Let’s Talk: Preparing for the Holidays

As you plan your celebrations for the upcoming holidays, don’t forget about your pooches! Trainers and behaviorists know this is one of the busiest times of the year, filled with calls about leaving a newly adopted dog for the first time or having a fearful dog and a houseful of company coming for a weekend.

Here are some tips to help your holidays be merry:

  • Preparing for visitors: Management, management, management! Energy is high when family and friends begin to arrive. Make use of crates and closed doors to give Ginger time to adjust, letting her out only after you’re sure everyone in attendance is comfortable with dogs.
  • Keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort: A closed, tense mouth and body, looking away when someone reaches to pet her, and slow, stiff tail wags are associated with a nervous dog who needs to be taken out of the situation.
  • Give him a break: Even if your dog LOVES visitors, some quiet time after a bit of socializing is a good idea. We can all get tired at big gatherings, and it’s no different for Buddy. Don’t hesitate to give him some alone time to recharge in his crate or a bedroom away from the holiday shenanigans. Check out this article for more tips.
  • Preparing for a sitter: Dependable, trustworthy sitters are indispensable. Leaving my dogs behind gives me separation anxiety, but knowing they’re in capable, kind hands provides a lot of relief. Here’s a list of everything I write down for my sitters. Leave written or typed notes and email a digital copy just in case. Include the day-to-day schedule, meal times, pills, etc., as well as multiple emergency contacts should something happen. If you can, plan a “dry run” by having the sitter stay for a night when you’re nearby and can easily answer any questions.
  • Boarding your dog: Having Baxter stay with a friend or at a boarding facility for the first few times can be frightening. Help his transition by visiting your friend’s or the kennel ahead of time. Hand over his leash, or take him to his kennel space and give him a chewy treat. Walk out of sight for only a second or two, return and let him out. Repeat, and go out of sight for a little longer, returning before Baxter begins to fuss. Try one more time, leaving for a minute or so, and then retrieve your dog and go home. For a step-by-step approach to this, click here.

If you’re concerned about how your dog might react with the upcoming holidays, it’s not too late. Start planning today! Here’s a recording of Larry and I discussing the topic on The Larry Meiller Show.

Learning Center

Want to learn more about dogs? Look here for a treasure trove of Patricia’s articles, blogs and videos about dog training, canine health and behavior, and solving behavior problems. Includes links to other helpful resources.


Clear and engaging, Patricia’s books & DVDs are invaluable resources for professionals and dog lovers alike. If your dog could, she’d beg you to click here and check them out.

Trisha’s Blog

Join thousands of dog lovers around the world in an ongoing inquiry about canine behavior, and follow the adventures of Patricia (2 legs), Willie, Maggie, & Tootsie (4 legs), and a very spoiled flock of sheep.


"The Education of Will delves deep into the minds of people and dogs, and into the effects of trauma, showing that healing is possible. McConnell gives a voice to those who can’t speak in words and provides hope for fearful animals everywhere."

—Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human and Animals in Translation.

What Others Are Saying