Holiday Tips for a Well-Behaved Dog

As the holiday season approaches, a bit of advanced planning can go a long way to preventing your dog from devouring the turkey or other faux paws.
Here are a few suggestions to help you keep Pooch's manners under control during the holiday celebrations.

Kids and dogs should always be carefully supervised. Even if you have a child-friendly dog, visiting children might not know how to interact with your dog. Plus, your dog may not be as tolerant with kids outside your family. Watch for signs of canine stress, such as avoidance, hiding, freezing, or low growls.

Keep all trash securely out of your dog's reach-especially foods like bones, corn cobs, onions, grapes, and chocolate. We suggest lifting trash cans, securing them with lid or putting trash behind a closed door.

Crates and baby gates can be helpful in keeping pooch away from dangerous items or overwhelming social scenes.

Proper exercise and mental stimulation can go along way in shaping a well-mannered dog. So, don't skimp on the walks, playtime and long lasting chews.

Lastly, give your dog planned downtime away from the hustle and bustle. Brain breaks are a good idea even for the most social of dogs, who as the day wears on, may wear thin. A quiet room or crate with a long lasting chewie is the doggie equivalent of curling up with a good book to relax. And can be a much needed way to reboot and rest up.

Trainer Tip: Stay Put, Pooch

Photo: April Ziegler
Teaching your dog to remain in one place and position is more than just an exercise in canine academics.  The "Stay" cue can be used to increase your dog's ability to just chill-out, as well as to prevent irritating behaviors like begging at the dinner table or hovering underfoot while you cook.  Since it isn't possible to run around like a headless chicken and maintain a ten-minute "Down-Stay" simultaneously, working towards longer "Stays" can help your dog develop some downright meditative relaxation skills!  Maybe you don't especially appreciate having a dog that drools at your side while you dine, or busily scans the kitchen floor for crumbs while you cook.  Training your dog to "Stay" on his bed in the corner, for example, can allow you to enjoy a drool-free dinner party and canine-free cooking.

Step 1:  Prepare a cup full of pea-sized, soft treats.  Find a quiet place to practice. You may want to use a dog bed, mat, or carpeted area for your dog's comfort.

Step 2:  Cue your dog to lie "Down" in this area.  Wait for just two or three seconds while your dog remains in this position, then say, "Yes!" and give your dog a treat.  Repeat this five or six times, then take a break.

Step 3:  Cue your dog to lie "Down" and the tell him, "Stay" in pleasant tone of voice.  Hold out your hand briefly, stop-sign style.  Again, wait only two or three seconds, then say, "Yes!" and treat.

Step 4:  Add gradually longer increments of towards 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 30 seconds, one minute!

Step 5:  Once your dog can maintain a "Stay" of 30 seconds or more, you'll shift your focus to how far away you can move.  Again, start small and meet your dog where he can be successful. Tell him to "Stay", give the hand signal, and simply see if you can take one step to your right (if this is too much at first, you might even just shift your weight to the right). Return to him, say, "Yes!" and treat him.

Step 6:  Try working toward different movement goals, like stepping to your right and to your left, stepping backwards, walking around your dog, turning your back and walking away from your dog.  Try different distances, progressing inches, then feet away from your pooch while he maintains that position.

Step 7:  When your dog can maintain a "Down-Stay" from a distance of 10 feet or more, challenge him further with a variety of distractions.  You might start by having him "Stay" while you have a family member walk by, wave your arms over you head, shuffle your feet or clap your hands.  Challenge him further by dropping a toy or treat or rolling a ball past him.

Note: Early on in this process, it may be helpful to have your dog on leash so that you can guide him back to the place you'd like him to stay, should he begin to wander.  You might also choose to tie his leash to a solid piece of furniture so that your hands are free.  If you do the latter, make certain he is tethered to something heavy and stable enough that your dog won't accidentally pull it over!

Infographic: Looking Out for Your Dog During July Fireworks

We know the links in the graphic above aren't clickable and on some browsers even some of the text may be difficult to read. So here's the full text:

Dogs and Fireworks: Basically, they don’t mix.

With their sensitive hearing, the intense noise of fireworks can cause many pets to panic and anxious ones have an even harder time. Please keep your pets safe in the coming days because the stats are alarming.

Missing Pets Skyrocket from July 4-6

There's a 30-60% increase in lost pets July 4-6.

