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Key tips to help stop dogs turning aggressive as festive madness take hold – The Mirror

Pet owners have been given key ways to keep your dog relaxed and stop it from becoming agitated and aggressive with unfamiliar faces and plenty of noise over the festive season
Pet owners have been given steps to ensure your dog doesn’t become agitated and aggressive at Christmas and throughout the festive period by experts.
There have been a spate of dog attacks over the past year that have thrown attention onto more dangerous breeds with the XL Bully now joining the list of those that are banned. Shocking cases include Ian Price, 52, who was fatally mauled by two dogs in the quiet village of Stonnall, near Sutton Coldfield, on September 14.
It will be illegal to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, rehome, abandon or allow XL Bullies to stray in England and Wales from December 31 this year. There has also been advice for people on what to do when faced by a dangerous dog and now over the festive period, how to keep your pet relaxed so that it is not likely to respond in an aggressive manner.
Christmas and New Year can be a stressful period for everybody and that can be sensed by your pet and have an impact especially if you have a dog with a more nervous character. Plenty of noise and unfamiliar faces can also leave certain breeds of dogs feeling unsettled. Now Will Atherton, a canine behaviourist expert, has given useful advice on helping to keep your dog calm.
1. Create A Safe Space
“With Christmas being such a busy time with lots of exciting things going on and lots of new people coming over, it's important that your dog knows they have a safe space to get away from it all if they feel uncomfortable or stressed," said Will. "My biggest tip for this is crate training, but that shouldn't just be shutting your dog away in a crate. You need to create a positive association with the crate, so it becomes your dog's favourite place where they can get away from it all, switch off and relax.
"There are lots of games you can play with the crate to help create this positive association, or it can be as simple as giving them their dinner inside.” Top Tip: Throw a nice blanket over the crate to create a calm, cosy space that taps into your dog's natural denning instincts to create an additional level of comfort and security.
2. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
“A tired dog is a happy dog, and it will be much easier for your canine companion to relax and enjoy the festive period if they aren't overflowing with excess energy," said Matt.
“If they are nice and tired when you have guests over, they will find it much easier to settle down. It will prevent them from unleashing excess energy around children or younger relatives who are excitable and have more energy than your dog is used to.” Top Tip: Give your dog a nice long walk somewhere new and exciting before having guests over so they are nice and tired and will find it easier to relax.
The Mirror is calling for these changes:
1. The overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act . An urgent review of the law is needed and tougher penalties should be considered.
2. Enforce the rules to stop the illegal and irresponsible breeding and selling of dogs.
3. A public information campaign to promote the importance of responsible dog ownership and the need for training.
3. All Four On The Floor Game
“This is something that you can start right away to prevent any nasty accidents with younger or older relatives – the 'all four on the floor’ game," said Matt, "Basically, you want to teach your dog that they will only get fuss or praise when they greet someone with all four paws on the floor.
“If they decide to jump up at you or one of your guests, you remove your attention and wait for them to be calm, with all four paws on the floor, before you can then greet them, give them a fuss and maybe even throw in a treat whilst they are learning.” Top Tip: Try to keep energy levels low when you greet your dog and ask your guests to do the same thing, especially if they are prone to jumping. Set your dog up for success and keep things calm to prevent them from becoming overexcited and forgetting the game.
And Wendy Kruger, dog behaviour and training specialist at Woodgreen Pets Charity, also recommended giving dogs plenty of exercise and engaging in games with them to “stimulate their senses. “This should ideally be done an hour before guests arrive, so they have time to relax and calm down,” she said. These are her four pieces of advice for dog owners:
1. Preparing for unfamiliar faces
Before the big day, we recommend getting your dog used to being behind a baby gate or in another room. To keep your dog happy, make sure to give them something tasty, using something like a LickiMat or a stuffed Kong. For some dogs, baby gates are a better option compared to a door, as the latter is more likely to make the dog feel less secure and involved.
2. Exercise and mental stimulation
On the day you’re expecting guests, it’s important to give your dog enough time to thoroughly exercise before the guests arrive. A refreshing and enriching walk is ideal, and if possible, try and engage in some playful activities during the stroll to stimulate their senses. If you don’t have time to go on a walk, an active game in the garden or at home is another option, alongside some brain training. This should ideally be done an hour before guests arrive, so they have time to relax and calm down.
3. Introducing new faces
Once your guests have arrived and before they step inside, put a lead on your dog, slip on your walking boots, and head outside for a stroll around the neighbourhood together. This short walk will help your dog feel more at ease and set the stage for a more relaxed interaction with the guests. After the dog has familiarised themselves with the new faces, guide them back indoors and settle in.
Once back inside, don’t forget to reward your dog with treats, such as a Kong filled with some dog-safe peanut butter. This positive reinforcement adds an extra layer to the overall experience for your dog, creating positive associations with the presence of guests.
4. Interacting with children
If your dog isn't used to being around children, make sure they are kept behind a baby gate. This helps manage interactions between the dog and the children, so that there aren’t any risks or accidents. It also prevents children from wanting to be near and interact with the dog too frequently.
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