Puppy Proofing Christmas

Puppy's first Christmas is an exciting time for you as well as puppy, however it can also be really hard work. The house is full of new scents, sights and sounds, there are lots of things around which are potentially poisonous or harmful, routines change and there are often more people in the house then usual. Trying to balance the needs of excited children with a puppy, while trying to look after guests and cook dinner can result in you feeling somewhat frazzled! Fortunately there are lots of things you can do to help and here are a few tips:

Pre-Prepare Meals and Activities

Prepare treats and meals for pup by turning them into multiple, longer lasting activities that you can just get out of the fridge/freezer etc whenever you need one. Some ideas are:

-Cream/cottage cheese, dog safe peanut butter, liver paste, wet dog food- smear onto a licky mat or saucer, cover in cling film and freeze

- Get out your recycling and create some food puzzles- put food inside empty cereal boxes, egg cartons, amazon packaging with the paper inside, empty loo roll tubes, close them up and let pup dissect. Then you can just sweep up the shredded cardboard afterwards (keep an eye on pup to make sure large amounts aren’t ingested but resist the temptation to interfere unless necessary, taking things off them is more likely to prompt swallowing then the activity of dissecting)

- Stuff Kongs or West Paw feeders with meals (dry food can be moistened)

- Make sure you have a stock of longer lasting chews. Hooves are good (about 30p each) and tend not to upset stomach. When they have been chewed for a while, you can ‘refresh’ them by smearing liver paste in them

- Have to hand some tiny treats such as the Perrito duck/chicken chunks, or kibble broken up for scattering in the grass or on a bath or snuffle mat for some calming nose work

Rest, Recuperation and Management

- Expect pup to get tired more quickly then usual (they may only manage 20 minutes at a time). A tired pup is a bitey pup so plan in a regular cycle of short periods of activity followed by wind down time and naps throughout the day. Consider moving pup’s crate or bed if their usual sleeping area is going to be in the thick of the activity.

- Pup also needs somewhere safe and contained, where they can explore and move around without interference and without you needing to constantly worry about pup getting hold of poisonous items such as dropped mince pies, batteries, grapes, chocolate or granny’s sherry! So plan ahead and make sure there is a pen or baby gate set up somewhere that pup can go when you can’t supervise and when they need to rest.

Christmas Day

Planning pup’s routine in advance will help set you and pup up for a successful Christmas day. Puppies are just puppies and mistakes generally have a lot more to do with planning then they do with consequences. So for example if pup has an accident it’s because we’ve made things too distracting, we haven’t taken them out enough etc. If pup chews something it’s because we have left an item where pup can get it.

Scolding will simply confuse pup as they won’t understand what you are cross about. Remember that a lot of the behaviours we might view as undesirable (biting, barking, chewing etc) are perfectly normal behaviours for the canine species. It is our job to teach them where they can eliminate and what they are allowed to chew and so on, if we want them to live in the human world.

Have a think about puppy’s routine and needs and share the plan with family members to help manage everyone’s expectations. A morning routine could look something like this (earlier if you have young children, later if you have teens/no children!)

7am- Take puppy out in the garden for a wee. During the time the kettle is boiling you could do a couple of minutes play with a long tuggy then a few minutes of training, just a handful of puppy’s food or a few treats, marking and rewarding by your side (loose lead foundation), or some triangle recalls (place food on the floor, while pup eats, run to another spot then as pup looks up, say “Come”, mark and reward by putting a treat on the floor and repeat a few times)

7:15am: Get one of your pre-prepared food puzzles/licky mats etc out, pop pup away in their pen to chew and have a rest while you get on with presents/breakfast or whatever your morning entails.

Later on in the morning, if you can find 20 minutes to take pup for a walk, you could pop out somewhere quiet. If you have children, you may need to negotiate with your partner, who gets to give their ears a rest! Put pup on a long line and do a nice quiet sniffy walk. If you live on an estate, driving a couple of minutes to a grassy or wooded area is worth the effort as pup is more likely to feel ready to rest after a leafy walk then a road walk as it will be recovery from stress (extra noise, visitors etc) rather than introducing more stress (fear pheromones left by other dogs/humans, noise, traffic). Remember for pup’s a rough rule of thumb is 5 minutes per month of life for walks, they have another 12 to 15 years of life ahead of them to do the long, Christmas Day walks when they are old enough to enjoy them.

If you are visiting other people, again, plan ahead. Is there somewhere you can put a crate or pen or set up a baby gate? If there are resident dogs, pup will probably be tired after only 5 or 10 minutes of interaction at which point both the other dogs and pup will need a rest to prevent everyone getting fractious or rehearsing unwanted behaviour. If pup is happy in your car, they could rest in there with a blanket over their crate. Or if you are not travelling far, sometimes the path of least resistance is to leave pup at home and arrange to pop back to check on them.

After Christmas

It can take up to 72 hours for cortisol (stress) levels to recover after an exciting or stressful event and that applies equally to dogs and humans. They may be more bitey then usual or seem more reactive to things on walks. You might be more ‘bitey’ or reactive! So in the days immediately after Christmas, try to keep things quiet, avoid street walks or places that are very busy, do lots of activities involving their noses (treasure hunts, scatter feeding) and give them a chance to recover. Give yourself a chance to recover, you may have a little less patience then usual so it isn’t the time for trying to train a spaniel to do loose lead!

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