The holiday season is here and we’re all very excited to get together with all of our loved ones! Our families are visiting from far away, laughter and stories are being shared, Daisy the dog is napping and waiting for left-overs, and Dozer the big, loving retriever is jumping around playing with the kids! However, some of us forget to think about Porky, the shy dog with anxiety and fear of strangers. The holiday season to her is a bunch of strangers walking into her home, yelling and laughing too loud, and letting their kids pull on her fur. If these situations are not handled properly, it could end up with Porky becoming scared enough to bite somebody! There are steps you can take to ensure that everyone, even the puppers, is enjoying themselves during the holiday season!
By managing the environment and having irresistible treats on hand, you can turn the holidays into a fun time for you and Porky! But the most important thing when having people over is to keep a read on her. Dogs don’t speak our language, they cannot just say “These people make me feel nervous, I don’t know who they are, and should I make them go away?” However they do have other ways of telling us how they feel, and it is important for us to recognize their body language and know how to to help them feel more safe.
For instance, if Porky is becoming stiff, tucking her tail, whale-eyeing (looking at you from the side, showing the whites of her eyes) or growling; she is trying to tell you that she is uncomfortable. Listen to her and do not yell at her for these behaviors, she is giving you a warning which is a good thing. Make sure you are introducing new people to her slowly, and again, with a lot of irresistible treats! Have the person get down on her level while still keeping their distance so she is not feeling so threatened. Be sure to tell the person to not stare her in her eyes, this can be very intimidating. Let Porky approach the person herself, and let her eat as many treats as she wants until she isn’t stiff anymore. A good way to tell if Porky is warming up to people is to have them do commands with her. If Porky is sitting and shaking for them, that’s a good sign that she is warming up to them! If Porky is taking a bit longer to trust people, try doing the introduction outside! Dogs can become territorial and may be more fearful in their home as they feel like they cannot escape. After they are comfortable outside together, you can then move inside and continue to treat and reinforce good behaviors!
Be sure to be EXTRA cautious with children. Kids are small and loud, and are very different and suspicious in a dog’s eye. Kids also do not recognize dog body language. If Porky is exhibiting any of the above behaviors towards children, it would be best to keep them away from her! This could mean putting her in a separate room with LOTS of treats and toys until they leave the house. This step may be necessary if Porky is not warming up to your other guests as well. If she is staying very stiff, growling at people, and especially if she is lunging/barking; it would be best for your loved ones and for your pup for her to be in the safety of her own room with her favorite treats and toys. You can practice introducing her to new people on regular basis and try again with the family next year! Porky will slowly become better with strangers, it is very important to be patient and understanding with her!
The holiday should be fun for everyone, make sure you’re playing it safe and thinking about the shy ones in the family! Have a happy Holiday and contact Sara Hamburger at Animal Care Sanctuary at firstname.lastname@example.org or (570) 596-2200 opt 7 if you have any further questions!
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