Editor’s note: Gentry, a black Labrador retriever, shares his views and advice on how to help your dog guide have a happy holiday. His owner and peer advisor, DeAnna Noriega provided editorial assistance.
Gentry’s View on Christmas
Christmas is such a confusing time, all the everyday rules seem to change. A tree is not for the kitty cat to climb, or where to leave your mark–it’s strange. Master covers it up with lights on a cord, in which it is easy to tangle your paws. But woe to the dog who breaks any laws. Don’t chase the kitty cat up into the tree! Don’t help yourself to the snacks on the table! Even a ball is not what it should be.
Master spends more money than she can afford. And you must rush around as long as you’re able. Hurry everywhere with no time for stopping. There are so many people that you don’t know. Master spends all her time Christmas shopping. Or she packs for a trip–will I get to go?
Gentry’s Words of Wisdom
If you love your dog then take my advice. Make time for a game or a pat on the head. A new toy or dog treat would also be nice. Your dog loves you best, when all has been said. He doesn’t ask much for all that he gives, his friendship, his caring and his joy in his work. Taking care of you is for what he lives. So, remember his needs, and don’t be a jerk! Okay, so its doggerel at its worst, but what do you expect from an over worked Labrador retriever dog guide?
Dog Proof Your Christmas Decorations
Seriously though, there are a few things you should do to make the holidays easier on us dog guides. Dog proof your holiday decorations. Poinsettias and the berries off mistletoe are possibly poisonous to small children and us curious canines. Gifts under the tree that give off strong odors such as chocolates, fruitcakes or boxes from Hickory Farms, can be a terrible temptation to those of us who live for our noses.
The holidays can also mean disruptions to familiar schedules. This can lead to the disturbance of bodily functions. Be sure to offer frequent opportunities for your dog to relieve himself. Try to avoid changes in his diet by bringing along or having someone purchase his accustomed food in advance of your visit. When spending long hours in transit, remove your dog’s harness for comfort. Also, try for seating with adequate room beneath seats for your dog to relax. A dog biscuit or chew might also make up for missed meal times and make anxiety during land–ins and takeoffs easier.
Avoiding Overstimulation During the Holidays
Your dog is likely to be overstimulated by the attentions of holiday guests. Give him a chance to spend time with you alone. Be sure to maintain obedience exercises and grooming rituals. This will reassure him and keep him clean and well mannered despite the excitement around him. Also, make time for play. This will relieve his tension and give him a chance to burn off steam. Don’t forget lots of praise and reassurance when things get tough in new surroundings. If you must correct your dog firmly, follow the correction with a simple command for which you can lavish him with praise. This helps to soothe his feelings at the same time showing him that he is a good dog, and that the undesired behavior is the problem.
Leaving Your Dog During the Holidays
If you must leave your dog in an unfamiliar environment, be sure to leave his care provider with veterinary information. Leave him with a few familiar things from home such as a favorite rug, toys or food dishes. An old sweater or other piece of clothing with your scent on it can sometimes keep your dog from feeling abandoned among strangers. Remember your dog needs just a little more care and attention during stressful situations.
Now that you have listened patiently to my holiday season lament; I hope that you will keep these things in mind with your own dog. Wherever you go, and whatever you do, have a happy holiday season!