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Help your dog stress less during holiday parties: Ready Pet GO!

Before the relatives arrive, take some simple steps to help your lessen holiday stress for your pup.

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — Oh, the holidays!

That time of year when you dodge uncomfortable questions, pray for no politics at the table and hope no one overdoes it on spiked eggnog!

Feeling anxious? Chances are your pet does, too!

"We're seeing a lot right now, especially with younger dogs that haven't had a lot of visitors to the home because of the pandemic," says Valarie Ross, of Sits n' Wiggles Dog Training.

We can't resolve family squabbles, but with Ross' guidance, we can at least help you make your fur baby a bit more comfortable. 

She says "management" is key! 

"What we consider management to be is ways that physically stop the dog from participating in a behavior that we don't want them to do," Ross said. 

That includes jumping, going for Thanksgiving food and running around guests. Ways to control that: A harness, leash, crate, baby-gated area or an exercise pen, which resembles a crate without a roof. You can move it easily and it offers a nice space, maybe somewhere in the house away from heavy traffic. 

"I like to set up their safe zone with comfort items, such as a bed, bowl of water and some enrichment toys with high value treats," she demonstrated. 

Those enrichment toys are things that will keep them busy, such as snuffle mats, licking mats, puzzles that dispense treats or a wobble toy. 

And that treat should be something they really enjoy, that's safe for them. Ross uses a peanut butter, that's just for dogs. 

If your dog sleeps in your bedroom, it might be a good place to create that safe zone away from the chaos around the dining room.

"I'll also turn on some calming music for them and even some calming essential oil sense can be very relaxing for them and just help take that edge off," she said. 

Believe it or not, Ross says there is still enough time to work on some of those simple commands, like a "leave it" cue is something you can teach fairly quickly within a few sessions. 

"Now they might not leave that turkey alone if they have access to it, but at least maybe they're not gonna get into your visitor shoes or purses," she says. 

She also likes teaching a "place" cue -- as in "go lie down on your bed," or "lie down here."  

"That is a little more complex, but if we can at least get them traveling over to that bed, then you could give them something like a stuffed cone or a high-value chew that they're likely to sit down and chew on while they're there."

Most important of all -- make sure they get some good outdoors time in to start the day. Take that "sniffari" to help your dog decompress, so at least one of you will be relaxed when family arrives."


Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous pets story on Oct. 5, 2022.

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