Speaking of Dogs: The Peril Wore a Party Dress

We’re knee-deep into the holiday season, and it’s time to revisit the list of Holiday Pet Hazards.

Many dog owners already know that poinsettias are poisonous and chocolate is toxic…right? If not, please click here to review.

But there’s a doggy health hazard that does not receive much attention on the seasonal lists, a health hazard that occurs all year long, not just during “the holidays.” It strikes at Sunday brunches, Super Bowl parties, small gatherings and summer soirees. The name of this menace? Let’s call her Adoring Adele.

Adoring Adele and her partner, Dog Guy Doug, can potentially cost you a bundle in vet bills and added stress.

Though Adele and Doug profess to LOVE your dog, in actuality, they just want your dog to worship them.

If I sound cynical that’s because day in and day out I hear stories about the friend who thinks it’s funny to sneak the overweight dachshund whole strips of bacon at the table, even after her owner has begged him to stop.

Doug refuses to heed your wishes to stop throwing the ball for your aging dog. He says, “What’s your problem? Skippy loves it; why else would he keep bringing me the ball?”

Yes, Skippy is a fanatic for fetch, and he will do it until he collapses, but what Doug doesn’t realize is that you’ll be left to help your arthritic dog struggle to get up in the morning. You’ll worry as he limps for several days because his body can’t handle marathon retrieving sessions anymore.

Adele insists that all leftovers go into the dog’s bowl, and it takes an Act of Congress to convince her otherwise. “But he feels left out,” she reasons. Adele will be long gone when your dog suffers exploding diarrhea in the middle of the night. All over the carpet.

At cocktail parties guests will sneak dogs greasy salami, cheese, cookies, and even alcohol or chicken bones. True, one or two pieces of cheese probably won’t hurt the average, non-allergy suffering dog, but multiply that by ten or more guests all doing the same thing, and you could be on the road to acute canine colitis or Pancreatitis.

These people are your friends. You care about them and value their friendship. You don’t want to insult them but dagnabbit, why won’t they listen to you?

Even if you’ve implored them to stop, it usually doesn’t work because most people simply cannot resist a wagging tail and pleading brown eyes. And though you would never dream of giving their teenager crack cocaine because “he loooves it,” your friends aren’t that strong.

The first step in conquering the Lady Bountifuls in your life is to accept that you are NOT powerless over them. Refuse to grin and bear it while someone puts your precious pet in harm’s way. Instead, grant yourself permission to be an advocate for your dog. With a little planning and diplomacy, you can keep him safe while preserving your human relationships:

  • During parties. Provide a pleasant place for your dog to hang out when Those Who Can’t Be Trusted are visiting. Consider designating one room as the Canine Lounge, furnished with comfy dog beds and special-occasion toys to serve as an entertainment center while you’re busy playing host. With a radio tuned to soft music for soothing “white noise,” most dogs are perfectly happy in their sanctuary, insulated from the hustle and bustle of a noisy party.
  • On walks. We all know one: the person who insists on throwing something for your live-and-breathe-to-retrieve dog. The worst are the folks who test the lengths your dog will go to fetch. Horror stories abound: objects thrown into raging rivers, down steep hills, into slash piles… It’s all fun and games until the dog gets hurt. Torn ACL anyone? I’m hyper-vigilant on outings, and if my requests to PLEASE STOP THROWING THE BALL fall on deaf ears, I cheerfully and without blame, put my dog on leash. Or I confiscate the toy. Yes, it seems unfair to the dog and yes, the friend often looks crestfallen, but I’m able to relax on the walk and in the end, go home with a healthy pooch.
  • As a guest. Here’s where crate training really pays off. It’s hard to dictate policy in someone else’s home, so when Doug keeps playing face-slap games or sharing his potato chips with your dog, you can give her a timeout in her crate, a.k.a. “home away from home.” As she settles down to a stuffed Kong®, you’ll almost hear her say, “Whew! Thanks for getting me away from that guy.” Savvy owners ensure their dogs view crates as a safe and happy place throughout their lives by feeding all meals there. Never use the crate as punishment and you’ll be forever guaranteed a safe haven for your dog, whether you’re at home or traveling.

In speaking with fellow dog owners over the years, it seems almost everyone has a story about Adoring Adele or Dog Guy Doug. Many seem oddly uncomfortable sticking up for themselves and their pets. So I’m curious, how do you protect your dog from well-meaning but clueless friends and family?

