Dog afraid of holiday decorations?

fearful dogs Dec 12, 2023

Have you noticed your dog freezing up, or maybe lunging and barking, at holiday displays? Many dogs are bothered by the large decorative displays that are more common this time of year. This week I talked about 3 strategies for making it through the holiday season more peacefully if you have enthusiastic decorators in your neighborhood.

Strategy #1: Avoid Walking Past Holiday Displays

If you can change your walking route to avoid passing the biggest displays of holiday cheer in your neighborhood, that might be the easiest solution here. 

If your immediate neighbor has a large display you're trying to avoid, is there an exit from your house or yard that gives you some distance from that display? If your dog is terrified right when they walk out the front door, you might find yourself struggling to get your dog to leave the house that way even after the holidays are over.  So do your best to give your dog the space they need to cope with all this holiday weirdness.


Strategy #2: Praise & Reward Looking At Displays

You might already be familiar with Leslie McDevitt's "Look at that" (LAT) game.  When your dog looks at a display, say "Yes!" (or "Good boy!" or whatever your dog associates with treats), then give them a treat and move along.  

Your dog might need a certain amount of distance from the display in order to play this game. If your dog lunges and barks, or freezes and won't eat, they're probably too close. Either refer to strategy 1 (avoid the displays), or give your dog more distance. For instance, you might need to cross the street before you reach the display if you see one coming up on your walk.


Strategy #3: Ask For & Reward An Alternative Behavior 

Does your dog have one or more behaviors they do reliably when you ask?  Maybe a "look at me", or a hand touch? If so, you can try asking your dog for this reliable behavior whenever they see holiday displays, and reinforce with really good treats. 

If your dog can't do their usually reliable behavior around holiday displays, move to strategy 1 or 2 above. 



If you have any questions about helping your fearful dog survive the holidays, shoot us an email at [email protected]. We'll be happy to try to help!

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