The festive season is filled with fun and laughter for many families, but some dogs can struggle with it. Keeping your dogs happy and safe over Christmas is essential to ensure everyone has a jolly good time. Christmas festivities can be a bit scary for some dogs. It can be especially so for pups who may have never experienced this time of year before. Christmas trees with funny lights; large crowds of people being merry; more visitors than usual, often carrying big bags and wearing silly red hats …some dogs may find it hard to deal with. So, while you are getting into the festive cheer, spare a thought for your dog. Consider the disruption to routine, and allow him extra time and space to reflect upon the commotion in his household.
If you have an anxious or reactive dog, then this time of year can be really challenging for you both. Sensitive dogs often benefit from a stable routine, and our work and home patterns often change over this period. The timing and duration of walks often change, and they can be busier. These dogs may need more sleep than usual, and lots of quiet time. They also benefit from brain activity and scenting games, to help lower their arousal levels.
Ways to help your dog over this season
- Ensure your dog doesn’t miss out on their essential physical and mental stimulation each day. Dogs are often forgotten during all the commotion and given less exercise or left for longer periods. A stuffed food toy can be given when the dog is left. We have a very comprehensive list of toy-stuffing recipes on our website. You can also save part or all of your dog’s daily food allowance to feed out of these toys throughout the day.
- Try and keep your dog’s routine the same, where possible. This really does help to reduce their stress levels.
- Allow your dog to meet guests at their own pace. Accept that they may prefer not to be hugged or petted.
- Some dogs like to have a “den” area to help them feel more secure in a busy household. Hiding is a natural coping strategy designed to limit the exposure to the stimulus. Dogs with anxiety issues tend to prefer to move to the safety of a den area when they feel emotionally challenged. This can be a covered crate, an area such as behind a sofa, or under the bed. Let him settle wherever he feels the most comfortable.
- Take care if there are visiting dogs to the house. Introduce them on neutral territory first and ensure there are no high-value items lying around that could encourage arguments. Segregate dogs that are getting very stressed. We advise periods of separation to allow some quiet time.
- If your dog is not used to visiting children then more space should be given. Closely watch their emotional state. Separate them from the child at any signs of concern (lip licking, yawning, blinking, looking away, etc).
- Some dogs are sound sensitive and strongly dislike the bangs and pops from crackers, party poppers and fizzy alcohol. Shield them from these noises where possible.
- Don’t dress your dog up in silly costumes unless you are sure they are happy with it.
- Wearing a Thundershirt, KarmaWrap or Equafleece T-Shirt to give them a “portable-hug” will benefit many dogs.
- Long-lasting treats such as Yakers, Pure Dog Stag Bars, FarmFood Antler Bars, Anco Roots and Bullbars are great for occupying dogs during periods of high activity and helping them settle down.
- If your dog is staying with you in someone else’s home, try and ensure they have their familiar items. This includes beds, toys and feeding bowls.
- Consider the impact of trigger stacking. Trigger stacking is where a number of incidents causing an emotional response happen over a space of time. So, an increase of people, the presence of children, loud laughter, etc., could all result in your dog acting “out of character” because their stress levels build up.
Foods your dog must not eat over Christmas
- There are lots of foods that are poisonous to dogs. Take care with chocolate, mince pies, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, nuts (especially macadamia and walnuts), alcohol, onions and garlic.
- It’s not only foods you must take into consideration. The many Christmas decorations that are around the house can cause injury, or worse. Tinsel and broken ball baubles for example, can be fatal.
Dangerous Christmas Gifts
- Take care that your dog doesn’t destroy that plastic squeaky toy within 2 minutes of receiving it and eat bits of plastic. The stuffing in soft toys is dangerous if ingested.
- Many of the Christmas rawhide gifts are very unnatural and a choking hazard. Never leave your dog unattended with these.
Unfortunately, the New Year celebrations also mean fireworks. Have a read of our Fireworks Blog to give you ideas on how to help your dog on 31st December.
Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.
www.petnecessities.co.uk. 07969 997 272. email@example.com.