How to Prepare Your Dog for the Holidays

The end of the year is incredibly busy with so many festivities, from Thanksgiving and Hanukkah to Christmas and Kwanzaa. Those extra visitors, sounds, sights, and smells can be overwhelming for your dog, as well as all that excitement and activity. Plus, it’s easy to get wrapped up in holiday preparation and neglect your dog’s regular routines. So…on today’s show we are going give you some tips and tricks on how to prepare your dog for the holidays.

Episode Transcript

We want to give thanks to our friends from the American Kennel Club and the Dog Writers Association of America for helping us out on this episode.

After the episode, ask yourself, what new ideas has this conversation sparked for you? Then, share this episode with a family member or friends and discuss it together. As always, ping me over on Instagram at firstpawmedia. Just remember, dog training is a big commitment, and accountability is a huge part. You can do it; I believe in you!

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With so many festivities, from Thanksgiving and Hanukkah to Christmas and Kwanzaa, the end of the year is an incredibly busy time. All that additional excitement and activity can be a lot for your dog to handle. Not to mention all the extra visitors, sights, sounds, and smells. Plus, it’s easy to get wrapped up in holiday preparation and neglect your dog’s regular routines. Add all that up, and you have a recipe for dog stress. The following tips will help you prepare your dog so you can both enjoy the coming holiday season.

Consider Your Dog’s Personality

Some dogs adapt well to chaos and change while others need the predictability of routine. Some dogs can handle lots of visitors, but other dogs become anxious around children or strangers. Some make well-mannered house guests; others are better left at home. Think about what your holiday might entail and then consider your dog’s personality. If you anticipate your dog’s needs, it will be easier to accommodate them.

Don’t expect your dog to simply cope. A stressed dog might act out and exhibit problem behaviors or even become aggressive. And it’s not fun for your dog to endure stressful situations. Instead, help your dog in whatever way suits them. Will they be happier in their crate when company comes over? Then be sure you have plenty of chews and food-stuffed toys to keep them occupied while they’re inside. Will they need exercise and potty breaks in the middle of the day? Then schedule that into your holiday routine. The more you can adapt to your dog’s needs, the better the holiday will be for everyone.

Purchase Appropriate Supplies

Stock up on all the items your dog is going to need. With a huge holiday to-do list, it’s easy to forget your dog has a shopping list too. Purchase food and treats. You want to be able to reward good behavior. Also look for chews and food-dispensing toys to keep your dog occupied when your attention is elsewhere.

Consider buying your dog something special like a new toy or some bully sticks. It’s fun to let them participate in holiday gift-giving, but it will also help them form positive associations with the hustle and bustle of the holidays. And if you think you might need dog gates or an exercise pen to keep your dog out of a certain area, get these barricades in place in advance so your dog can get used to them.

Stick to Routine

When the big day arrives, try to stick to your dog’s usual routine as much as possible including mealtimes, potty breaks, and exercise. The predictability will help your dog feel less overwhelmed. And as you will be incredibly busy, it’s important to discuss with family members who will be responsible for the dog’s needs. Assign dog duties in advance so you don’t neglect anything.

Exercise is particularly important right before visitors arrive or before meals. It will burn off your dog’s excess energy, which might be more than usual with all the activity going on around them. A tired dog is more likely to nap than bother your guests or beg at the table. If you can’t provide physical exercise, get your dog’s brain working. Mentally stimulating games can be just as tiring.

Brush Up on Training Skills

The holiday season might be a tricky time to start training new behaviors. You will likely be too busy to be consistent. But you can certainly brush up on the behaviors your dog already knows. Basics like sit, down, and stay are helpful for controlling your dog’s behavior. Cues like leave it and go to your place are also incredibly useful. They allow you to be proactive and prevent problems before they occur.

Manage the Situation

If your dog’s obedience skills need work, or you know their personality won’t mesh with your holiday plans, then you need to manage the situation for your dog. First, you don’t want your dog practicing rude behaviors like begging at the table or counter surfing. Second, you don’t want to push your dog past what they can tolerate.

Management will vary based on your dog’s personality. It might mean blocking access to certain rooms, using a crate when you have company, or keeping your dog on a leash when people come to the door. The important part is to make the experience rewarding for your dog. This isn’t a punishment. If you put your dog in their crate, provide them with a special chew toy. If they are tethered in one area, provide treats and toys in that area, and so on.

Even if your dog can handle the holiday commotion, it’s still a good idea to give them an occasional break from the excitement. Alone time is a proactive way of ensuring you don’t ask for too much from your dog. Family mealtimes are a great opportunity to put your dog in their crate or ask them to go to their place in a quiet room. You can focus on your feast, and your dog can rest and recharge.

Puppy Proof Your Home

The last component of management is puppy-proofing. No matter the age of your dog, ensure there is nothing dangerous for them to get into. That includes plants and foods that are toxic to dogs, like chocolate. Don’t leave anything where your dog can sneak a bite. Also, watch where you place decorations. A curious dog can be injured if they try to chew or swallow them.

Consider your dog’s needs and avoid adding undue stress during this hectic time. It may be a lot of work but preparing your home and your dog for the holiday season will help ensure everybody enjoys this special time of year. Your dog will thank you for it.

