How Not To Eat the Presents

This was a post I put up in 2012, but with the holidays on the horizon, it’s applicable again!

If you ever have an occasion to wrap a gift, you probably don’t want it torn up by the dog. Keeping them away from presents is much like keeping them away from food: practice it and watch for sniffing!

When I have puppies and gifts, I train them in stages. First, I take some zip string and curl it so it’s fun and bouncy. I make it quite clear to the puppies (and adult dogs) right away that this is not for them; I don’t even want them sniffing it. If they go to sniff it, I make a hissing noise (my personal bad dog noise) and shoo them away. (I might shoo them away with a quick poke in the side or a squirt from a squirt bottle.) I continue this until they’re no longer interested in the ribbon.

Note: if your dog is LOOKING at the ribbon, he is going to re-engage with it. Keep shooing until they no longer look!

After that, I ball up wrapping paper, add ribbon, and start all over. I do things like throw the ball of paper in the air and roll it across the floor — anything to make it more interesting. When my dogs get interested, I hiss and shoo them away. I want them to think that no matter what happens with those presents, they are NOT to tear them up! The one thing I won’t do is call my dog and hand a gift to them: I want my dogs to know that anything I hand to them can be trusted. But I can certainly “play” with it on my own, make it interesting, and tell my dogs to stay back. Sneaky, innit?

Now, with enough work you can even wrap up dog bones and expect your dogs to leave them alone… but that would take a LOT of work! I’ve been known to do just that with my dogs, but keep in mind my job is dogs: I spend the time making sure mine are excellent.

Finally, once the gifts are in their appointed place, I tell the dogs not to go near there. I want this to be so ingrained that if they’re playing, it’s automatic for them to stay away from that area. I don’t want my 110-pound shepherd dashing through the gifts and trampling anything breakable!

There is one additional thing I DON’T do, as well: though the dogs always have gifts for the holidays, they never unwrap them themselves. I don’t want my dogs learning it’s okay to unwrap presents, since they’re not so good at reading the name tags, and after I’ve spent all this time telling them to avoid the presents it wouldn’t be fair, anyway! I call my dogs over, unwrap their gift, and hand them whatever that gift is. Everyone is happy!

Happy holidays!

Jenna

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Traveling with pets

Hi, all!

Turns out moving is hard on spines. Mine went out, and I’ve spent about a month recovering! Hopefully, though, we’ll be going back to a semi-normal schedule. Starting with…

Travel!

I know a lot of people spend the summer months traveling, and some take their pets. If you travel with your pets often — even if it’s just a trip to downtown — they’ll have an easier time. (This means that if you don’t usually take them in the car, start now!)

I’m going to address road trips, as flying would be a whole other beast!

First: Prep. Hopefully you’ve taken your dog in the car often enough that they’re reasonably calm. If not, start now. You may need to crate them or seatbelt them in the car, and if driving causes them anxiety you might talk to your vet about calming medication. You can also use dramamine for dogs who get car sick (and if you get the drowsy type, you’ll have a quieter ride!).

I would suggest taking along  a collapsible wire crate or x-pen, as well as their bed, food, some bones to chew on (both in the car and when you arrive) and their favorite toy(s). Of these, the most important things are the crate and their food! Make sure your dog is crate trained, and if not check out these posts. Just before you leave, exhaust your dogs. My dogs are older, so exhausting them might mean taking them to the beach the day before and letting them wear themselves out, knowing they’ll be tired for another day or two. It might mean taking dogs for a long walk (an hour at least) before they get in the car. It might be fetch until they’re flopping over, tired. But wearing them out will help immensely.

The drive: Presumably you’ve done all the prep you can at this point. If it’s going to be a drive of more than an hour or two, give your dog some things to chew. My dogs love bison horns, antlers, and kongs stuffed with goodies. My mom, who has small dogs, uses bully sticks. I pick up these things inside the house a week beforehand, so that when they get them in the car it’s new and special again. If your dog won’t chew in the car, give them something good anyway. Maybe after a few hours they’ll change their mind. Maybe not. Either way, it can only help!

