Happy Holi-dog-day

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By Tracie Korol

Canned pumpkin has been moved to its own display in the front of the grocery and the question “what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” is part of every conversation so it’s a fair guess we’re about to leap into the festivities once again. As we settle into the hustle, let’s remember our Best Friends appreciate a happy, safe holiday, too. When planning a festive occasion, consider the following:

Train, don’t complain: Our dogs don’t come pre-programmed; they rely on us to teach them acceptable behavior. Jumping up, stealing food, counter cruising, idiot barking and digging are all perfectly normal behaviors … to our dogs. Unfortunately, they are also behaviors that irritate owners. When holiday houseguests arrive, when there’s an excited energy in the air and when the household is completely off schedule it becomes the perfect time for our dogs to engage in unwanted activities.  Help remind your dog to remember what is expected of him by practicing and rewarding desired behaviors on a daily basis. Even your old, well-trained been-around-forever dog will welcome the attention of a brush-up of basic skills.

The gift of management: In a perfect world our dogs would behave just like those robot-dogs in the Hallmark specials.  However, in the real world we need to affect our management skills to out-think or pre-think our beloved pets. If Barney is a skilled, if occasional, counter-cruiser, consider baby-gating him out of the kitchen during peak preparation/service times. Tripping over an excited dog while holding a pan of boiling water is a sure opportunity to share your Thanksgiving with your veterinarian. Use your dog tools — baby gates, tethers and x-pens are extremely useful in times of high-level distraction. Whenever possible, give your dog something to do rather than let him get creative and find something to do.  Pre-gift your dog a squash-stuffed Kong or a Buster Cube. Working a food puzzle or a chew in his own crate in the spare room is the dog equivalent of “sit and color.”

Leave the leftovers: While it’s nice to think we’re going to maintain a good diet through the holidays, the solution is not peeling off the turkey skin and handing it to the nearest dog. Rich, fatty foods will cause stomach problems ranging from simple upsets all over the carpet at the most inopportune time to pancreatitis, a serious condition often requiring hospitalization.  At your holiday table, provide tiny bowls of kibble or baby carrots for guests, who might feel guilty in their own personal gluttony, to slip to the dog lurking under the table.

Take out the trash: During the holidays all sorts of leftovers are getting tossed into the garbage. This year, move your wastebasket to a shelf in the garage or set it up high outside so that your dog is not tempted to explore and find something he shouldn’t. When something as tempting as peels, roasting bags, string, pop-up timers and the stuff the kids won’t eat is within dog nose range, your pet can and will perform acrobatics that would earn him a place in the Cirque du Soleil. As a family you might be very careful not to put food in the trash but Uncle Joe doesn’t know you compost. Don’t tempt fate. After a party or meal with extended family or friends, take out the garbage.

Respect each other: Avoid forcing your dog on non-dog people and do not let your guests force themselves on your dog. Some folks become very unsociable upon getting “haired up”, as I like to call it, and conversely, some dogs do not care to serve as pony for the rodeo-grandchild. Set clear ground rules for how your dog is to be treated and if necessary, be prepared to remove your Best Friend if guests are unable or unwilling to follow them. Watch your dog for signs that he’s uncomfortable — yawning, lip licking, turning away or actively trying to get to anywhere else. If you know you dog has a fear or aggression issue, do everyone a favor and park him, with his Kong, in his crate, away from the action.

Be prepared: Just in case, keep the number of your veterinarian, the nearest emergency clinic, and the Animal Poison Control Center National Hotline (888-426-4435) handy. You never know.

These simple steps are all you need to do to ensure a safe Thanksgiving for your Best Friend. By keeping these tips in mind you can have a holiday season you can all enjoy.