Doggy Behavioral Safety During the Holidays

There are plenty of holiday safety tips out there for pets, but what about behavioral safety?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

You'll find plenty of holiday safety tips for pets out there -- watch out for the tinsel (a good way to mess up kitty and pooch intestines) and chocolate; secure Dogalini and Kittychai in the car when traveling; make sure the mistletoe's out of reach. What hardly anybody mentions is behavioral safety.

Even the nicest dogs can get overwhelmed when there's a lot of noise and activity -- people coming and going, kids playing, maybe some family stresses turning into arguments. These are just the conditions under which many pet guardians find themselves saying "But he's never bitten anybody before!"

Make sure your dog gets the rest and quiet time everybody needs, animals included.

If your dog is shy and slow to warm up to new people, give her a refuge during parties, so she isn't freaked out by strangers trying to make friends with her. If you have an old dog, she may be achy and sore, and that can make her growl or snap if a playful kid bumps into her. Or she may be easily startled if she can't hear or see well. She needs a refuge, too, for everybody's sake.

Maybe the biggest behavioral safety tip of all: Don't bring a new dog or puppy home over the holidays. Adjusting to a new life is stressful anyway -- plus, puppies and dogs thrive on predictable routines and clear, reward-based rules. I don't know any superheroes who can give a baby dog or new adoptee the time and focus they need to get the best start in a new home at holiday time. Bring home an IOU instead, and save the actual beastie for later, when you've caught your breath. (Meanwhile, my book, The Dog Trainer's Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet, might be just the stocking-stuffer you need to get yourselves ready for Adoption Day, eh?)

Holiday Dogs image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).