How to Train Your Dog to Stay Away from a Christmas Tree

Christmas is the best time of the year! Giving gifts to family and friends, cooking scrumptious family meals, and lighting the lights on a winking, twinkling Christmas tree are things many of us look forward to every year.

And with so many novel sights and smells–not to mention the occasional present under the tree–the holiday season can be a lot of fun for Fido too! Many families have developed traditions that include their pet in the festivities, such having as their own stocking or festive get-up. But some parts of the holidays are best observed rather than experienced hands-on. One of these is the indoor Christmas tree.

With a delicious smell and so many interesting lights and ornaments, it’s no wonder that your dog might show too much interest in the Christmas tree. The last thing you want is to recreate a slapstick scene from a holiday movie and watch in horror as your over-excited pupper knocks the tree off its stand. At best, a huge mess to clean up. At its worst, dangerous broken ornaments and exposed wiring. But spending a little time training your dog to leave the tree alone can keep the holidays safe, and best of all, fun for everyone!

In this guide, we’ll show you how to do just that. But if you need a little help getting started on your dog training adventure, book a FREE Discovery Call on Alaska Dog Works (dot) com

Defining Tasks

Having a dog doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy having a beautiful indoor Christmas tree. Training your dog to look and not touch is the best way to avoid holiday disaster and give you peace of mind all season long.

Whether you are dealing with a young puppy, an adult dog, or ever an elderly canine, using patience and compassionate training methods while reinforcing the training as needed will go a long way to saving the tree and keeping your pup away from harm.

Christmas trees present several dangers, including tree water that could contain toxic additives, pine needles that could damage your dog’s mouth or digestive system if eaten, lights that could cause electrocution, or various kinds of ornaments that could look tasty. Not to mention any presents waiting under the tree that you probably don’t want your dog to get into, or pee on!

You will want to teach your dog that the tree and surrounding area is off limits. This can be accomplished with deterrent barriers, training to obey verbal commands to avoid the tree, or directing your dog away from the tree. Remember to be consistent and patient with your dog while he is learning these new boundaries.

Getting Started

For the two methods we will talk about today, you’ll want to have a supply of treats. Using high value treats during training sessions is recommended, so aim for something your dog really loves but doesn’t usually get, such as bits of chicken. You may also want to have their favorite toys nearby to use as distractions while training. 

We’d all love to have unlimited time to spend teaching our dog, but the reality is that you can’t have eyes on them every moment. So, while your dog is still learning how to leave the Christmas tree alone, it may be wise to have boundary or deterrent to keep them away from it until they know their boundaries. Items you can use around the tree include aluminum foil, tacky/sticky mats or tape available at pet stores or for holding carpet in place, a hard plastic mat with a nubby surface, or carpet runners with spikes turned up that can be found at hardware stores. You can also use a baby gate to keep your dog out of the room where the tree is located until you able to supervise. 

Redirect away from tree Method

Watch your dog carefully. When he approaches the tree, say “away,” and toss a treat on the floor away from the tree.


Your dog will go get the treat. Now provide a toy, play with your dog, or let your dog outside to distract them from the tree.


Repeat whenever the dog approaches the tree for a couple of days, saying “away” and tossing a treat away from the tree.

Reward away from tree

When your dog has learned to move away from the tree for a treat, use the “away” command without tossing a treat. Then, when your dog moves away, give him a treat out of your hand. Alternate providing treats with just giving praise or playing with them.

Repeat and distract

Continue to provide the “away” command whenever your dog approaches the tree and give them verbal praise like “good.”  Providing a chew toy away from the tree to distract your dog may continue to be beneficial.

Remove reward

Once your dog has the “away” command down, start using it when he approaches the tree and just giving verbal praise with no treat.

The Leave it Method

Present treat in hand

Hold your closed hand out to your dog with a treat wrapped in your hand.

Say “leave it”

When your dog nuzzles, licks or paws at your hand to reach the treat, say “Leave it”.

Reinforce “leave it”

When your dog stops trying to reach the treat, say “good” and provide a different treat from your other hand. Gradually start leaving treats on the ground and using the ‘leave it’ command. When your dog obeys, reward with a better treat. Repeat until the ‘leave it’ command is established.

Apply “leave it” to the tree

Supervise your dog around the Christmas tree. When your dog approaches the tree, say “leave it” making sure to give your dog a treat when they obey.

Reward hesitation and distract

When your dog hesitates in his approach, call him away from the tree and reward him.

Repeat “leave it” for tree

Repeat for several days, replacing treats with praise. Eventually, just command the dog to “leave it” when he approaches the tree.

Before we end the show, let’s press pause for a sec…maybe ask yourself, why did this resonate with me? What aspect of my relationship with my K9 buddy could I apply this to? And what am I going to do differently this week to make my dog’s training a little easier? So, take time to mull it over, talk it out with a family member or trusted friend, put some ideas down in your training journal, and then check back next week for our next episode.

And, as always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this episode. So, reach out and D.M. me over on Instagram at firstpawmedia, and let’s spark a conversation. Until then, keep going! You are doing great! It is time to create the relationship with your dog that you always dreamed of.

Thanks for listening to Dog works radio. Find the show notes for this episode and all others at Alaska dog works (dot)com. Know someone in your life who need help with their dog’s training? Be a hero and share our podcast with them, and we will see you next time.

How to Prepare Your #Dog for the #Holidays