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Doggy Best Behavior Tips For the Holidays From Celebrity Trainer Joel Silverman

The holidays are a time of year when we get together with family and friends. We have parties involving lots of food and drinks, and little kids run around on sugar-highs.  In the middle of it all is the dog. We expect him to behave himself, even if no one else is.

Celebrity Dog Trainer and behaviorist Joel Silverman answered our questions on how to make sure you dog be on his best behavior this holiday season.

What are some of the most common behavior issues that can ruin a holiday?

Some of the most common issues are eating food that people have dropped on the ground at parties and as a result getting sick, playing around with—and possibly tearing apart—the Christmas tree, and running out the door when guests come over.

How can people avoid these issues?

I have always separated my dogs from company when I had a lot of guests coming over. It is so hard to keep track of people coming and going, and some people hold or leave the door open. I like to enjoy myself, and if I am going to have to watch to make sure the dogs do not stroll out the front door, it is not going to be fun. With the dog being put away in a room during the party I don’t have to worry about the dog eating things that drop on the ground by the guests.

How should dog owners prepare for family coming? What should they be doing a week before? The day before?

I am a huge fan of keeping the dog in a separate area, or possibly even a crate. If your dog is not crate trained, crate training is something that can be taught within a week or two of guests coming over. Also, if you are planning to keep your dogs in a room or crate, keep it positive by placing special toys they like in those areas. If you do not have any, use the few days before the guests come over to purchase something the dog really enjoys.

If they have a dog that is not social and has not met the family, are the holidays a good time to introduce them?

If you have some social issues with your dog and during the holiday season just a few family members are coming over, that might be a good time to socialize the dog to the guests. If you have a lot of guests coming over, it might be best to wait for another time when you have a bit more time for the dog.

What are some good alternatives if the dog can’t be around the visiting family?

The best way to avoid these issues is to not give them the opportunity to happen, and that is keeping the dog away from people he or she does not like. Keeping the dog in a room or crate makes it so the animal never has the opportunity to become aggressive over the people he does not like. However, if you have some time, you might want to let the person try to give the dog a high value treat, and see how the dog reacts.

What are some ways family members can set their dog up for success?

You set your dog up for success by not putting your dog in situations he or she is not comfortable with, or can get into trouble with. Preventative training is the key around the holidays!

What are your tips to bring out the best behavior in the dog when the visitors finally arrive? 

Don't push your dogs. If they have not been around kids, the crazy holiday season may not be the time to introduce them. Watch for signs of stress and try to avoid those situations that cause it. Image source: @ThomasIllisIV via Flickr
Don’t push your dogs. If they have not been around kids, the crazy holiday season may not be the time to introduce them. Watch for signs of stress and try to avoid those situations that cause it. Image source: @ThomasIllisIV via Flickr

If you plan on having your dog around the guest when they come over for the holidays, make sure that the animal is socialized to people prior to the guest coming over. A mistake some people make is not socializing their dog, and wondering why their dog became scared or aggressive over someone who came in the house. Remember that if your dog is not socialized he might very well do what he was bred to do and that is protect his leader. Socialization gets rid of that.

More about Joel Silverman

Silverman is an award-winning dog training with 36 years of on-the-job training on several popular TV series including, “Little House in The Prairie,” and 17 years of training dogs and cats for IAMS national commercials and advertisements. He was named 2008 Trainer of the Year at the Westminster Dog Show in New York City. He has also written several dog training books.


About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.


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Written by Kristina Lotz
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