How to survive Christmas with your crazy Spaniel

December 16, 2021
spaniel spaniel cross christmas

It’s that time of year again, will Santa paws be adding your dog to the naughty or nice list?

Do you pull your hair out over your Spaniel on a regular day, let alone Christmas day?

Does your Spaniel or Spaniel mix have absolutely no social manners and jumps all over your guests and you’re wondering how on earth you’ll cope with festive visitors this year?

Maybe your dog is a lunatic as soon as there’s food served and you can’t sit still wondering what they’re up to?

Or perhaps you’ve got a new puppy and you’re trying to prepare to make sure everyone has as calm a day as possible?

Whilst Christmas day is lovely I’m sure we can all admit that it comes with many stressors, especially if you have young children or it’s your turn to host and cook! 

Trying to master perfectly cooking a turkey alongside the trimmings, vegetables and range of different potatoes is a skill in itself, not to mention finding the time to clear up wrapping paper, build any fiddly toys that you’ve reluctantly bought your young children and then on top of that your crazy Spaniel just won’t sit still! 

It’s no wonder that on Christmas day we start drinking with breakfast, bucks fizz is there for a reason!

But don’t fear, I have some simple easy tips to help you survive Christmas whether your Spaniel or Spaniel mix is a social Sally or a nervous Norman. 

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The boys and I feeling festive 🎄

How to prepare for visitors when you have a Spaniel or Spaniel mix

Excitable pups and dogs can be overwhelming, especially when your house is full of guests. The last thing you want on Christmas day is to spend it apologising for your dog’s lack of social manners and offering out tissues to another guest after their face has been licked in an over-friendly greeting! 

Whether your dog is a serial face licker, or is more on the shy side there are several steps you can take to help the day be calmer. 

For many dogs, they respond better to guests if they meet them outside in a neutral place first, it could be that you meet your guests outside with your dog on a lead and go on a short walk before heading back home. If you are finding they are still excitable after your walk try throwing some treats on the floor to scatter feed and bring their arousal down.

If your guests are coming straight in and you have a new puppy or nervous Spaniel / Spaniel mix it’s best to keep them on a lead and have some treats or toys prepared for when they arrive. One thing that works really well for my clients who have very toy motivated pups is to have a toy basket by the front door and when your guests arrive ask them to pick up a new toy and give it to your dog. Giving your Spaniel a toy will enhance a positive association and redirect their attention to the floor making jumping up less likely. 

You could also ask your guests to sit down before greeting your dog and let your dog come to them, if they’re happy to do so you can give your guests some treats to throw on the floor for your dog which will enhance a positive association. 

One key piece of advice I always give is to not let your Spaniel or Spaniel mix rehearse jumping up! It all comes down to management, which is why if you have a pup that’s prone to jumping up keep them on a lead when your guests first arrive and ask your guests to get down to their level if they want to say hello. 

You may have found that since the start of lockdown, which feels like many moons ago, your dog has become more nervous and lost its confidence around visitors. If this is the case ask your guests to ignore them and wait for your dog to approach them without any pressure, sometimes when our dogs feel forced into a greeting it can increase their nerves so if you take this away you can help to keep things cool and calm! 

Also,  make sure your dog has a safe space that they can retreat to, your dog may already have a bed or blanket that they feel comfortable in so make sure this is available to them and easily accessible and respect them if they choose to go there. The noise and stimulation of the day can be very overwhelming for nervous dogs so it’s really important that they feel they have a space just for them where they can relax. 

Spaniel puppy blog

How to prepare your dog for other four-legged visitors over Christmas

If your house is about to be filled with waggy tails over the festive season it’s important to make sure that all dogs are feeling confident and happy around one another. 

If your Spaniel is meeting other dogs for the first time I would always suggest meeting outside in a neutral place at first, you could meet on a walk and head back to the house letting them walk near each other. This will help them feel much more comfortable letting a ‘stranger’ into their home! 

After the walk keep the dogs on their leads and start with 5 – 10 minutes of finding treats in the garden or outside the house, just be aware of guarding over food as some dogs can display this when food is around. Letting them find treats will bring down the arousal from the walk to help them calm down.

Once you’re in the house have some chews or Kongs prepared for the dogs and give them one each. If the dogs are comfortable settling by themselves don’t be afraid of letting them chill in separate rooms or spaces. 

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How to keep your Spaniel calm through festive excitement 

Our poor pups don’t really get the memo for Christmas until the day arrives and the house is filled with presents, excitement and lots of smells of delicious food… as long as the turkey doesn’t burn! So for them, they are suddenly catapulted into the ‘best day ever’, it’s no wonder their energy levels ramp up.

