How to keep your dog safe and happy at Christmas.
With the festive season just around the corner, Christmas trees, decorations, mince pies, and fancy wrapping papers are slowly but surely starting to make their appearance.
The festive period can be a very magical time of the year, and the prospect of getting together with friends and family we might not have seen for a while can only increase our general excitement.
But while this can be a very joyful experience for us, it can become stressful and overwhelming for our dogs without the proper precautions.
To make sure your Christmas with your dogs goes smoothly, in this blog, you’ll find a few tips that will help you keep them safe and happy.
Stick to your routine.
It might sound trivial, but one of the best things you can do to help your dog feel safe and happy is to keep the same routine. The hustle and bustle of the festive period can be pretty intense for our pets. Make sure you stick to the usual sleeping, feeding and exercise routine to avoid making them feel too unsettled. Maintaining your habits can help you keep your dog’s health and weight in tip-top condition. And although giving your dog a piece of meat or a bone might sound like a great Christmas gift for them, you’ll be better off sticking to their regular food and appropriate natural treats and chews. A tripe stick or a frozen carrot will be much a better option than a cooked bone or a portion of your meal. Your dog’s tummy will be much happier!
Provide mental stimulation.
Provide lots of mental enrichment and allow them to use their noses and brains. Never underestimate the importance of getting our dogs to use their brainpower! Sniffing and scent work games can be a wonderful outlet for our dogs and help them feel calmer and more relaxed. If you are looking for some inspiration around things you can do with your dog to get them to use their nose, have a look at the blog I wrote on nose work for Our Family Dog here.
Set up a safe space.
If you’re having people over, provide your dogs with a safe and calm space where they can have some downtime. Don’t forget to make this space extra cosy by including a comfy bed, some of your dog’s favourite toys, a bowl of fresh water, snacks, and something like a kong or a lickimat, and to ask your guests to not disturb your dog when they are relaxing in their safe space. The idea behind this is to give your dog the option to take themselves away from the festive cheer and have the opportunity to have a good snooze should they need and want to.
Don't leave your dog alone for too long.
Are your dogs ok to be left on their own? If they’re used to you going out for just a few hours at a time, don’t be tempted to stretch this interval too much. Make sure you plan your visits to friends and family accordingly so that your dog won’t be left on their own for very long periods – especially if they’re not used to it. If you know that you might be late, or there is a chance that you’ll get stuck in traffic, ask a friendly neighbour if they could help by popping in to let your dogs out, feed them, and keep them some company. You’d be surprised by how many people would love to spend some time with your dog!
Be mindful of toxic foods, plants, and alcohol products.
Keep food (and products containing chocolate, sultanas and raisins in particular) and alcohol out of the way, as they are highly toxic for dogs. Grapes and blue cheese are also a no go. Pay attention to what decorative plants you bring into your home too, as some of them, including holly and mistletoe, can be toxic when ingested. If you have a look online, you’ll find a list of all the things that can be potentially dangerous to our dogs. Last but not least, don’t leave your guests’ bags and purses unattended. The last thing you want is your dog getting hold of some potentially dangerous items, including sweets, ibuprofen, and chewing gums (xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs). Should anything happen, don’t just hope for the best and immediately call your vet to get their expert advice – it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Keep Christmas trees, lights, decorations and presents out of reach.
These novel objects can instigate your pet’s curiosity, and it’s a good idea to make sure they don’t turn into hazards by keeping them out of reach. A great solution can be to use a playpen around your tree and your lights so that your dog can’t get too close to them and get in trouble. The same goes for decorations and presents and any other items that have the potential to be ingested, chewed through, or pulled over.
Get family and friends on board.
Instruct friends and family on how you’d like them to interact with your dog. Getting everyone on board will be an essential part of a successful strategy. It can help to have a written list to share beforehand so that everyone can get familiar with what you expect from them (and your dog). For example, if your dog is not allowed to jump up on people to say hello, make sure no one makes a fuss of them when they do it, but encourage a calmer greeting instead. Or, if your dog needs some time to warm up to people, ask your guests to give your dog some space and let your dog approach them, not vice-versa. I found that including a nice infographic with some information on body language can also help!
Go at your dog's pace.
Let your dog set the pace. This means allowing your dog to approach people and situations in their own time. Never force your dog to face their fears or push them beyond their limits. This is a very risky tactic, and no qualified canine professionals would advise following such a strategy. If you hear anyone suggesting a similar approach, ignore them.
Save your vets' contact details.
Last but not least, have your vet and the emergency vet numbers saved on your phone, just in case you need them. You might want to check their opening hours in advance too, and if you don’t have regular access to a car, check what local taxi companies would be happy to welcome you and your beloved pet on board.
With a bit of preparation and the right precautions, you can enjoy Christmas AND keep your dog safe and happy! One last (but very important) thing to bear in mind is that dogs are all individuals, so what works for one dog might not work for another. Be mindful of your dogs’ needs and make a plan that takes their specific personality into account.
Need further support?
It’s not too soon nor too late to prepare your dog for the festive season. If you need further help and support, email me to book your free 15-min chat to discuss your pup’s needs firstname.lastname@example.org.