“ July 5 is the busiest day of the year at animal shelters, as companion animals that fled in fright the night before are found miles from their homes, disoriented and exhausted. Anxious families often find themselves searching the streets and shelters looking for a treasured family member whose fear drove him to jump a high fence or break his leash or chain.” – American Humane Association

Only 14% of lost pets are reunited with their owners.


Make sure your dog has proper I.D.

Your pets should wear I.D. with their name and your current phone number. Also consider microchipping as a form of permanent I.D. Even if your pet loses their tag, shelters and vets can scan for a microchip and facilitate a happy reunion.

50% of dogs have a fear of loud noises.

Fireworks were reported (in 83% of those dogs) to cause fearful behaviors. This is more than any other loud noise (e.g. thunderstorms, though they are #2 on the list).

Only 4% of dogs who develop a sound phobia improve without help.

Pets can become sound sensitive even if they haven’t previously reacted to noise. Once a dog is “exposed” and develops fear, spontaneous recovery is very rare. Keep your dogs indoors on firework nights. This will limit their noise exposure—and they’ll find a safe, familiar place comforting.

sources: and

Common anxious reactions to loud noises

  • Barking
  • Hiding
  • Trembling/Shaking
  • Seeking out People
  • Escape
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Destructive Behavior
  • Peeing or Defecating
  • Howling
  • Running/Fleeing
  • Whining
  • Salivating

In studies, the dogs most prone to develop sound phobias:

  • Older Dogs: Why? The study we reviewed didn’t provide an explanation but some theories are that older dogs may be less able to manage stress or may actually be more sound sensitive. Decreased mobility and age-related cognitive issues may also play a part.
  • Autumn/Winter Born Dogs: The likely explanation: Unlike spring/summer borns, thunderstorms and fireworks weren’t part of their puppyhood so these events are more frightening to them.
source: (note, this was a British study with fireworks for New Year’s Eve being common. We extrapolated and changed the birth seasons to fit our summer fireworks in the US) 

What you can do to help

Keep your pets indoors on fireworks nights. Do not take them to a fireworks display.

Keeping them indoors will prevent them from direct exposure to the noise and will keep them safe in case the panic and try to flee. If they seem worried, it’s ok to try to calm or distract them. Just don’t act worried about them because that will feed their anxiety.

Escape proof your home in case of a panicking pet:
• Close and lock (or close and block) pet doors
• Screens won’t hold back a pet reacting in fear and trying to escape. Close screened windows and screened doors.

Give them things they love to keep them busy during the booms (so they won’t be as worried about the noise).

Stuff and freeze a Kong, bone or consider other long lasting interactive chewies like bully sticks, or appropriately sized elk antlers or Nylabones.

NOTE: Some pets may be too nervous to eat  but perhaps you can entice them to play with you as a way of distracting them from the noise. If none of that works, don’t force them. Shutting down a little is likely their way of coping with the loud sounds.

If your dog has already displayed sound sensitivity, be proactive and consider the following things that have been proven to help:

  • A Pressure Wrap* Thundershirt is the one that we recommend and have seen success with. It won’t make all anxiety disappear completely but it can certainly take the edge off for your dog.
  • Pheromone spray* Adaptil is a synthetic copy of the natural comforting pheromone released by a mother dog to reassure her puppies. You can spray it on bedding or a bandana. We recommend it to clients and the manufacturer has research to prove that it helps. Their site even has a 5-minute fireworks fear assessment tool 
  • Music Desensitization/counter-conditioning CDs like Through the Dog’s Ear to play while in the home (CD or download on Itunes) or Sound Therapy 4 Pets has a “Sounds Scary” (pre-fireworks therapy edition)” download on iTunes. If you have a puppy you can even try sound exposure on your own—when INDOORS play fireworks sounds at low volume for 30 sec up to 2 or 3 minutes and treat with food while listening to habituate your pup to this sound and prep the dog for future exposure.
  • Medication Consult with your vet or a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist for possible medication to help during acute situations such as the 4th of July. Note: Acepromazine which is a sometimes still prescribed for sound sensitivity-actually can INCREASE your dog’s sound sensitivity. See 1:50 mark here 
*Both Thundershirt and Adaptil come with a money-back guarantee from the manufacturer.


It’s sad to see dogs suffer from fear, phobias and anxiety but with their humans looking out for them and getting guidance from experts, it’s possible to help them cope.

If you live in the Greater Philadelphia area, feel free to pick our brain about your dog—no charge. To find out more one-on-one training, behavior consults or group classes visit

We hope all our readers and their dogs stay out of the fireworks fray and have a safe and happy 4th!