Tips to handle the holiday decorations that may startle your dog on walks
It is nice to see people in my neighborhood putting light on their houses and also on their lawns. They make the neighborhood look festive at night. The things we humans enjoy about the holidays may startle your dog and affect your walks.
For example, the other day I was walking a dog past a house and the lights were flashing on the house and on the ground. That got my client’s dog’s attention and he wanted to go toward it and then bark at it. I moved us along using the training we have worked on to get his focus on something else. What would happen if you experience this? I want to share some ways to set you and your dog up for success because this is one type of thing in the environment we cannot change.
Notice how your dog responds to them (or in past experiences with them)
Has your dog always responded negatively toward objects or movement in the environment? That may give you a clue that things will not go well. If they lunge or bark at the thing/object then recognizing this is the first step to making it better. Furthermore there are signals to look for like licking their lips, avoiding eye contact with the scary thing, tail between their legs, and yawning for example, indicate your dog is getting stressed. Therefore, getting your dog away from the stress by moving on with your walk or turning around is important. Sometimes as humans we forget that new things can be scary and we need to not overwhelm them even if you are activating participating in the holiday rituals.
Cross the street
The simpliest thing you can do while out on a walk and things are not going well or you see issues ahead is to cross the street. I have watched other dog parents just stay and walk toward the issue not realizing their is another way. Crossing the street usually is a recognized signal to other dog parents that you are not wanting to interact with their dog. This can be used if the decorations are making your dog pull you toward them, or if your dog is showing any other unpleasant behavior. Setting you and your dog up for success sometimes means making a simple decision and that is what crossing the street will do for you.
Daytime walk vs. Nighttime walk
Maybe your dog does well with walks during the day but at night reacts to the holiday lights. This will help you decide how to change your walking routine and do it during the day and do something different at night. Maybe hop in the car and go somewhere like the dog park or another place without the holiday lights. You can still have a great walk and the added benefit is that it helps to mix things up, without causing you and your dog unnecessary stress and another bad walk.
Day Time Decorations- It might be better to let your dog sniff them because most people do not put the lights or music on until the evening.
Night Time Decorations-Some houses even have moving dear and play Holiday Music which might not help your dog.
Make each experience positive and short
When you go on a normal walk you can see who has Christmas lights in your neighborhood. If your dog cannot just walk by them, make your attempts at walking near them short (5 – 10 seconds to start and add a little more time each day) while using praise and a treat is a great way to help your dog. You cannot expect your dog to go from being nervous or scared of the holiday decorations to loving them in just one attempt. Moreover, if you have decorations in or on your house, start exposing your dog to them. If you do not have decorations and maybe your bpneighbor does, use them as a start to help your dog. Pactice to make things positive will help your dog to feel more comfortable. Just remember this is a process and your dog may not feel comfortable this holiday season but next year could be much better so stick with it.
Bonus Tip- if your dog knows sit, down, or gives eye contact to you, that is a way to start getting his/her attention onto you. Use what they know or add these cues to your dog’s training to help with your walks. If you need a checklist of things to have on your walk then grab my Dog Walk Checklist http://bit.ly/dogchecklist
I hope these tips will help you know that our dogs can enjoy walks even during the holidays. When we know how to help them, it does not take a lot of time to start changing things for the better. My hope is that you and your dog work as a team together to pass the holiday decorations or anything else that may startle your dog in the future. If you are looking to have better walks with your dog but struggle because he/she is distracted by everything and pulls everywhere then my dog pulling course called Who’s Walking Who? http://bit.ly/whoswalkingwhocourse is what you need. While walking many dogs with my dog walking business, I have learned training that helps me have great walks with the dogs I work with. It I s possible for you too. Wouldn’t it be great to have a dog that listens and focuses on you during walks rather than just in the house? My course can give you the tools, videos, and pdfs, as well as other ways to stop your dog from pulling.
Access powerful resources to enjoy spending time with your dog and never be embarrassed by their behavior again:
ENJOY YOUR WALKS TOGETHER
Take the Leash Manners Assessment to learn why your dog is pulling on the leash
STOP YOUR DOG FROM JUMPING
Tired of your dog always jumping up? Learn why they jump and how to fix it here
GUESS WHO’S COMING OVER
Tired of your dog losing their minds when the doorbell rings? This is for you.