If your dogs are experienced travelers, then use your best judgement on when they need to get out and stretch their legs. My dogs are excellent travelers, but if we’re going on a long ride we get out every four hours. I keep my eyes open and find a place where they can be off-leash, safe from cars, such as a large, empty field. If your dogs don’t have a strong recall, take a long rope to tie them to, or make sure you have enough time set aside for a good walk (30 minutes at least). I like to give my dogs five-ten minutes to roam and play, and then — especially if they aren’t playing — we play fetch for ten minutes or so. It’s not enough to exhaust them again, but it takes the edge off! If your dog is easily excited and has a hard time calming down, roaming and walking is a better bet than fetch. You don’t want them amped up when they get back in the car.

Getting there: whether “there” is a hotel for the night, a cabin for the weekend, or your best friend’s house, the actions are the same. In a perfect world, you would unpack without removing your dogs from the car, or leave the car packed so you can deal with the dogs first. Then you would take them for an hour walk and, if you need to unpack, put them in their crates in the house.

The world is never perfect! When I traveled with Cash when he was young, I would take him out of the car and put him directly into his crate in the house. This way, I could unpack and settle in without worrying that he might mark or do anything else he shouldn’t be doing. This is especially the case in someone else’s house! (If that someone else has a dog, this is also a good way to let them check each other out while you’re not able to supervise.) If your dog ever marks, chews, pulls out trash, or does anything else you wouldn’t want them to do, crate them while you’re unpacking.

Now, you’re unpacked. Hooray! Time to deal with dogs.

IF THERE ARE NO OTHER DOGS IN RESIDENCE:
If you’re somewhere dog-free, then you have choices. A young or high energy dog really needs a walk or some play time at this point. Which one you choose depends on how much energy you have! A walk is best. If you’re beat, then playing fetch up and down the hall or around the beds while you enjoy a cup of tea or glass of wine is perfectly fine. Not ideal, but okay. If they’d rather go sniff around and check things out, that’s fine too. Trail them — you don’t have to be in front of them — to see what they’re getting up to. If they’re too interested in something on the floor or the corner of furniture, it’s probably where another dog peed. Chase them off or use a squirt bottle so they know not to pee there, as well! In the future, keep a wary eye on whether or not your dog is headed over there.

If you want to establish new rules, now is the time. When I go somewhere and there’s a section of house or yard I want my dogs to stay out of, I walk into that section and when they try to follow me, I chase them out. They quickly learn the boundary line! Likewise, if I want them to stay off the furniture I sit on something, and when they try to come up I push them off. Praise for being where they should will counteract any negative feelings (and probably bait them to try again, so I can enforce the rule again!).

Show them where the food bowls are, and the door so they can go out and potty. If they’re bell trained, hang your bells so they still have their cue. If you have access to a yard, take them out there and walk the fence to be sure it’s secure while they sniff around. You can do all this with your tea or wine in one hand! If you were able to bring bones or toys, put them where your dog will easily find them (ie, the middle of the floor). If you weren’t, make a pet store (or dollar store) run and get some.

When you leave to tour the sights or when you’re ready for bed, put your dog in his crate. Dogs think that new places have new rules; you don’t want your perfectly behaved dog to decide the new rule is to chew if bored, get on furniture when they aren’t allowed, mark in the house, go through the trash, etc. (If your dog is well trained, you can close them in the bedroom with you at night instead of crating them.)

The next morning, start with a walk, some fetch, their breakfast, and you’re ready to go! If your dog is seeming nervous, keep giving them calming meds from the vet. Keep in mind that this is a new place: they will try to establish new rules, as well. Stay firm with your old rules (or the house rules), and your dog will figure it out quickly. If the house rules are different than your rules, then they’ll soon realize that this place has different rules — no big deal to a dog! When you can’t watch them, crate them. That way they won’t have a chance to break the rules!

IF YOU’RE SOMEWHERE WITH DOGS:
You’ve just finished unloading the car. Yay!

Presumably by now the dogs have had a chance to sniff through the crate. If not — if, for instance, your dog is protective of his crate and so you put him in a room and shut the door — then they need to meet each other. The very best way to do this, especially if they’ve never met, is to put both dogs on leashes and go for a no-sniffing walk. Note the no-sniffing part: they should not be tangling leashes trying to say hi. By the time you’ve walked for five minutes they’ve got each other’s scent without being in each other’s faces, and things will go much more smoothly. Walk until they can walk next to each other; sniffing each other’s cheeks and shoulders while they walk is perfect. Then head back into the house, letting the new dog go first. (This lets the resident dog know that we are allowing him, and we like him.) Take them straight back to the yard if there is one, and release the hounds! The new dog will probably check out the area, while the old dog checks out the new dog. They should start getting along pretty quickly!

