Pepe Peruyero of Pepedogs answers questions on caring for and traveling with pets during the holiday season.
With the holiday season upon us, social calendars are beginning to fill with dinners, gatherings and trips to visit family. For pet owners who must or prefer to bring their four-legged sidekicks, these heightened social events can be stressful environments for everyone.
To help you and your furry companions enjoy a relaxing holiday, we sat down with Pepe Peruyero of Pepedogs’ J&K Canine Academy to answer common questions about traveling and handling unfamiliar social situations with your pet. His best general tip for successfully weathering any new situation: Know your pet.
What is the best way to introduce animals to one another?
When one dog is being introduced to another, the best way is to have the dogs meet in neutral territory, such as a park or the street. You want to allow them to interact and “meet and greet” while leashed. When it’s time to go home, the “new” dog should already be in the home. That way, when the resident dog reenters, he or she doesn’t feel as threatened by this dog because they’ve already met.
When introducing your dog to an animal of another species, the major concern is the dog’s predatory drive. The dog’s instinctual response depends on the reaction of the other animal. It is important for pet owners to understand that there must be a relationship between you and the dog based on control and obedience for this to be a positive interaction. When there is established control and obedience, it reduces a significant amount of stress for your dog. So, even if your dog’s instinctive response to a new animal is to approach it, it can be overridden by this control. Once control over the dog has been clearly established and he or she becomes somewhat desensitized to the presence of the new animal, then the dog may be allowed more freedom.
What are some tips for traveling with pets?
Traveling with a pet, when done correctly, is not as difficult as everyone makes it out to be. When we travel, the common factors that come into play are the pressure, the altitude and the sounds that the dog is going to be exposed to. You don’t necessarily have to desensitize your dog to being in a plane or car, but you should work to stabilize the dog’s behavior and the environment in which they will be traveling.
If your dog travels in a crate, it’s really just the crate to which they have to be accustomed. To help your dog become comfortable in his or her crate, place a shirt that you’ve worn in the crate so the dog can travel with your scent. Another great idea is to let your dog travel with his or her favorite toy. It’s important that your dog is acclimated to the crate prior to your vacation. I recommend introducing the crate into your dog’s normal life at least three to five weeks before you travel for a smooth transition.
When is it a good idea to keep your pets out of an area where guests are present?
There is not one right or wrong answer to this question; for every dog and for every case, the response will vary. The common denominator here is a knowledge and understanding of your dog. The answer to this question for your particular situation depends on two variables: the dog and your guests.
As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to know what situations cause your pet stress and anxiety and how she or he will most likely react in those situations. Separating your dog from stressful stimuli is the best way to prevent negative behavior. Whether or not your dog should be removed from a situation where guests are present depends on your dog’s innate personality traits. Is your dog friendly and comfortable in situations with unfamiliar people, or does he or she tend to be less social? We can teach a dog how to behave in social environments, but we cannot necessarily make the dog like people.
On the other hand, in a situation where guests are not fully comfortable with the presence of dogs, your pet should be kept out of the main room. Dogs can be very sensitive to the emotions of the people around them. When a guest is nervous or anxious about the dog, that will make the dog’s owner nervous or anxious, and dogs will instinctively pick up on their owner’s feelings and associate this new guest as the cause. Removing a dog from this particular environment is usually the best thing you can do. The key here is that once we reduce the stress levels of the guest, it in turn reduces the stress faced by the pet owner, which then reduces the stress felt by the dog.
What are some tips for storing your pet during a social event or storing two pets together?
You should be cautious if the dogs are overly excited about interacting with your guests. If they are barking or scratching at the door while your guests are over, the best solution is to crate the dogs separately. The reason for this is to avoid redirected or displaced aggression that can occur when both dogs are anxious about getting out of the room. There is a possibility that they could bump into one another while excited and end up getting into a dog fight. If you have dogs exhibiting this behavior and you are anxious about leaving them in another room, the best solution is to either keep them in separate rooms or separately crate them in one room.
What are some tricks for helping dogs cope with elevated levels of noise and stimulation during the holiday season?
The most important thing is to provide as much desensitization as possible. Repeatedly exposing the dog to environments where she or he will be surrounded by crowds, such as a dog park, is a good idea. There, your dog can slowly increase his or her acceptance of noises, activity and movement.
Dogs will exhibit a variety of different behaviors when they become anxious, but some of the most common behaviors include: excessive whining, acting abnormally aloof or being overly clingy. When these behaviors are displayed, it is your dog’s way of relating to you that he or she is anxious and wants to be removed from the situation. Again, the most important message is to know your dog. You should be able to understand what your dog is communicating to you and how to interpret his or her behavior before entering any potentially high-stress situations.