Christmas holiday safety tips

dog-xmas-5By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

I am officially in the Christmas mood. The day after Thanksgiving, I turned on the Christmas music, my family and I picked out our Christmas tree, and I am just about done with my Christmas shopping. I am definitely feeling the spirit.

Since my husband and I had kids, we have decided that Christmas will be at our house. Since we no longer travel for the big day, we have an open door policy. We love visitors and welcome friends and family to stop by and celebrate with us. I encourage both two and four-legged visitors, but with kids in the house, I have some rules in place. Because I want the day to be fun and relaxing, I ensure that safety is top priority.

No matter who you celebrate with or how you celebrate, it’s always wise to ensure your dog is set up to enjoy the festivities. Whether you are hosting or visiting, below are some tips to help your dog survive this festive holiday.

Keep presents away: My dog, Bailey, could have cared less about wrapped presents. But as soon as the paper was off, the paper was hers. But some dogs believe that anything on the floor is theirs. If your dog is more like the latter, keep presents up or behind a gate to avoid any disasters.

Pay attention to your décor: I love to decorate the house for Christmas, but I try to be aware of what I decorate with. Tinsel can be very enticing to dogs, but they are a safety concern (if swallowed, they can get tangled in the intestines). Poinsettias are beautiful, but they are poisonous to dogs. And I love lights on the Christmas tree and all around my house. If you do too, just make sure that your dog can’t get to the cords and chew on them. Basically, just use common sense when decorating.

Watch your dog around kids: Christmas is a big holiday for kids. All the presents under the tree, a visit from Santa, cookies, and such can bring a lot of excitement. Because they all might be a little more excited than usual, it is best to keep kids and dogs separated as much as possible. No matter how much your dog enjoys kids, not every kid will feel comfortable around your dog, and your dog might not appreciate the extra chaos that the holidays bring. No matter what, it is better to be safe than sorry, so just keep dogs and kids separated.

Keep a leash on your dog: When your dog is out and about in the house, it is wise to keep a light leash on them. Leashes are a great tool to help keep your dogs away from the Christmas cookies and appetizers, prevent them from jumping up on people, and it doesn’t allow them to escape when the door is left open after Aunt May is welcomed indoors.

Gates, crates, and more gates: Every dog needs some down time, so it is best to have your crate set up in a quiet room. I like to put on some relaxing music or white noise to drown out the noise of party goers and give them a bone or Kong filled with their favorite treat. If you don’t have a crate, set up a small room such as a bathroom or laundry room (make sure there is nothing that they can get into), put down their bed or towel, give them a treat and put up a gate. Make sure that they will be left alone and can have time to relax. If your dog is super stressed and needs to be around people, set up some gates so they are near the commotion, but can’t get out to get into trouble. This also ensures that kids can’t get to them.

Remember, Christmas should be a day of relaxing, sharing memories with friends and family, and letting kids revel in the magic. Pets are such an important part of our lives, so safety is key while we make special holiday memories to make.

No matter how you celebrate the season – Happy Holidays, and stay safe out there!

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Be sure to watch the FetchFind webcast – Safe Holidays are Happy Holidays – Jamie Migdal, Aracely Cordes, DVM, and I talk about how you can keep your pets and family safe during this busy and sometimes overwhelming time of year.

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.

 

Getting Fido ready for the new baby: Six tips to help with a smooth transition

jamie-migdal-with-baby-and-the-poodle

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

The stork is going to be paying a visit to some dear friends of mine early next year, and so it’s the perfect time to review the things you can do to make the addition of the new bundle of joy easier on your dog (and, by extension, your entire family).

Be proactive!  Don’t wait until the day before baby arrives to start training your pooch.  If there are behavior issues you are concerned about, get out there and start working on them today. Call in a professional dog trainer if necessary, or check out programs like the ones offered by Family Paws.

Familiarize your dog with babies. If your dog has never seen a stroller or heard an infant’s cry, you’ll want to make those introductions before baby arrives.  If you have friends or relatives with babies, make a date to spend some time with them.  Some dogs can be tentative around unfamiliar objects, so allow him to sniff and experience the nuances of items such as strollers, baby wipes, and noise-making toys.

Teach your dog to wait at the top and bottom of stairs. This little trick will prevent the possibility of tripping over your dog while you are carrying the baby up and down the stairs. (Also, if you are using a flexi-lead – get rid of it now and start using a regular 6’ leash.)

