THE SAVVY TRAINER

Parties, houseguests, holiday decorations, and plenty of rich food. The holiday season is here, and it can be as overwhelming for our furry friends as it is for us. It can also be very dangerous. But advance planning will help you and your pets get through it without incident. It’s a good idea to brush up on cues such as ‘Off,’ ‘Go to bed,’ ‘Down,’ ‘Stay,’ and ‘Leave it,’ but don’t count on training exclusively. Some management will be necessary to keep your pets safe. You will likely be busy and distracted and may not notice until Buddy has broken his stay and has a large piece of turkey in his mouth.

Some dogs get very nervous when visitors come into their house, and a busy holiday party can be too much for even a tolerant dog. Consider putting Buddy in a quiet bedroom or in a crate with a stuffed Kong or extra special chew toy until the festivities are over. Some quiet time is especially important if your dog is not comfortable around young children. Kids tend to find endless ways to torment dogs when they are not closely supervised, and dogs may snap or bite when cornered or scared.

Jumping up, counter-surfing, and stealing food are normal dog behaviors, and at a busy party there is ample opportunity to snatch the goodies and run. Some polite dogs take a different approach. My dog loves to snuggle up to some unsuspecting guest, give them ‘the look,’ and get fed a yummy appetizer. Rich, fatty foods can cause stomach problems ranging from simple upset to pancreatitis, which causes pain, vomiting, and dehydration. This is a very serious medical condition and can require hospitalization. Dogs should never be fed cooked bones, which are soft and can splinter, causing obstructions and choking. In addition, many holiday foods contain ingredients that can be poisonous to our pets. Onions, alcohol, chocolate, and xylitol (artificial sweetener) are especially dangerous.

Festive holiday decorations are part of the season but can spell disaster for our pets. Puppies, kittens, and adolescent animals love to chew on electrical cords. Part of our family lore is the time our kitten climbed the Christmas tree. Luckily, we had thought ahead and tied the tree to the wall with heavy fishing line. Broken ornaments, artificial snow, tinsel, lilies, and Christmas tree water can be dangerous or toxic if ingested. The bottom line — you have to be vigilant about cleaning up and supervising your pets.

Planning ahead can ensure a happy and accident-free holiday for your pets, but just in case, always keep the local emergency veterinarian’s phone number handy.

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