When they’ve worked out their kinks and are either playing well or mostly ignoring each other, invite them in. If the old dog is possessive AT ALL over toys, water, or food, then pick up his toys, put down a second water bowl in a different area than the first, and feed them separately. Get some new toys from the pet store or dollar store, nothing of high value (what is high value is determined by what the dogs like best, but usually includes bones), and let them share those.

Typical problems you might encounter would be jealousy/possessiveness of owners, toys, food, beds, and furniture, marking problems, and house rules. It is okay for two dogs to have two separate sets of rules. Dogs are not humans, and won’t object to the unfairness! So, if the old dog is allowed on the couch but you don’t want your dog learning that, it’s okay. If the people you’re visiting don’t allow their dog on the couch but are fine with yours on the couch, that’s okay, too. Always default to the house rules if you want your dog allowed back. Don’t break them just because the owner of the house isn’t in the room! Remember: dog hair doesn’t lie.

Keep the dogs in sight for the first twenty-four hours. Crate your dog when you’re not around to supervise, and watch closely for any wariness or stiffening in either dog. These are signs of discomfort, and should be attended to immediately. You can typically break this up early on by simply calling either dog’s name and giving them a quick pet when they come over. You’ll see these happening if there’s any possessiveness of the above list going on!

Sometimes, formerly housebroken dogs will start marking. If they do so, keep them in sight or crated at all times and take them out to potty frequently. If you see one sniffing intently, chase them off, then take them outside to pee and praise them for pottying outside.

Do not leave the dogs unsupervised overnight; take your dog into your room or put him in his crate! By the time twenty-four hours is over, you’ll know if you need to worry or not. If there have been no mishaps, relax. If there has been some growling or snapping, then casually keep the dogs apart (calling names, for instance, when they get too close) or even put the nosier one (not always the aggressive one) on a leash so you can pull him away when he gets too close to the other dog. Most likely, though, the dogs will be getting along like gangbusters!

Have fun, and safe travels!

Jenna

The holidays are here!

If you ever have an occasion to wrap a gift, you probably don’t want it torn up by the dog. Keeping them away from presents is much like keeping them away from food: practice it and watch for sniffing!

When I have puppies and gifts, I train them in stages. First, I take some zip string and curl it so it’s fun and bouncy. I make it quite clear to the puppies (and adult dogs) right away that this is not for them; I don’t even want them sniffing it. If they go to sniff it, I make a hissing noise (my personal bad dog noise) and shoo them away. (I might shoo them away with a quick poke in the side or a squirt from a squirt bottle.) I continue this until they’re no longer interested in the ribbon.

Note: if your dog is LOOKING at the ribbon, he is going to re-engage with it. Keep shooing until they no longer look!

After that, I ball up wrapping paper, add ribbon, and start all over. I do things like throw the ball of paper in the air and roll it across the floor — anything to make it more interesting. When my dogs get interested, I hiss and shoo them away. I want them to think that no matter what happens with those presents, they are NOT to tear them up! The one thing I won’t do is call my dog and hand a gift to them: I want my dogs to know that anything I hand to them can be trusted. But I can certainly “play” with it on my own, make it interesting, and tell my dogs to stay back. Sneaky, innit?

Now, with enough work you can even wrap up dog bones and expect your dogs to leave them alone… but that would take a LOT of work! I’ve been known to do just that with my dogs, but keep in mind my job is dogs: I spend the time making sure mine are excellent.

Finally, once the gifts are in their appointed place, I tell the dogs not to go near there. I want this to be so ingrained that if they’re playing, it’s automatic for them to stay away from that area. I don’t want my 110-pound shepherd dashing through the gifts and trampling anything breakable!

There is one additional thing I DON’T do, as well: though the dogs always have gifts for the holidays, they never unwrap them themselves. I don’t want my dogs learning it’s okay to unwrap presents, since they’re not so good at reading the name tags, and after I’ve spent all this time telling them to avoid the presents it wouldn’t be fair, anyway! I call my dogs over, unwrap their gift, and hand them whatever that gift is. Everyone is happy!

Happy holidays!

Jenna

Holidays and anxiety

If you have an anxious dog, or a dog who was formerly anxious, or a dog who tends to potty in the house when YOU get stressed out, this post is for you.

Welcome to the holidays, the time when everything goes haywire and dogs, inevitably, start making your life harder.

