Managing Holidays With Your “Bad” Dog.

Here comes the holidays.

And for people with dogs…… That means getting ready for the headaches.

Guests. Decorations. Strange sounds. Crazy emotions. Dancing. Fistfights. (Well…. Maybe that was just my house.)

I was once told that “We get dogs to have a friend. We hire dog trainers to make our friends not act like assholes.”

Here’s how to make your dog stop being an asshole, in just two easy steps! And, Just in time for the Holidays!

I’ll lay out the plan:

Step 1:

Wake up a tad early, and take the dog out for a good long roadwork session. What kind of walk? A “Cesar Millan” close heel? Nope. A good exploration. I like to use a long line (NOT A FLEXI! I’ll get into that another time) to allow them access to a lot of room to explore their world. This is a HUGE stress reducer for most dogs. And their behavior reflects it. Now, Just to be clear….. I’m not saying let your dog run crazy! There are rules. They have to “Wait for me”, “Come with me”, “Come to me”, and “Excuse me”.

“Wait for me” means, no pulling. We’ll get there, just don’t pull.

“Come with me” means I pick the direction and timing of the walk. You have 300 sq ft to roam around as long as you stay in my vicinity.

“Come to me”, means come when called.

And, “Excuse me” means, don’t block my path. One of my mentors, Chad Mackin, turned me onto an article written by one of his mentors, Dick Russel, that suggests this one piece alone is an important method all by itself.

A good long walk like this will give your dog great exercise, and help them relax. But, more importantly, it is a huge stress reliever for them. They get to just explore with you. They get to enjoy a ton of freedom, provided they follow these simple rules. The leash turns into a communication device, instead of a restraint.

Do this walk, and you’ll have a tired, satisfied dog. ready for a break.


Step 2:


In case you’re not familiar with it…… The place command is when you tell your dog to get in their bed and they stay there and chill out until you release them.

Yep, this is the one that takes preparation. If your dog doesn’t have that skill, it’s not to late to get it in time for Christmas!

But you have to start NOW!!!

If you’re in Maine come check us out at Finish Forward!

If not, Google “place command” and see if you can find something useful.

But, no matter how you get them to learn it….. It’s a game changer. Not only are they in a predictable spot, and not knocking every ornament off your Christmas tree. But, it really goes much deeper than that. For them to be ABLE to stay in their spot, they have to have some self control. They have to be able to stay calm, even through temptations. Now, that is good for your ability to manage them. But, honestly, it’s really just good for them to have that kind of emotional control. Dogs are cute wound up, and playing…. But…. For their own sanity, and health, they really should be ABLE to bring it down for a bit. A long “stay” is a great way to develop those skills. Now, I chose “Place” and not a “Down” because I’m waaaaay more concerned with geographic location, and emotional state than a particular position. The “Place command allows them to stand up. Stretch. Circle around. Whatever. Just stay on the bed, and stay cool. Now, they don’t have to stay there forever. But, if they are getting a little to amped, or are getting to under foot. I’ll put them in their bed for a while, and when they are in a better frame of mind, I will release them. I won’t try to keep them there all day. But it’s nice to have it, when you need it.

Waiting their turn!
My crew working their “Bed” at the school.

So, to recap:

1. Long walk, with lot’s of freedom, and good communication.

2. “Place” command when the dog needs to take a break.

Boom…. There you have it. Lassie in two steps.

Guess, what.

This isn’t just for the Holidays.


Look, if you do these things, you’ll have Lassie all the time. To me this isn’t just how to manage a holiday. This would be my “Companion Dog” program.

Yeah, you won’t win a trophy.

Sure, they don’t know “heel”, or “front”.


You’ll have a well exercised, non frustrated, happy, content dog. One that walks well on the leash. Comes when called. Respects your space. And, can sit on their bed under your table at the sidewalk cafe.

And honestly…. isn’t that what you were looking for when you daydreamed of a dog.

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