Get your dog his own bed. You may not want your dog on the bed or sofa with the baby, especially if you are nursing. Get a super-duper plush dog bed and start introducing him to it as an alternative. But remember to spend some time on the floor with your dog, as you want to avoid any potential of him becoming too possessive over his new special spot.  Another idea is to give him a dog bed for each highly used area of the house, so he always has somewhere to “go lie down.”

Prepare for visitors.  If your dog has a habit of jumping up or being timid around visitors, address this immediately. Put some treats outside your door and ask pre-baby visitors to offer him a treat if he displays good manners – aim for “four on the floor”, and only give attention to him when he has all four paws in contact with the ground. If your dog isn’t already crate-trained, get started on that right away; that will give him a place to retreat when things get overwhelming, and it will help you to know that your dog is safe when people are going in and out the front door. You don’t want to add “searching for your lost dog” to your to-do list.

Get a dog walker.  Things can get pretty hectic with a newborn, and it’s in your dog’s best interest to have some fun while you are busy with baby. Additionally, make it a priority to spend quality time with your dog, even if it’s just a few minutes a day.  Although dogs are known and revered for their resilience in new situations, remember that your dog had been your “baby” for a long time.  Do what you can to make sure that your dog doesn’t resent his new housemate, while maintaining the rules and consistency already established.

Life after dog, part 2: life with kids

life after dog pt 2

By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

In part one of my Life After Dog series, I talked about the loss of our dog Bailey and the effect that had on me. In part two, I am going to talk about life with kids after dog.

I have two young kids. My daughter, Amelia, just turned three and my son, Henry, is 8 months old. Life is hectic. My daughter is in the middle of potty training (I am not a fan of this process) and my son is crawling and is already starting to scoot around the house. I expect he will be walking any day now. So, needless to say, there is a lot going on in the Schneider household.

I will admit that life is easier without a dog right now. I don’t constantly have to manage where the dog is in correlation to the kids and worry about potential bites. When it comes to dogs and kids, management and constant supervision are vital. Dog bites happen and they happen fast, especially to kids. I am part of an organization called Family Paws. We work with families on how to prepare their dogs for babies and toddlers. We are constantly talking about supervision and the importance of Active Supervision, which means there is fully awake adult supervision. I don’t know about you, but with two very active kids, I don’t always have the energy for fully awake supervision; thus, not having a dog makes my life easier.

But if Bailey were still around, I would be working very hard to ensure everyone’s safety in my household.  Towards the end of Bailey’s life, Amelia wasn’t even 18 months. I noticed that Bailey became much more anxious and wasn’t willing to walk away when she was feeling threatened by my mobile toddler. I know the cancer was starting to bother her more and she didn’t always feel the best. When a dog doesn’t feel good, they tend to react more. And that is exactly what was happening.

Bailey stopped making good decisions and started reacting.

So we spent a lot more time practicing Proactive Supervision, which includes planning and preparing safe separation. This meant we separated my daughter and Bailey with gates and crates. When Bailey was feeling especially bad after a bout of chemo, we put her in her crate with something to chew on. When she was in a better mood, we separated her with a gate across the room. She was always in proximity to us, but she never had to be put in a situation where she felt threatened and Amelia didn’t have to be put in a dangerous scenario. Safety was key.

Now that Bailey is gone, I don’t have the constant pressure of ensuring everyone’s safety around a dog. But I also don’t have the constant ability to teach my children about proper etiquette around dogs. I think it is very important for children to learn how to act around dogs at a very young age. They need to understand that dogs are not a toy and cannot be grabbed at or climbed on. Dogs have feelings and deserve their own space. They also need to understand that not all dogs are friendly. Dogs can bite. Maybe we will have a dog that will love my children no matter what. But my children need to learn that their friend’s dog might not love new people, so they shouldn’t go up and hug the dog at the next birthday party. Dog etiquette is very important.

Bailey is constantly brought up in our house. We have pictures of here everywhere and we talk about her all the time. So even though Bailey isn’t here, we are using the lessons we learned from her. I will be much more prepared for a dog with kids when the timing is right. Until then, I hope to keep the memory of Bailey alive in my house, use examples to teach them safety and help other families through Family Paws and my own business.

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.