The dog fight under the Thanksgiving table: A true story

The dog fight under the Thanksgiving table: A true story

By Judd Spodek

You don’t want this to happen at your next holiday meal.

Several years ago, for Thanksgiving, my friend Jes traveled to Maryland to visit Rose and Sid, his aunt and uncle. Zanner, the dog, accompanied him. Rose and Sid, who didn’t have a dog of their own, were dog-sitting Karma, while another nephew was away.

Neither dog had met the other before the visit. In between the main course and dessert, at Rose’s Thanksgiving table, Uncle Sid decided to hold Karma on his lap. Sid was unaware that Zanner was resting under the table.

Dessert was about to be served, so Sid put Karma down—right where Zanner lay. Immediately, all hell broke loose.

The two dogs snarled, growled and barked, frightening the other guests, who jumped from their seats to run across the room. The dogfight seemed like all-out war. The upshot: Karma had bites on his neck; Sid took him to a Thanksgiving veterinary emergency room, where Karma received four stitches to heal the wound. Zanner was unharmed. Thanksgiving was memorable, to say the least.

What should Jes have done to avoid the dogfight?

Here are some tips for taking your pooch on a holiday excursion. First order of business: calmly and slowly introduce the dogs (outside or in a neutral area is always best). You don’t want them to be strangers; let them sniff around and become comfortable with each other. Try to pick up any toys, bowls and bones too.

And before that, to plan for a trip and have a well-behaved pet, you should begin by teaching “doggie manners.”

Try these three separate boundary commands: Place, Stay and Back.

PLACE: In dog training we call this the “send-away.” Some trainers use a raised bed or platform. You can even use the dog’s regular bed—one you have already purchased.

The purpose here is to send the dog away—or to the PLACE. This gives you separation from your dog, which helps form good behaviors. When the doorbell rings, for example, you can direct your pup by telling him “GO TO PLACE.”

“STAY”: When you want your dog to stay put and not move, this is the command you use. It’s a key command in dog training and one of the first your pooch must learn. Your dog should learn to sit and stay, down and stay, place and stay, etc. until you release them that movement is okay.

“BACK”: Here your dog is learning to move away and give you space. When a dog learns to respond to this command, or one similar (“AWAY”), he knows to back off.

You might use a single command or a combination of directives. What these and other commands do for you is to help your pup learn not to jump, not to steal food or initiate other behaviors that will frighten visitors.

And when you are visiting others, your dog learns that you are in charge. That is essential for successful excursions to friends and family.

A well-mannered pet is a joy to have around, and a pleasure to share your holiday with. All you need to do is put in a little bit of time, with consistency and a touch of persistence.

And most important, I urge all customers— and all pet owners—  Please look online to learn what foods might be harmful or poisonous to your pets. Here’s to a happy and healthy holidays for you and your furry friends.

For more information and answers to your questions, contact:

Judd Spodek operates “SIT” HAPPENS! Inc. Dog Training. He can be reached at (516) 523-8449,  [email protected] and [email protected]

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