It’s really not surprising, if you think about it. Suddenly the people around them are in chaos, their normal patterns are broken, and they’re probably not getting the attention or exercise they’re used to, while at the same time are expected to behave better around strangers. Yeah, right!

Dogs respond to all of the above by reverting, especially if their reversion has to do with stress or anxiety. There are certainly things you can do to help your pup through the holidays, though!

1. Take time for doggie exercise.

This could also be called “Keep their patterns normal.” The more like usual you can keep your schedule, the calmer your dog will be. (You’ll probably be calmer, too!) If they normally go for a walk in the morning, take them for a walk in the morning. Maybe they usually go for a forty minute walk, and you can only manage a twenty minute one: it’s better than skipping it altogether. Pay attention to your own schedule as well: if you tend to work from midnight to seven a.m. and then walk the dog, do some shopping, and go to bed, try and keep as close to that as possible. It will help not only your own body and mind continue to function at its best, but it’ll keep your dog calmer, too!

2. Take time for yourself.

This is one of those things that people tend to skip, especially people who are really into making their dogs’ lives perfect. Let me tell you this: You can only take good care of someone (or something) else if you are taking good care of yourself. One of the first things I tell people who have puppies is to put the puppy down to nap and take some self time! If you’re stressed and unhappy, you can’t help anyone else. If that means your dog might have to skip his walk altogether every other day, then that’s fine. You’ll have the mental wherewithal to deal with the minor troubles your dog might cause if you’re rested and they’re less walked, but you won’t have the mental wherewithal to deal with those same troubles if you’re stressed and they’re exercised, but responding to your stress.  TAKE TIME!

3. If your dog really has anxiety issues, think about getting them on an herbal remedy like Rescue Remedy or getting them a Thundershirt. Both are good for just taking the edge off, and helping to keep a relatively stable dog centered.

4. Expect issues. If you know that your dog is also under stress and that you’ll probably hit some snags, then you’ll be prepared to take those snags in stride when they happen. You’ll know it’s not a major problem, but an expected part of the holidays, and that any backward steps aren’t permanent! Give yourself and your dog a little extra TLC, and don’t worry too much.

And above all, take a few deep breaths and have some fun!

Jenna

Thanksgiving!

Welcome to the special edition holiday post! There are two things we’re going to cover today:

1. How much your dog loves turkey, and how to keep them away from it

2. How much your dog loves your family and friends, and how to keep them from leaping on people.

Let’s get started!

1. How Much Your Dog Loves Turkey, and How to Keep Them Away From It

Ahhh, Thanksgiving. That time of year when delicious smells come out of the kitchen and dogs everywhere grab giant legs of turkey off the table and go careening through the house with their kill. When reasonable humans turn into screaming banshees, yelling, “Don’t let him swallow it! That turkey bone’s been cooked!” and “Someone call the vet and see how dangerous this is!”

It’s safe to assume that your dog probably shouldn’t be eating Thanksgiving food (and especially not cooked turkey bones), so let’s just say he shouldn’t grab food off the counter or table and go from there. Now, if your dog doesn’t tend to grab stuff off the counter or table anyway, then your job is much easier. Here is what you do:

a. Get a squirt bottle and put it on stream.

b. Every time your dog gets interested in the counter or table, squirt them.

You can start this Wednesday night while you’re prepping, and they’ll have the idea by Thursday.

If, however, you have a chow hound, the rules needs to be changed a little. First off, start TONIGHT. No, really. If all you’re eating is a TV dinner, set it on the table and turn away. Set it on the FLOOR and turn away. Turning away is key, because most dogs are smart enough not to grab things when you’re looking. (If your dog does grab things while you’re looking, start there.)

Now, the basics are the same: get a squirt bottle and put it on stream. The details change a little. First off, squirt your dog when they look toward the counter/table/plate. Don’t even wait for them to sniff. What you’re doing here is applying consequences to being interested in something inappropriate. If they aren’t interested, they aren’t going to grab it — and let’s face it, for some dogs it’s one quick bound from interested to running away with the whole turkey on their head.

