By Camp Bow Wow
Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…. Gathering with family is a wonderful part of the holiday season but raises a quandary for pet parents. What is the best plan for your furry family members? Should you bring them with you when you travel, or will looking after their transportation and lodging needs add unwanted stress to the festivities?
While you hate for Fido to miss out on the fun, assess the situation to determine what’s appropriate. Are other guests allergic to your precious pooch? Will the house be full of small children who would need constant supervision around a non-child friendly dog? Is your pooch elderly or so timid that being in the hustle and bustle would cause distress? If so, you might consider boarding at doggy camp or enlisting a trusted friend or pet sitter to care for them at home where their environment is quiet and more comfortable.
However, if your gregarious pup looks forward to joining in with a pack of relatives — furry and human — the solution might be to bring him along. Heed the advice from the Humane Society to make sure your pup’s introduction to the party goes smoothly.
Allow host and guest dogs to become familiar with each other in neutral territory. Place each/all pups on a leash and introduce them to each other outside of the home. As the dogs see each other, reward good behavior with treats and positive verbal reinforcement. While keeping some distance, pay attention to their body language and watch carefully for any indication they are wary or defensive, like growling, baring teeth or the hair bristling. Let the pups continue to walk and sniff to help them avoid encroaching too quickly on the other dogs’ space. Again, reinforce friendly behavior with words and treats.
Begin walking together on a parallel track. As long as friendly behavior continues, you can let them walk more closely and sniff each other. Don’t be in a rush. Let the pups determine when they feel comfortable enough to want to get close or play. As long as all things remain pleasant between the potential pack members, you can bring them into the house together.
Before they come in, remove any food, treats or toys that could potentially cause conflict. Keep a close eye on all the new furry friends as they interact inside, rewarding them all equally with treats, until you are completely confident they are safe with each other. Sometimes jealousy or over-excitement can trigger aggressive behavior even hours into a visit, so keep checking in with your particular pooch to monitor the interaction.
Just like kids can get cranky when they are tired or overstimulated, create a place for Fido to recharge. Place his crate or pillow in a quiet spot where he can sleep undisturbed by unfamiliar routines, people or pack members. We all need rest to be on our best behavior, and your furry family member is no exception.
Now you can enjoy your festivities knowing you’ve planned for Fido’s holiday also to be merry and bright.