SC dog academy owner answers your questions about dogs and the holidays

ccope@thestate.comDecember 18, 2013 

Geoff Ellinwood and his Greater Swiss Mountain dog Bjorn.

Geoff Ellinwood owns the South Carolina K9 Academy and has been training dogs, or rather coaching their owners, for years. Once you learn to speak a dog’s language, it gets easier, he said.

Should I give a puppy as a Christmas present?

Dogs are not gifts. They are time, money investments, and they are responsibilities. The act of buying somebody a dog at Christmas is like showing up on their doorstep and saying ‘Hey, I got you a baby.’ It’s the same thing as handing a child to someone. If you’re going to give it to a child and the child is not going to take care of it, it’s going to be up to the parent.

My dog thinks Christmas ornaments are toys, how do I prevent him from chewing them up?

With Christmas ornaments, don’t have it at the height the dog can get it, have it up higher. Be there with the dog, watch them around the tree and shoo them away. Presents with dogs’ toys or treats wait until around Christmas day to put those under the tree. Dogs can sniff jerky treats or bone and go under the tree to try to get them.

Are there any Christmas dinner table scraps that are OK for a dog?

A. You do not want to give them table scraps while you’re eating. The Alpha always eats first. Onions, grapes and raisins are toxic for dogs. They can have turkey as long as there’s no bones, because they will splinter or fracture and cause a dog to choke.

Is it ever too cold for a dog?

A. If the dog’s going to be outside or in the garage, you want to make sure they have a well-insulated place to go. I use a mixture of wheat straw and cedar — it gets the dogs smelling good and keeps the bugs away. Wheat straw is a very good insulator. It also depends on the dog as far as when to bring them in. A dog with a heavy, all-weather coat holds out a lot more. Pit bulls or boxers or something with a thinner coat can’t tolerate as much.

How can I keep my dog calm during New Year’s Eve fireworks?

What you want to do is mostly just condition your dog for it to be as least stressful as possible. You want to make sure you are not unintentionally exacerbating the stress by giving it more attention. Take some time that day to take the dog for an extra-long walk and get it physically worn out. Also give the dog a toy like a Kong with peanut butter. A box fan with cool air keeps a dog calm and prevents it from getting overheated and too excited. It also provides a lot of ambient noise. Resist the temptation to want to console the dog, because you’re actually telling the dog to be more scared.


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