visitors who have mobility difficulties
Arrival time is often extremely exciting - your dog could be happily occupied in a room away from the door with a long-lasting chew with classical or reggae music playing. Your dog may be invited out when everything is much calmer.
Most important: think about your individual dog - how will they cope with parties and other gatherings? - and act to support them accordingly.
Pet Photos can be a great last-minute gift for others or for yourself!
Dr Melody Conklin has some great tips on the Zoetis blog. Think about lighting (natural light is ideal, artificial - think about lighting from the front and sides) and location (ideally a familiar area where your dog is comfortable). If you're going for a posed shot, enlist helpers; one to capture your dog's attention and one to take the photo if you're going to be in it.
The most important tip from the article: "Keep it positive. It's easy to get frustrated, especially if you're in a time crunch or someone is waiting on you and your pet to hit the right pose — but stay positive, and be patient. Understand this isn't something your dog or cat does every day. The best photo in the world isn't worth undue stress and anxiety for either of you."