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.