Whelp, it’s December so that means we can talk about Christmas without guilt! I wanted to get this blog out early so that you have plenty of time to prepare yourselves and your dogs for the festive season. These tips are for all dogs to benefit from, be it a new puppy or rescue, or a dog you’ve had for years. Christmas can be a strange and stressful time for both dogs and humans, so having a plan in place to make it run as smooth as possible means you only really have to worry about things like that creepy distant Uncle or passive aggressive in-laws.
So, let’s get started:
Living in each other’s pockets This time of year is going to see you home more, the kids off school and with the weather not the warmest, all of you cooped up inside. Don’t underestimate how much that might affect your tolerance levels. You should also take your dog’s stress levels into account too. Especially if they are used to having the house to themselves during the day for some serious snooze time. With a suddenly busy household, your dog might be less tolerant and want tome to themself. You might also be prone to reacting to behaviours from your dog that you usually ignore. How to help? Make sure your dog has a safe space away from the busy parts of the house for them to retreat to or for you to pop them in to help them decompress or if you need to manage them. Make sure you put this into place before you need it and create positive associations around the space. Provide plenty of enrichment for them to relax and give their brain a workout. Puzzle feeders, Kongs, Licki or Snuffle mats, chews are all great ways to help.
All that Christmas Swag The tree… the decorations… presents… lots of opportunities for your dog to do something less than ideal. Your dog is going to be looking at you weird for bringing a tree into a house and dressing it with shiny things and stirring even more interesting boxes underneath. The novelty of it can be enough to attract dogs to chewing and destroying presents, decorations, and trees. Puppies in particular, are prone to exploring with their mouths! Pine needles are also not good for dogs so keeping on top of hoovering them up if you have a real tree, is a must. How to help? Protect your gifts while maintaining the aesthetic by keeping the real ones stored away and safe and wrapping some empty boxes with Christmas paper and keep them under the tree. Use a puppy pen to fence in your tree and stop your dogs going near it. Or place the tree up on a stand or elevated surface so they cannot get to it. Cover all cable for Christmas lights or cover them so your dog cannot get to them.
Family and Friends Revolving Door Christmas is the time of coming together for friends and family and that means a higher volume of guests in your home. This can be a stressful time for your dog, especially if you have relatives with children. Not everyone is dog savvy and might not see the signs your dog is giving of that might prevent a reacting or worse, a bite. The constant build-up of visiting people without a chance to have a break can also make your dog less tolerant in general and prone to reacting where previously they would not. How to help? Keep children away from the dog. Not all children or dog savvy and your dog might not like to hang out with strange mini-humans. Have a set plan for how you are going to deal with guests visiting such as popping the dog away until the guests are settled then bringing your dog in to greet on a lead. Let your dog have lots of decompression time, even if it means popping them away to chill out mid visit.
Let’s face it, Christmas is a great feasting of things we shouldn’t really have but ‘go on, it’s Christmas’ and you indulge in them all. But many of these festive treats are not good for your dogs. This is one of the busiest times of year for vets dealing with dogs who have eaten something they shouldn’t have. Many of these incidents either happen from presents left under the tree, or decorative bowls of treats left out for people (and canine) to help themselves. How to help? Start practise your dog’s leave it cue. Teach your dog to settle on a station while you eat your dinner. Get into the habit of not leaving food out in the open and lying around. Things that need to be left out should be in an airtight container.