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I was in Palm Beach Gardens last week following up with a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® client and his Poodle Lola helping him to fine tune some of his perimeter training.  There was a small issue regarding some ducks across the street causing an increased distraction.  We quickly took care of that.  After our session, we were discussing the Holidays and he mentioned that he had family coming over for Thanksgiving and the house was normally a crazy place with kids and animals.  He knew that I am a behavioral dog trainer and asked if I had any suggestions for a house full of people, kids, and dogs.

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Crazy family, kids, and dogs seem to be just as much a part of Holiday festivities as turkey and college foot ball games.  We have seemed to figure out the turkey and foot ball games, but the kids and dogs still seem to be an ongoing “work in progress”.  What we need to do is to step back for a moment and understand what, exactly is going on.

During most of the year, our family and family dog live in peaceful, quiet harmony.  Then the Holidays come and all bets are off.  The difference is that, all of a sudden, our dog’s quiet and consistent environment has become chaotic and adrenalized.  All the natural activities, consistent smells, and normal sights have instantly and extremely changed.

Dogs do not like quick changes.  It destroys their natural feeling of safety and harmony.  They need to see what has happened and determine what they need to do about it to regain their sense of safety and security.

They will become more dominant as they feel the need to check every new individual.  This will manifest itself in the form of jumping on guests, nipping you for attention, barking at unusual sounds, etc.

They will take food and items they never took before.  This is because you will be leaving food and goodies around the house or your guests will leave their plates of food on the sofa as they take a bathroom break.  These items become “fair game” for them and they will naturally take them.

They might potty in the house when they never did before.  With your seeming lack of leadership and the smells of new people and animals in the house, they need to establish their ownership or they will think they are being “thrown out”.  Sometimes even your guests’ suitcases left in the hallway will become targets of their potty marking.

They will become more destructive and adrenalized in the house.  Your nieces and nephiews are running around, why shouldn’t your dog and the other dogs?  Kids naturally do things in the house that encourage the adrenalized “puppy games” that all our dogs played at one time.  Their presence simply brings back all those “puppy memories” and gets things going nuts.

So what, exactly, is going on?

The items that have changed in our dog’s eyes are the fact that we have given up our leadership by allowing chaos to ascend over his world.  We need to correct this by reestablishing leadership with the result of regaining his respectful focus.  We need to place a calm and consistent leader in front of our dogs and provide them with clear rules and activities.  As an added bonus, we would like to get our kids a little calmer too.

Here are the steps you need to enact.

  • Place a leash on your dog so that you can more easily control (catch) him.
  • Build a bond between the kids and your dog. Explain that it is very important that he remains happy and safe and that they can really help out the entire family if they can make this happen.  “Assign them to your dog” by having them all stand quietly as you calmly walk him around the room for a few minutes.
  • Next, hand the leash to one of the kids and ask them to calmly walk him around the room. Help out if anything starts to get adrenalized or crazy.  Repeat this with every child.
  • Make a list of activities for the children and your dog to perform. These activities could be watching TV, playing in the back yard, walking around the yard.  You could also even set up a challenge where you may see who can have your dog the most obedient and well behaved.
  • Now it is time to leave the kids with the dog. Let them know that you will be checking in on them and that there will always be someone nearby.  You need to have an adult passively watching them and “keeping an ear out” if anything gets out of control.  Try to minimize your presence so that the kids can obtain a feeling of accomplishment that they are helping out the family as well as building a bond with your dog.
  • Check in on them and let them know what a great job they are doing. Praise your dog on the great job hi is doing.  If they start to “fall back into chaos”, bring out the “list of stuff” you wanted them to accomplish and assign them the next task.
  • Make sure that the kids and your dog get outside for some general play time (adrenaline burn-off) every 90 minutes or so.
  • As it is getting close to meal time, have the kids assist in feeding your dog to continue the bond and focus between the two. I want you to “take the point” on this one because meal times can cause some jumping and possible food nipping.  Let the kids be the “co-pilots” for this activity.

Kids and dogs are a natural mix.  Having them focus on each other through a process you have established that is fun and calm is a great thing for everyone involved.  It returns a sense of normalcy for your dog as well as focusing the kids on constructive activities.

Trying to manage your kids and your family’s kids as well as the dogs on a Holiday afternoon can always be a challenge.  Every attempt to keep them calm and focused is always the best way to go.  Call Robin or myself if you have any dog training and dog fence questions by clicking on Palm Beach Gardens Dog Fence Training Help.  You can find more information on Dog Problems and Dog Training at Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers Palm Beach Gardens South FloridaWe have been dog trainers in South Florida for the last eleven years.  Robin and I estimate that over 3,500 dogs and their owners have gone through our training program.  If you would like to learn more about us and our dog training, please visit Home Dog Training Palm Beach Gardens South Florida.