I have had my 13-year-old terrier since he was a year old. Bob is a great character and we still have lots of fun together. He can be quite grumpy these days, though, especially if his routine is changed, so I try to keep everything the same. 

However, family are coming to stay at Christmas, including two very lively boys of six and eight, and I’m worried Bob may get stressed and snappy. I don’t want to have to shut him in the kitchen on his own for five days, but is that the only safe option?

I’ve taken him to the vet and they say he is in very good physical health for his age, apart from a bit of arthritis, and he has a joint supplement for that in his food.

I’d be grateful for any advice.

Kirsten Dillon advises…

My advice is some strict management and some quality time spent educating the boys before they arrive. Speak to their parents at length and forward them your ‘rules of engagement’ for everyone to read through first. Such rules may be along the lines of, “Don’t wake Bob if he is sleeping”, “Don’t approach Bob if he is eating”, “Be careful with Bob’s back, as it is sore”, and so on. I find that including children in a dog’s care and training instantly gets them on board, rather than working against you.

Phrase your rules in such a way that you are asking for their help. Say you are worried that other family members may forget Bob is older and arthritic, so would they help you to remind them and show them how to handle Bob, and when to interact and when to leave him be?

If you make it clear what is and isn’t acceptable, you don’t need to leave anything to chance and you also have clear boundaries, which children need.

Make sure you praise the boys for doing the right thing and you could even consider a bag of chocolate coins as their payment for being such good ‘dog sitters’.

If all else fails, or Bob appears unhappy, then certainly remove him from the company. Give him a treat to chew on, or a stuffed Kong toy, and leave him to settle alone. This will always be preferable to him becoming stressed and anxious. Safety should always come first.


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