To help train your Spaniel or Spaniel mix to settle themselves try giving them a tasty chew or a Kong in another room, keep the doors open so they know they aren’t trapped, but see how they learn to settle by themselves whilst you’re doing something else. This will help you free up some time whilst you’re in the kitchen battling with the timings of all the dishes! 

You can also try hiding some treats around the house for your pup to find, by letting your dog use their nose and sniff out treats this will really help to calm them down as sniffing releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine which increases attention and makes dogs feel good. The same sort of feeling we might get after a nice hot bath! 

You can also work on the settle cue, which will help them to calm down and teach them when to relax. Once you have trained your dog to settle this is a great training technique to use when you’re serving Christmas dinner.

For this:

Settle cue 

  • Lure your dog into a down
  • Continuously feed them between their legs when they’re in a down
  • If they get up at any point the food stops, give them 20 seconds or so to think about it, if they don’t go into a down, lure them back in and restart
  • You should be able to start varying your duration with it as well, so you’re not having to feed them all the time
  • Aim to do this 3 – 4 times a day for a couple of minutes at a time
  • You can work on incorporating this into your daily life, so if you’re sitting down to have a cup of tea or watching the TV this as an opportunity to do this exercise
  • You could use a bed for this as well – once you’re finished your settle training throw the treat away from the bed and say ‘finished’ and put the bed away
  • You won’t always need to continuously feed them whilst you’re teaching this, it’s just whilst you’re training this behaviour
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What to feed your Spaniel or Spaniel mix on Christmas day?

You may notice how your Spaniel starts licking their lips as soon as the Turkey’s out of the oven? The good news is you can treat your dog with a special Christmas dinner, you just need to ensure that everything you feed them is safe.

On the nice list for your dog’s stomach is:

  • White meats
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Greens including sprouts 
  • Cauliflower

On the naughty list of food to avoid is:

  • Anything covered in sauces, glazes, butters or oils
  • Meat with bones
  • Blue cheese as this produces a substance called roquefortine C which can make your dog poorly
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Potatoes
  • Turkey skin
  • Pigs in blankets
  • Food that contains onions, garlics, leeks, currants, raisins or sultanas 
  • Chocolate, human chocolate is poisonous and in extreme cases can have serious consequences for your dog’s health.

 If you are worried about something that your dog has consumed make sure you speak to a vet.

You could also think about treating your Spaniel or Spaniel mix this Christmas with a festive treat by using a Kong and filling it with festive goodies. 

If you’re introducing a new kong to your dog for the first time, do so slowly and always ask your vet if you’re unsure.

When you’re ready to freeze it, leave it for 3 – 4 hours in the freezer and then take it out and run it under a warm tap for a few seconds to make sure that their tongue doesn’t stick to it. 

Please read this warning to take extra care with frozen Kongs.

A Christmas Kong is a Kong stuffed with festive treats and then frozen solid to create the pawfect Christmas day treat. 

It’s so easy to do and your dog will love it! Here’s how…

In a bowl mix the following ingredients:

  1. One small jar of sweet potato baby food
  2. 1 plain, chopped green bean
  3. A few pieces of shredded turkey breast (no bone)

Next, take a small piece of turkey breast or green bean to plug the small hole at the top of the Kong.  Then, fill with the Christmas Kong recipe!  Place your Kong in the freezer overnight and on Christmas Day let your dog enjoy their tasty treat!

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Where to get more advice on Spaniels or Spaniel mix dogs?

On the run up to Christmas we’ve had some totally paws-some sessions all about preparing for festivities with your Spaniel or Spaniel mix in my monthly membership for Spaniel owners.

I’ve given personal advice to my members who’ve needed it to help them plan and prepare for the big day for their dogs and I’ve used my boys Kobie and Bailey to demonstrate all of the training techniques to break them down in a plain and simple way. 

We’re also having a special festive trick training guest session to get everyone in the mood! All videos and sessions are recorded and uploaded so that new members can watch the topics that they want and replay as many times as they like.

Don’t wait around to get help with your Spaniel or Spaniel mix there are over 150 Spaniel and Spaniel cross owners from across the world in my membership getting the help for just a small price for such a big reward. Don’t scroll through google anymore looking for the answers to your dog training, you can have them instantly when you join! 

Visit this link where you can get my Spaniel specific help immediately. 

By Hannah Antrobus

Hannah is a spaniel specialist dog trainer for spaniels and spaniel crosses. Her catchment area is Warwickshire but she offers video sessions and works with clients nationally and internationally so don’t hesitate to get in touch from wherever you are in the world!

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