Holiday Manners

PREVENTION IS THE BEST MEDICINE I’m a big fan of preventative medicine. I’m a proponent of vitamins, for instance, in the hope of warding off the common cold rather than stocking up my shelves with cold and flu remedies once the sniffles emerge. This applies equally well to dog care. Rather than solving a problem once it has occurred, I’m an advocate of preventing that occurrence in the first place. The holiday season is approaching and we need to safeguard our beloved Havanese from many of the pitfalls. During the holidays, there are people coming and going and this often results in a door or gate left inadvertently open. The garbage can harbours “delectable” goodies such as half-eaten pieces of chocolate, turkey fat and perhaps discarded pieces of raisin pie, all very bad for our dogs. Candles are lit. The temptations are many. However, I think that we’ve grown accustomed to taking special precautions in the holidays. It’s the every day challenges that I’d like to address. Many dog owners approach me with frustration. Ruff was caught red-handed on the kitchen counter helping himself to the ham roast. Or Ruff has rooted through the garbage can AGAIN. Ruff has once AGAIN had a field day with used Kleenex tissues and has scattered them with abandon throughout the house. Even worse, Ruff has discovered dirty laundry in the laundry basket and has left a pair of undies at the front door. Or, my personal favorite … Ruff has enjoyed a banquet a la kitty litter AGAIN. Dogs are renowned for enjoying sights and smells which we humans find reprehensible … most of us have rushed our dogs to the bath tub after he’s rolled in something smelly in the park … often feces from other creatures or the carcasses of dearly departed critters. The unmistaken fact is that dogs are not people. Sometimes we chuckle at their antics … sometimes we are truly disgusted … and most of the time we waste far too much time on cleaning up after their forays into dogdom, whether in the form of cleaning the kitchen floor with the garbage strewn all about, or in cleaning up the vomit and diarrhea which are the inevitable manifestation of “garbage gut”. Many people contact trainers to find a training technique. Training solutions abound … things like filling an empty pop can with pennies, taping the opening, and then tossing the can in the general direction of the dog to scare Ruff when he’s engaged in a forbidden activity. Other trainers suggest tin foil or sticky tape on the top of the counter because dogs aren’t crazy about the texture (these little annoyances are NOT likely to stop my determined adventurers). A spray bottle filled with water startles and diverts attention which can aid in halting unwanted behavior. These approaches have their place in the dog training arsenal but for many things prevention is the key. Sometimes we people overcomplicate things. I believe wholeheartedly in training my dogs to basic good manners and work hard at instilling such behaviors as waiting patiently for their dinner, not jumping on guests and walking politely on a leash. As to temptations like garbage, candles, food on the counter, dirty laundry etc., I find it much easier to find permanent, safe solutions. The garbage is kept in the kitchen in a “dog-proof” garbage container. Meat isn’t left on the counter. Candles are lit in out-of-reach areas. Laundry is kept in the laundry room. Preventing the occurrence of obnoxious behaviors is often simpler and safer than devising a complex training method to cure the problem. I would far rather expend that energy on fine-tuning desirable behaviors. This time of year, prevention is particularly crucial. I don’t plan to spend the holidays training my crew to avoid the Christmas tree lights or the turkey fat in the garbage. I plan to ensure that my dogs are safe every step of the way so that I can relax and enjoy precious family time. Wishing you a safe and joy-filled holiday season with your treasured Havanese. by Noel Hynds