Second off, admit you’re probably going to fail at some point. When your dog manages to grab whatever they shouldn’t have grabbed, chase them down. Now you need a bridge. A bridge is a noise that connects one bad behavior (grabbing food) to the consequence (getting squirted and having the food taken away). You can use a litany of words (“Bad dog no stealing! Dang it, that was my turkey, you bad dog!”) or a noise (“Hiiiisssst!”), but it has to continue THE WHOLE TIME. I can’t stress this enough. Most people say it, stop saying it, and pick it back up again when they find their dog. SAY IT THE WHOLE TIME. Say it while you leap up. Say it while you grab your water bottle. Say it while you run into the back yard, discover your dog isn’t there, run back into the house and search every room. Say it while you’re looking under the bed. Say it while you start squirting your dog.

So you finally find Rosie the Retriever with the other half of your grilled cheese sandwich. Now is when you start squirting again. Hopefully she drops it; in that case you stop squirting and take it back. (Eating it is optional.) If she doesn’t drop it, pry open her mouth and drag it back out. If she’s already swallowed it, pry open her mouth and look. The goal here is to make the experience so miserable for Rosie that it’s not worth the tastiness of the grilled cheese.

Note: If your dog is food aggressive or possessive, don’t approach. Squirt until either they leave it alone, or until it’s eaten. It can be a miserable experience via water bottle.

Now, the argument is over. Let it go, and go back to dinner. Start all over again. Rinse and repeat.

When your dog can leave food alone while you’re sitting there, start walking away a few feet. When they can manage that, walk away a few more feet and turn away (use your ears or glance over your shoulder periodically to see what’s going on.) Then leave the room. Then practice in other rooms (your guests may carry plates to other parts of the house), and so on, until your dog is looking at you like, “Jeez, okay, I won’t steal your food…”

Congratulations! Your dog is no longer a counter surfer.

(This sounds really easy, but once you get to the leave-the-room stage, training slows way, way down. No supervision at all is very difficult for dogs.)

Next step:

2. How Much Your Dog Loves Your Family and Friends, and How to Keep Them From Leaping on People.

First off, if your dog is actually leaping on your company, I’m going to tell you right now you probably don’t have time to fix it before Thanksgiving. Start practicing and hopefully you’ll be ready by Christmas. If your dog isn’t totally determined to leap on people, then you have a shot.

Okay, here we go. There are several ways to solve this problem.

a. Get yourself a squirt bottle. You’re getting the idea already, right? Put it on stream. When your dog starts getting too close or too pushy, squirt.

b. Put your dog on a leash. When they start to move ahead of you or jump, tug sharply sideways to knock them off balance.

c. Teach your dog to go to bed. Start now: toss a treat in their bed and say, “Go to bed!” Repeat until you think your hand will fall off. When they’re leaping at their bed as soon as you say it, withhold the treat until they actually get there, then toss it to them. Then toss them another to encourage them to stay there. Once they’re good at that, withhold the second treat and when they start to come out, physically put them back. When they start to settle down, then give them another. This process takes a while, in part because it’s time consuming to teach a dog to stay put (they don’t remember well that you told them to do something five minutes ago), and in part because when people come over it will be SO EXCITING that your dog will forget everything — so they have to know this really well, and even then assume they won’t be great about it.

You can also combine these techniques to your hearts’ content, and I would strongly suggest that you get a kong or a hollow bone, fill it with peanut butter (or other goodies of your choice, freeze the sucker to make it hard to get at, and then give your dog that in their bed. It will make them much more likely to stay there, chewing on their icky treat, and leave your guests alone!

Finally, practice with your loved ones. If you have a spouse, a partner, a roommate, kids — anyone — tell them not to just walk in the house when they get home. Tell them to call, say they’re coming in, and then knock. They can wait while you practice with your dog. Without practice it won’t work: you need someone to knock at the door!

And now… enjoy your turkey!

Jenna

Happy Howl-oween!

First off, I want everyone to know that I have a BRILLIANT Halloween costume this year. I’ve worked my butt off on it! I’m going as Black Widow (from The Avengers), and I had every intention of dressing my dogs up as Thor (Cash) and Hawkeye (Lily), but alas, I ran out of time. The Los Gatos Howl-O-Ween festival for dogs will have to go on without me.

None of which is what this post is about. This post is about answering the door for trick or treaters, and getting your dog to be calm!

Halloween is the one night a year where people come to the door over and over JUST so you can practice answering with your dog! (That’s why it happens, right? I’m sure.) So! Prepare!

