ABC Founder and CEO Steve Appelbaum helps get your Furry Friend safely and comfortably through the holiday season!
Hard to believe as it may seem, the holidays are upon us. For most people this means family get-togethers with lots of good food and a promise to start that exercise program right after the first of the year. What many pet owners don’t know is that the holidays can also be a dangerous time of the year for your dog.
Let’s look at some of the danger zones.
1. Food: What’s good for us isn’t always good for our pooch. Although your dog might look at you with eyes that suggest starvation is imminent, a big piece of turkey can cause more harm than good. Turkey skin is usually too greasy and fatty for your dog and might cause diarrhea and/or an upset stomach. In some instances, particularly with older dogs, this can even cause or exacerbate Pancreatitis. Turkey bones can splinter and cause real medical problems. Additionally, raw or undercooked turkey can contain Salmonella which is as toxic for dogs as it is for you.
Most people know that chocolate is something to keep away from dogs, but how many of you are aware that onions and garlic are also potentially dangerous to your pet? They both contain sulfides which can cause anemia in some dogs.
Walnuts, mushrooms and macadamia nuts are also on the forbidden list as is nutmeg which can actually be quite deadly.
2. Wrapping: Aluminum foil and plastic wrap are wonderful modern tools for helping store leftovers. However, dogs have been known to…gasp…steal leftovers and consume them with the foil and/or wrap still on them. So be aware and careful about where you put things.
3. Children and other guests: If your dog isn’t used to being around a lot of people, especially young kids, and you plan on having guests over for Thanksgiving, spend some time prior to the holidays getting the dog used to being around people. Take your dog somewhere that people frequent and, standing far enough away that the dog isn’t stressed, feed and praise the dog for all calm behavior. If you do this for a week or two, most dogs will be much more comfortable around people. If you have real concerns about the dog’s ability to interact, contact a professional trainer. Additionally many trainers suggest keeping your dog on a leash when she greets holiday guests. Although this might be a bit inconvenient, it will allow you to restrict your dogs jumping and possibly scaring guests. Once everyone has arrived and the dog is calm you can probably take her off the leash. Remember to never leave a dog on a leash unattended.
4. Sanctuary: Consider giving the dog a quiet place where she can retreat if things get too loud or intense for her. A spare room, the garage, anywhere that is away from the flow of traffic and, of course, safe.
5. Training: Although it might be a bit late to train your dog to listen (or listen better) to obedience commands in time for Thanksgiving, it is still important, and other holidays are right around the corner! Think about it. The more your dog listens, the easier she will be to control around guests and other distractions. Positive, balanced approaches to training are best as you want a pet that learns positively. Get the rest of the family involved as well as these skills will last well beyond the holiday season.
Teach your dog not to run out of doors or gates as these might be left open more often during the holidays. Basic boundary training is an essential part of any dog training program.
Finally, make sure that your dog wears tags just in case she gets out during this or any other times. All dogs should be microchipped too.
By taking these simple, important precautions, the holidays can be a wonderful time for everyone, including your furry friends.
Steve Appelbaum is the president of Animal Behavior College, the largest animal career vocational school of its kind in North America. He has been a professional dog trainer for over 30 years and is a published author, lecturer, and animal podcast co-host.