Making Christmas fun for everyone

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Your dog would like to have a happy Christmas too – here are some tips on how to make that happen

 Christmas and dogs - how to make sure it is a happy mixChristmas is fast approaching and will be upon us all to soon. As part of your preparations and planning, don’t forget to factor in your dog. The Christmas period is a time of changed routine, much coming and going of family and visitors and general mayhem. While your dog will certainly enjoy some aspects, there is also the potential for high levels of stress and upset. It is important to minimise these for your dog so everyone can have a lovely time and there are no emergency visits to the vet.

First of all, ensure your dog has a place to escape to away from overexcited children – or adults for that matter.  Do not move their bed to make space for the Christmas tree or for any other reason as you run the risk of them taking refuge behind the tree, where they might knock it over or  chew the light cable, with obvious results. If you really have to move their bed, do it  several weeks in advance so they have time to get use to the new position which should be in a quiet space that they can access easily.

During peak times of madness, pop your dog into their crate and close the door to separate them from small people high on excess sugar or just the buzz that Christmas generates. If your dog is not used to, and happy with a crate, do not suddenly introduce one a couple of days before Christmas as that will cause huge additional stress. Other sources of stress include unfamiliar items and noises such as balloons, indoor fireworks, party poppers and crackers, as well as a house full of new people.

Routine activities like walking and meal times should be kept as close to normal as possible as this will help minimise stress. A stressed dog is more likely to behave out of character, possibly growling or even nipping where they would never do so normally. Don’t blame the dog, they are coping with a lot of unusual activity and if they are used to being on their own for a significant proportion of the day, the presence of lots of people, with the accompanying noise, can be extremely unsettling. It really is kinder to put them into a quiet room in their own bed where they can relax. They are not missing out, they are having some down time. Keep them occupied with a treat filled puzzle toy. If you are visiting friends or family for a few days, it may be better to leave your dog with kennels or a home carer, if they are used to that, rather than take them with you. Book well in advance.

Christmas trees and dogsI keep mentioning stress, but what signs should you be alert for that indicate your dog is stressed? There are many, including yawning, panting, frequent licking of lips, wide staring eyes, ears pulled back, excessive grooming, chewing of paws, avoidance of eye contact, to name a few. Dressing the dog up is not a kind thing to do, even if they do look cute. Monitor dog child interactions, especially if the dog does not normally have much contact with children and vice versa. Do not set your dog up to fail by not supporting them during a challenging time of year.

Stress and excitement can also cause physical upset – vomiting or diarrhea. Try to avoid over-treating your dog ‘because it’s Christmas’ as this can have the same result. But so can inappropriate food such as too many rich left overs. There are now quite a few companies making fantastic hand-made dog treats that can be bought on line and from better pet shops which will be offering Christmas themed options. Chocolate is not a dog appropriate treat as it contains theobromine which is poisonous to dogs. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Anything containing grapes (raisins, sultanas, currents) such as Christmas pudding, mince pies, black bun, simnal cake likewise should not be fed to dogs. Avoid the chance of bins being raided for turkey carcases or other left overs by wrapping tightly and putting into an inaccessible bin outside.

Christmas doggie funTry to avoid putting unreasonable demands on your dog – edibles should not be left in their reach  such as chocolates under or on the tree. If the tail is at table height, don’t put candles, or delicate ornaments where they can be swept away by an enthusiasm of wagging. Don’t decorate your house in such a way that you dog cannot behave as normal. You can’t blame the dog if it all goes horribly wrong!

It goes without saying that you should never get a dog – puppy or rescue – at Christmas. If you want to make a new dog part of your Christmas, do the groundwork in advance, and then produce a photo as the ‘present’ or announce the intention and allow everyone to get involved in choosing who is to join the family after Christmas. It really is not appropriate to bring a new dog into your home at a time when there are so many other commitments. Do you really want to be housetraining alongside the demands that Christmas makes on your time?

Your dog is part of the family so naturally you want to involve them in the biggest family get-together of the year. A bit of forethought and preparation will make sure that it really is fun for everyone.

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