Make it Fido’s best holiday ever

Expert Dog Behaviorist Jonathan Klein has successfully trained more than 6,000 dogs, and their owners, over his successful 22-year career. He is the founder of the West Los Angeles-based, personalized dog-training center I Said Sit! Jonathan answered some questions last week on giving dogs as gifts…this week he’s helping us figure out how to make it the best Christmas ever for furry family members! Thanks Jonathan!

BDD: What are the foods most dangerous to dogs during the holidays?

JK: For a lot of us the holidays are linked with food, some of which can be harmful to a dog.  Two leading culprits are chocolate and raisins but other foods to keep away from dogs include grapes, onions, mushrooms and many kinds of nuts.  Mistletoe is another holiday danger, even though it’s not a food.  If given the chance, most dogs wouldn’t hesitate to gobble down a chocolate bar…just like most people.  So it’s the owner’s responsibility to keep anything potentially hazardous well out of harms way.

BDD: How can you “dogproof” your house during the holidays?

JK: Under the assumption you’ve already ‘dogproofed’ for day-to-day living, the holidays bring some new additions to the home that can be harmful to a dog.  Present wrappings and holiday decorations can be very tempting to dogs with some, such as tinsel and mistletoe, being particularly dangerous.

If you think something may be appealing to your dog it probably is so it’s best to remove it.

BDD: With visitors in the home it can be tough to maintain rules for your dog. What’s the best way to “train” your visiting family and friends so they don’t feed the dog scraps or encourage other bad habits?

JK: As tempting as it may be to use some dominance training for the unruly houseguest, I’m a praise and reward trainer and that applies to people as well.  My perspective in training is to teach our dogs what we want them to do and not punish them when they do wrong.  So instead of scolding guests for their bad behavior, like giving table scraps or encouraging your dog to jump on the couch when you’ve trained them not to, the better bet is to get them involved in some aspect of training that you’re working on.

Instead of letting the guest encourage your dog to jump on the couch tell them you’re working on the “Off” command. Show the guest how to do it and then let them try it out.  This won’t make the guest feel bad and will subtly let them know that you have a rules for your dog.

Sometimes the dog just cant be part of the fun if someone is allergic, scared of dogs or for other unavoidable reasons.  This is one of the reasons I teach my clients to get the dog used to being alone before the need arises, and it helps to for the dog to have its special area in the house it goes for quiet time.  This way, when it’s people-only time your dog can have its own space that it enjoys and doesn’t view as a punishment.

BDD: Do you think it’s okay to give your dogs holiday gifts with the rest of the family?

JK: Absolutely!  Our dogs are members of the family and there’s no reason they should be left out of the fun.  A special toy for the holiday can be a lot of fun. Remember though that ribbons and wrapping paper can be harmful if swallowed by a dog.  If it’s a bone or other ingestible toy, don’t be surprised if your dog tries to unwrap it on its own before the appointed time.  Deliver it with a lot of fanfare and make it the most special gift in the world.  Your dog will love it.

BDD: Any other cautions or tips for dogs during the holiday season?

JK: With all the coming’s and going’s of the holiday season it’s important to remember to not forget about your dog. They will often act out if they’re feeling neglected so take the time to give a little extra attention.  A little longer walk or bringing it along on some errands will go a long way in keeping your dog content and you’ll probably enjoy the respite from all the holiday hustle and bustle too.

More about Jonathan Klein: Jonathan is the founder of the West Los Angeles-based, personalized dog-training center I Said Sit! which was voted the 2009 #1 Dog Training School in Los Angeles by KTTV-FOX/My Hotlist. Jonathan was one of the first trainers to pursue the “causative” approach to training which moves past the symptoms of behavior and instead focuses on the cause. This has allowed him to successfully address behavior problems without breaking the spirit of the dog.

A frequent expert source of commentary to the media, Jonathan holds numerous professional association memberships and is an active member of several trainers groups including Truly Dog Friendly and the Southern California Dog Trainers Forum. He visits schools and service clubs all over Southern California to teach basic dog training and has done hundreds of presentations on dog training and responsible ownership…all from a place of praise-based training methods. He was also the key consultant to the acclaimed Doris Day Foundation and has trained the dogs of many well-known celebrities.

Jonathan, who has written numerous articles on training, is a regular contributor for the Los Angeles-area Pet Press and will soon begin a regular column in the quarterly glossy Dog Days in L.A. In addition, he will soon be seen in numerous segments on the nationally syndicated show Dog Tales teaching children dog-handling skills and basic training techniques.

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4 thoughts on “Make it Fido’s best holiday ever”

  1. Just found your site. I like it!

    I liked this piece too. I just wish the answer would have been to lock the unruly guests in the bedroom though. 🙂

    I saw the other piece that Johnathon Klein wrote too. Really good information and thanks for supporting praise-trainers. I’ve tried both and there’s no comparison for me.

    The ‘older dog’ piece was good too. I’ll show it to my husband so I can convince him it’s time to increase our ‘family’ with a new member!

    1. TJ, thanks for stopping by! I recently banned a guy from coming to our house for feeding scraps to Cosmo (who has a very sensitive digestive system) no matter what I said he wouldn’t stop! I’ve always had two dogs, but Beth, who writes our blogging column on wednesdays, is a big fan of three.

  2. Thank you! This is sooooo helpful. Just adopted a hyper-active 4 month old yellow lab, I’m learning how to train him, AND I’m hosting my first Xmas. All the fam is coming to me…yikes! Love the part on “training” the family. Definitely have some relatives that could use this. Lol. Will try it out for sure. And I knew about chocolate, but had no idea those other foods are dangerous. Good to know! Thanks 🙂

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