1. Answering the door

If you have a dog that barks (be it in excitement or aggression), then the first thing you’re going to do is put them on their training collar on a leash, and keep them by your side. Now, hopefully you’ve been practicing Good Dog Walking, such as getting easily through the door and no pull/loose leash walking. (If you haven’t, you still have a week. Go now! Start! The most important thing for this purpose is being able to not get hauled through your door, so just focus on that.) If that’s the case, then you already know important things like keeping the collar high (to effect your dog’s head instead of his body) and keeping your dog’s head right next to your hip (because otherwise they’ll already have pulling leverage and it’ll make your life harder).

So! The doorbell rings. A chorus of angels and demons and the occasional cowboy demand sustenance. First, you pause to pull your collar up where it belongs. Second, you walk to the door. Now, every time your dog starts to surge ahead, you lift up on the leash and put them  back in place. The reversals I talk about in the links are AWESOME, but we also have to get somewhere. If you’ve been doing them, then your dog will realize what’s up quickly even though we’re not quite doing them now.

You get to the door! Ask your dog to sit. If they don’t, pull up gently and steadily on the collar (shifting their weight from the front to the hind, NOT picking their front feet up off the floor). If they don’t get it, reach down and push their butt down. After you’ve done it a few times, they’ll get it!

Reach for the door knob. Make your dog sit again. Open the door. Make your dog sit again. Start to ooh over costumes. Make your dog sit again. You see how this works, right?

“Oh, that sounds easy!” I hear you cry.

HA! This sounds simple, but when I say “Make your dog sit again” it’s because your dog will be trying to leap and twist through the air, nearly taking you out at the knees. Don’t yell at them, don’t scold them, don’t get frustrated. Pick up on the leash (this will also control their head, remember, so they don’t haul you out the door) until they calm, sit them down, and move on.

Here’s the best part: after the first five rings, most dogs improve SIGNIFICANTLY.

2. Oh my God! There are MONSTERS at the door!

Now that you’ve managed to open the door, all those kids are probably going to ask to pet your dog. This is where protection comes in. If your dog is going, “Please please pleeeeeeaaase no one ever pets me letthemletthemletthem!!” Then, sure, they can pet your dog.

If your dog is going “HOLY SHIT THE WORLD IS BEING TAKEN OVER BY MONSTERS” then they can’t pet your dog. You’ll know if this is the case, because your dog will bark and/or try to run away. When this happens, we can use it as the perfect bravery training! You let your dog escape just behind your legs (and/or step in front of him to encourage this), tell them they need to sit and not bolt, and tell the kids “I’m sorry, but my dog’s in training. He can’t be petted right now.”

You’ve just told your dog that you’ll protect him (you hid him and stopped him from getting petted) and that he needs to be relatively brave, as brave as possible, when we say that really there’s nothing wrong (you didn’t let them escape back into the house and you did ask him to sit and be calm). This is how you get dogs who trust that you’ll ask of them what they can give, and who will do their very best trying to do what you want even under stress.

Now, finally, if you have two people in the house you might want to have one person hand out candy, and one person handle the dog, at least until the first five door knocks when your dog starts to figure it out. It just depends on how wild your dog goes with the door opens.

After Halloween, it’s easy for dogs to forget good door manners. You can enforce the same thing just by grabbing their collar and pulling it up under their jaw when you answer the door, and in two-people households the best way to practice is for one person to knock when they get home, instead of just coming right inside. Voila! Practice!

Your dog will be walking calmly to answer the door and sitting to greet folks at the door in no time!

Jenna

Holidays!

I bet you have presents, complete with wrapping paper and ribbon sitting somewhere around your house right this minute! And if you have a dog, your dog probably thinks those presents are pretty fun toys!

There’s a trick to keeping a dog from going after presents (or food or counters or trash or anything else, really). First off, don’t go showing things to your dog. That makes them interesting! Don’t wander around cooing over those fancy packages, if you can avoid it. Don’t point them out to your pup and then firmly tell him to leave them alone; all your dog knows is that you drew his attention to them, so they must be important!

But most importantly, when you see your dog LOOKING at those things, make a noise that will startle them (clapping, a hissst noise, slapping a newspaper against your thigh, etc) and when they jump away, call them away and praise them for leaving.

Note that I said to do it when your dog looks at the packages. If your dog gets used to ignoring them completely, then when you leave they might visually check it out, but they won’t tear into things. If you let them look, then when you leave they’ll still take it one step farther: tearing into things! You always want to correct for better behavior than you really care about, so that when push comes to shove and the line gets blurred, it doesn’t get blurred very far, and your dog walks away still well behaved!

Meantime, have fun opening presents!

J