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Holiday Etiquette for Dogs and Owners

Christmas puppies haven't learned their manners yet!

The holidays are often a time of social gatherings with friends or family, and travel of some sort is an inescapable reality. Dog owners may find themselves in the challenging position of considering whether to travel with their pet or board them at a kennel. Should you decide that Fido is well-behaved enough to travel with you, here are some steps that can help your visits go smoothly.

Know Your Audience

For some of us, constant canine companionship is part our daily life, but not everyone can relate. While we can’t imagine celebrating a holiday without our fur-kids, don’t assume your mutt is welcome at every social gathering. A family with a new baby or an ailing parent might be extra-sensitive about germs, so ask beforehand if Fido’s allowed to come. Before you make your plans, have a straightforward talk with your host and ask the right questions. Even if your host agrees to accommodate your furry “plus one,” find out how she, her partner and her kids really feel about animals. Are the children of the house afraid of them? Does the family know what to expect from a four-legged visitor? If they have pets of their own, how do their animals get along with others? Is the host willing to pet-proof her house? Making a place pet-friendly is difficult at any time of year, but more so at holidays when traditional decorations can become an issue. Once you’ve got the OK, you should always be prepared to replace or repair any items your pet damages or destroys (and tuck a bottle of pet stain remover in your purse, just in case).

Practice Makes Perfect

Plan ahead to teach your dog the skills needed to be a gracious guest, and practice as much as possible. Basic obedience commands (sit, down, stay and come) should all be solid before attempting a change of venue into a high-stakes environment. If your pet is a jumper, teach them that if they jump, people will leave, but if they sit, they will get treats and attention. Since the majority of jumpers do so out of an urge to be social, they quickly learn that jumping up makes people go away. I also recommend that you teach your dog at least one “show-off” behavior. This can be waiting at the door until told to proceed (easy to teach but impressive to most people) or a trick such as “roll over” or “high five.” Anything that makes your dog more charming will help ease tensions in case of a social gaffe...

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