I can hardly believe the difference in Rudy during the crazy holiday season this year. Last year, I was a nervous wreck to have people come to my house for the holidays because I never knew how Rudy was going to react. When people would come to the door, the craziness would begin. He used to charge the door, barking, growling, and trying to get at the people on the other side. Then, once I got the door open, after pushing him out of the way, and managing to squeeze myself in between him and the door, I never knew how he was going to greet the people on the other side. Even people he had met before - I still didn't know what the reaction would be because it all depended on how over-adrenalized he was at the time people showed up!
Even sometimes with people he had met before, he would growl at them, and follow them around nervously. Sometimes, he would continue to bark at them even after they had been in the house for a little while. Sometimes he would just plant himself next to me, and shake the whole time, not wanting to leave my side, and keeping a very watchful eye on our company. And sometimes, if it was Uncle Vinny, he would literally try to go through me to run at him and try to tear his arms off! I was always a nervous wreck, and the idea of hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas at my house with loud kids, louder adults, food, and people coming in and out, pretty much scared the hell out of me, because I knew that it was going to be crazy stressful for me and Rudy.
But this year was entirely different!! First off, I was calm and ready to handle any situation, regardless of who came to the door because I knew Rudy was going to look to me to give him information and make sure that he knew what I wanted him to do. Our first adventure was our Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Now mind you, we live in a rather small two bedroom townhouse. It's enough space for us, Rudy and our college age daughter, but not really the easiest place to host a big family dinner. But as the oldest daughter, I have been hosting our Thanksgiving dinner since my parents moved to Florida on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for us, my two sisters, and their children and significant others. That means about 12 of us crammed into my small condo. Last year -it was rough. Rudy bothered the kids as they ate at the kids table. He would try to weasel his way under the large table where the adults were, and would put his head in peoples' laps while they ate. So I would lock Rudy in his crate, and he would whine and fuss the whole time we were eating. But not this year. This year started off on a much better note, and only got better!
First off - when people came to the door, I told Rudy to get in his place. He stayed in his place and waited, while people came in, took their shoes and coats off, and got settled in their spots. Once they were settled, he was allowed to come out of his place, and they were not allowed to talk to him until he was calm and relaxed with their being in the house. If he was calm, they were allowed to call him over and give him attention. This made the greetings much better, and allowed people to come into my house without being charged by my dog. He was not jumping up on them as they came in, and he was not barking or stalking them.
Next, if he couldn't relax while people were there, i.e he was pacing or sitting near me and shaking, theb he was made to go back to his place. Once he was calm and relaxed in his place, then he could come back out. After a few times of going back in his place to relax himself, he was able to come out and just lay on the floor around everyone, and be calm and relaxed. He had finally learned how to calm himself and stay in a relaxed state, even with crazy kids running around and calling his name, and petting him, and throwing things, etc. Amongst all of it, Rudy maintained his calm and relaxed state, showing appropriate levels of energy with everyone that he interacted with.
During dinner time - it was also much different this year. Since April, we have been consistently putting Rudy into his place while we eat our meals at home. At this point, we often times don't even need to tell him to get in his place, when he sees me setting the table most nights, he runs and gets in his place. Of course, with the chaos of Thanksgiving and turkey droppings he was scarfing up during the carving process, he didn't voluntarily go to his place, but once I told him "place" - he dutifully went and settled into his bed. He stayed there the whole time - even while the kids ate at the kids' table literally 3 feet from his bed (I told you my condo is small!). He didn't once get up to the bother the kids or try to get under any tables. He waited patiently - he waited because he knew what was coming. You see, if he waits for the entire meal and doesn't get up until the table is cleared off, and he hears me say "ok", then he knows that there will be something good in his bowl. As extra incentive, and to work on his impulse control, he watched me cut up turkey and put it in his bowl as I cleared the table. And although a puddle of drool formed on his bed, he didn't move a muscle. He waited, and everyone at the table (kids and adults alike) oohed and ahhed about how well behaved he was a what a good boy he was. He waited for about another 20 minutes and then I finally told him "ok" and he ran to his bowl and got his food. He then settled down, and relaxed with the kids, while they totally loved up on him (and of course snuck him some more food!).
Christmas pretty much went down the same way except this year, Rudy was so good that he got to go to Meme's with us for Christmas dinner! I couldn't have imagined bringing him to that chaos last year with about 20 people, and kids opening presents. Rudy laid calmly in the middle of the living room floor and watched nicely as all the kids opened their presents. He didn't steal anything, he didn't shred wrapping paper, he just listened. Later, the kids took him outside, off leash, to play ball, and walk in the woods, and he just listened to all of them. He stayed right with them, and everyone was amazed at how well he did. We didn't bring his bed, so I put him in place on the sofa while we ate, and we had a fabulous dinner with no one begging or drooling on anyone's lap!
After the craziness of the holidays was over, I thought back on how amazing this year was compared to last year. I didn't have to worry about what was going to happen, and most of all, Rudy didn't have to worry and stress about what was going to happen!