Christmas can be an unsettling time for dogs. Your home fills up with unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells; a tree, decorations, lights, things that go bang, presents, and lots of different people may come to visit. So here are some tips on helping your dog have a safe and happy Christmas.
If your dog is not used to lots of people in the house, give them a quiet place to be alone. If family members bring their dog, make sure both dogs are not left to their own devices. Another dog in the house may be overwhelming for your dog so provide them with their own quiet place to chill out.
Lots of tempting bowls of food appears around the house, but keep them out of your dog’s reach – watch for plates and alcoholic drinks placed on the floor by your guests not understanding how opportunistic a dog is. Some foods popular at Christmas can be dangerous: chocolate, macadamia nuts; fruit cakes and mince pies contain ingredients that can be toxic to dogs, and watch out for turkey bones. With so much food about, keeping your dog out the kitchen is one way to keep their temptation at bay. Remember that eating food your dog is not used to may result in you having to clean up after their upset tummy!
Introduce new things such as the tree or decorations carefully to your dog, especially a puppy – maybe keeping them on lead until you see how they react. Christmas tree needles are not digestible and can be mildly toxic – so don’t let your dog nibble the tree, and sweep up dropped needles as soon as possible. Christmas plants such as poinsettias, holly and mistletoe can cause stomach upsets.
Shiny or tasty looking decorations and lights might pique a dog’s interest, as can chocolate tree decorations, so be careful about the things your dog can reach, as these can be dangerous if swallowed.
Presents under the tree is a tradition and although we might not be able to tell what’s inside a wrapped present, your dog may well know, especially if it’s something edible!
Try not to let your dog’s house rules slip, and make sure visitors adhere to your boundaries. For example, no feeding scraps from the table, it doesn’t matter that it’s Christmas, it only takes one occasion for your dog’s behaviour to be reinforced. Unfortunately, you can’t say to a dog that this is a one-off. And don’t be surprised if your dog tries begging at the family table at home!
Parties are great fun for humans but for dogs, not so much. If you are having a party and you feel your dog won’t be able to deal with the noise and the people, consider having them stay with a family member, or book them into kennels.
Christmas can be a busy and stressful time, with lots going on. This can be overwhelming especially for puppies or dogs with a nervous disposition. They may not get as much rest as they would normally be used to, so give your dog plenty of opportunity for some chill out time in a safe place, such as their crate or another room with a food-stuffed Kong or tasty chew. If necessary, use an Adaptil plug-in near to your dog’s resting area to help relax them.
Use a baby gate to give your dog a bit of alone time away from all the excitement. Children can become overly-excitable on Christmas Day so always supervise all interactions between small children and dogs. A dog can become scared or confused by antics of someone who has consumed a bit too much Christmas tipple and with so much going on, your dog may not be as patient as they normally are.
Your dog may be a member of you family, but this is one time they may prefer to be tucked up on their own. Keeping to your dog’s normal routine, i.e. walks, play, feeding times, can also help alleviate some of the Christmas stress. We may reach breaking point at times but don’t let your dog reach theirs!
By following a few simple steps, you can help your dog through this festive time!