 Carla Jackson is a professional pet dog trainer and owner of Jackson Ranch for Dogs, a kennel-free boarding and training facility. She specializes in private training, behavior consultations, puppy socialization and day training.  You can find Jackson Ranch on Facebook, visit the website, or call (530)365-3800.

Carla Jackson
Carla Jackson is a professional pet dog trainer and owner of Jackson Ranch for Dogs, a kennel-free boarding and training facility. She specializes in private training, behavior consultations, puppy socialization and day training. You can find Jackson Ranch on Facebook, visit the Jackson Ranch website, or call (530)365-3800.
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9 Responses

  1. Avatar Charlie says:

    Once again, this is a must read for dog owners and civilians who have dog owner friends.

    Timely, useful, and funny! And it's true, I do want dogs to worship the ground I'm mired in.

  2. Avatar Paul Frye says:

    Excellent article with tons of intelligent, well-founded info. I'm from Jersey and have no problem being "crass". I have no problem telling Doug or Adele to "STOP THAT. NOW!" My allegiance to my dog is more important to me and it's my responsibility in these "inter-specific" events (thanks to Konrad Lorenz and his excellent book, ON AGGRESSION). This is also true of Baby Adele or Doug Jr.,learning lessons from Mommy and Daddy + Rusty's enthusiastic pleadings.

    As far as the retrieving thing. I believe that, in addition to strong "genetic" certain dog instincts have been bequeathed to Rusty, he is also making the thrower happy. He/she has pleased a human, which (IMHO) many dogs will do damn near anything. If these folks were pet owners that have dogs/cats/goats, they might behave better when they arrive at your Holiday door.

    I have been training, or being trained, by various retriever breeds, for much of my 71 years. And, when my grandkids play stick or ball with Rusty, it is still difficult to tell them STOP, as they are, often, ruining months of retriever and obedience training..

    Most dogs are just fine, if the humans with whom they live would teach them how to be "good citizens" in the Human Domain.

    'Nuff said. Merry Christmas, Bless the Beasts and children.

  3. Avatar Robb says:

    This should be a brochure at every pet store and animal shelter. Well said, Carla.

  4. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Great article! I've never had a friend feed one of my dogs something without asking. On the other hand, my dog Duna was caught sneaking nuts out of a a dish at a party. That pup also found a carton of Oreo cookies in a roommates room, and one by one moved them into my room and stashed them in my bed. You have to look after your dog friends..

  5. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    Years ago my sister gave my wife a hand made wooden bowl, with a bag of candy inside. It was placed under the tree and off we went to look at the lights. When we returned, there was a very sick dog who had chewed up the wrapper, the wooden bowl and the candy disappeared. All that sugar made for a shaky dog all night as we waited for the barfing and diaherrea. They never came and the dog was perfectly fine ever since. All our friends know the story and we ask each about the possibility of the dog eating the present.

  6. I'm fortunate that most people ask before they feed my dog a treat, and I'm happy to explain to them that while my dog would love a cracker/dog treat/potato chip, that he has pretty sensitive skin and tends to get so itchy that he bites himself raw whenever he eats any kind of grain. I tell them that if they'd like to food him a treat he'll go wild after, I'll get a carrot or some chicken jerky. (And while you mentioned cheese as a potential bad food, he's never had a problem with it. Yet.)

    These days, strangely enough, my dog has started to turn up his nose to most dog treats with grain. Maybe he's finally catching on.

  7. Avatar Chere McMillan says:

    A great article – man is dogs best friend and sometimes we have to protect them.

  8. Avatar KarenC says:

    I've never had the problem of guests feeding my dog, but I've had the problem of having a very cute dog whom everyone wants to pet, touch, pickup and pet some more. I've pleaded with people at parties to "please leave him alone, he is very tired from traveling, did not sleep well last night, and is off his feed. No one listens. Unfortunately, I did not crate train my first small dog and being in a crate was torture for him. A few times he rebelled against the petting madness and bit ME. Our second dog, I was much smarter. We take her crate when we visit with her and she gets put away, during dinner, or overly admiring guests.

    Yes, your dogs get tired when traveling, just like we do. They are off their schedules, meals, and walks for a few days until they become accustomed to the new routine. The crate has saved us a lot of problems, and doggie gets a much needed nap.

  9. Avatar Canine Chris says:

    Just tell the human off, if that doesn't work a swift bop on the nose and firmly say NO! should sort the little 2 legged blighter out.