Are your Christmas preparations taking into consideration the busy-ness of Christmas, from a dog’s perspective?
It’s all a bit too much…
For many dogs, Christmas involves a degree of “too-muchness”. Now, how much too-muchness is experienced depends on how different your Christmas period is to any other time of year, and how chilled your dog is about the festive comings and goings that are approaching. Factors may include how many people come round (or how much visiting you do with them in tow), whether there are small children. Whether you sit around quietly watching TV and eating your body weight in twiglets and after eights, or whether it all gets a bit rowdy, with aunts and uncles heckling each other over charades, and small people screaming excitedly at the latest toy they’ve just unwrapped. Whether their usual calm spots where they’d go and relax have been moved to make way for a tree, or are alarmingly near to extra seating brought in for all your travelling visitors.
If any of this is different to usual, your dog will see a big difference in the pack and the territory, which can be a cause of confusion at best, alarm at worst.
We also need to consider whether any of your guests are a bit over the top with dogs. This can take the form of being nervous and flapping about a bit when they approach to check out the new arrival. It can also take the form of someone who seems to be incapable of leaving them alone.
So what I’ve described above, whether it’s at Christmas, or just any time of year with a gathering and celebrations, is something very different to normal day to day life for your dog. The territory and the pack dynamic are different and this is significant enough a reason to feel more stressed than usual and worry about their own and the pack’s wellbeing.
What does this mean?
If you have a relaxed dog, and/or been consistently following the 4 parts of the method of Amichien Bonding for some time and things are pretty balanced, then what it should mean is that they look to you as the pack leader for direction. When you act like this is nothing to worry about and you have no expectations of them, then they will be able to leave you to get on with things. They might even choose to go to bed or leave the room. You may get a little bit of agitated behaviour and ‘testing’ but it should be short-lived.
However, if you’ve never followed the leadership method with your dog, or things have slipped recently, then you might get a reaction along the lines of them seeing the change as a possible problem and some over the top behaviour could follow. Things like pacing about, jumping up, barking, getting involved, asserting themselves etc.
What to do
Whether you’ve got visitors, or you are going to be the visitors yourselves, it’s important to handle the arrival part in as matter of fact a way as possible. If you’re at home, pop dogs out of the way before letting visitors in. Get everyone in and settled and ask them to ignore the dogs. Once you’re happy they are calm and the guests know what to do, you can let the dogs back in again. This helps them to understand that no-one expects anything of them despite this change.
If you’ll be the one doing the arriving, someone pop into the house first to remind everyone that you are coming in and to ignore your dogs until they’ve had time to settle. Then walk them into the house on a lead, perhaps taking a trip to the garden first to relieve bladders then calmly bring into the house.
Once they are calm, it is okay for people to call them over to fuss them, but make sure that they getlots of periods of downtime too. Especially if things get a bit noisy and they look concerned, don’t interact with them at this time. Let them see that it doesn’t concern them, and they will be able to go and relax again.
Everyone may expect you to want to go for a walk with your dog and all want to come along. Whether this is a good idea or not depends on how calm the walk generally is. If it’s already hard work, don’t make it any harder by involving extra people! This is something that can be improved with clear leadership and gentle guidance. If you want any help with that, please get in touch!