PEACE FOR A PET FRIENDLY HOLIDAY      You want to create holiday interior decorations to make the festivities enjoyable for your guests, family, pets, and you! Here are no worry interior decorating and behavioral ideas for the holidays.

 If you’re planning to entertain guests in your home, introducing a new baby pet under the Christmas tree is a touching scene, but terrible idea. I can’t make the point more emphatically other than everyone, especially the pet, will be miserable, and is stirring a cauldron of disaster. Wait until after the holidays so you can prepare your home properly to receive your new addition. This article focuses on homes with existing pets.

With the holidays quickly approaching, what steps do you need to take keep your pets, guests, family, and friends happy? I’ve had 5 cats in my family over the course of my 60+ years. I’ve found that when guests appear, the cats disappear. So after I’ve done a thorough hair and dander removal, it’s the dogs that can pose a challenge.  So start NOW! Proper technique provides immediate results.

My favorite training tools are crates and gates. Use a crate and leave the door open at all times using gates to confine your dog to a specific area. The gates are easy to fold and store and can be used anywhere to set up temporary boundaries for the holidays, or any time. Initially, I created a corral around Harley's crate. It was his world, providing protection, source of food, and a great tool for housebreaking. As he grew, and his territory expanded, I bought more gates. I’ve used this combination since I brought Harley home. By the time he was 3 years old, I no longer needed any restrictions. At age 5, he’s a perfect gentleman that doesn’t beg, jump, or bark (well… maybe a little to welcome a visitor. After all, he is a dog). If your dog gets out of hand, have him retreat to his crate and gate territory.
Jumping up is a big issue. After all, the only way 8 lb Harley could reach his guests to greet them was to jump. This is not an endearing attribute. He loves children, and his jumping would knock them over causing tears instead of giggles of delight. Start training early by asking visitors to bend down to the dog's level, and hand him a toy. This encourages non-jumping behavior. I worked diligently with young children until we found a mutually acceptable solution.

Shrill barking is possibly the most tortuous behavior I can experience. When a guest arrives, before the door is opened, I allow a short series of “announcing” barking. After all, your dog is trying to protect you as well as welcome nonthreatening guests. After praising Harley for his efforts, I pick him up, and open the door. The guest says hello on an equal level, while I'm holding him, and once I place Harley back on the floor, he quiets down.

Polite elevator behavior is imperative: I live in an apartment, so we ride an elevator a lot. It's an enclosed space that can be perceived as threatening. He's learned not to approach a fellow rider unless he's 'invited' to greet. This works phenomenally well for those who love dogs, and for those who don't want anything to do with them. Harley receives amazing compliments on his behavior. This transfers to street behavioras well as in an elevator.

Keep your pet away from the tree. Use gates to either close off the room, or surround the tree. Decorations can be toxic; small decorations can be choked on, and an electrified tree adds more issues. I spend a few days watching Harley very carefully to keep him out of trouble. Gates are a great remedy to keep him confined when I’m unable to keep an eye on him or don’t have a volunteer to assist. Cats are ninjas and can evade gates and barricades. They are intrigued by lights, movement, and smell. This is where you have to be very diligent. You might have to forgo electrified ornaments, and be prepared to have your cat rearrange your tree.

When guests arrive, remove the gates, and assign a family member to keep watch. Most dogs are more than happy to receive guests and toys. Have some at hand to give to the dog, and interest in the tree fades quickly.  Keep other decorations out of reach. Instead of placing gifts under the tree, fill giant baskets with wrapped gifts on tables near the tree or around the fireplace. It’s innovative, and is a great decorative idea that keeps gifts safe from pets as well as young people.

If you’re unsure about your pet, here are some simple guidelines to keep your home pet friendly without cramping your style.
1. Outdoor furniture is virtually child and pet proof, and some beautiful looks that transitional to indoor looks are available.
2. Microsuede upholstery is a miracle fabric. It can take scratches and rubbing and looks better with age
3. Use washable slip covers on furniture
4. Outdoor fabric manufacturers are creating fabulous patterns for indoor use. It’s tough and washable
5. Area rugs can be sent out for a good cleaning compared with wall to wall carpeting that is expensive to keep clean.
6. Outdoor rugs are beautiful indoors, and can be hosed down to clean
7. Make certain your pet has its own toys and place to snooze!

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