Christmas is a fun but chaotic time for most of us! Christmas shopping, present wrapping and overindulging are a given. However, whilst most of us enjoy this festive period, it can come as a shock to our four-legged friends! Friends and family visiting, children enjoying their presents and new sights and smells can be overwhelming for any dog!
To ensure your dog enjoys Christmas too, see our Top Tips:
Ensure your dog has a bed in a safe and quiet place
Throughout the busy Christmas period, it is a good idea to ensure your dog has a bed in a quieter room in the home that they can retreat to. Christmas is an exhausting time for us all! Whilst some dogs cope very well with visitors, others can struggle, so it is important to keep an eye on your dog and provide them with their own safe place! This could mean providing your dog with their very own doggy den to retreat to where they can happily hang out and be left alone, whilst you enjoy the festivities. You must never approach or stroke a dog once they are in their bed, as this should be a safe place for them to rest without human interaction. Remember, always let sleeping dogs lie!
Leave the dressing up to Father Christmas
It can also be tempting for some to dress up their dogs in festive outfits and accessories. Despite looking cute, this can actually be very stressful for a dog, and can make them feel uncomfortable and worried. It can also be dangerous to both the dog and humans as it can ‘hide’ a dog’s body language, so you may not see the more subtle signs of worry signs in a dog and this could potentially lead to a dog bite. Remember, dogs often only bite because they are scared and/or they have run out of other ways to communicate. Please stay safe and leave the festive jumpers and pretend antlers to us humans!
Stick to a routine
It is vital that throughout the Christmas period that your dog receives enough physical exercise. We may be accustomed to spending the day in our PJs, but for our dogs it’s just a normal day! They should be given the same amount of exercise they receive on any other day. Lack of exercise can lead to frustration and boredom and doesn’t make for happy dogs or owners!
Keep your dog calm and relaxed
Like children becoming over excitable and misbehaving, the same thing can apply to your dog. It can be easy for your dog to become overstimulated with all the strange activities and traditions we have throughout Christmas. Recent research suggests that a common cause of such behaviours is when new people enter the dog’s home (1). Dogs becoming over excited can result in unwanted behaviours such as jumping up, nipping and even biting (1). Whilst there may be a preconception that dog bites predominantly occur with a stranger’s dog, research states that many bites happen within the home environment with a known dog (2). It is therefore important that your dog does not become overwhelmed with the number of visitors entering your home, particularly if this is something your dog is not used to all year round. To help your dog cope with visitors, it may be beneficial to train your dog to go to their bed, or another designated place when the doorbell rings. You can use this training guide to help keep your dog calm all year round!
Who ate all the (mince) pies?
For many of us, Christmas involves overindulging on turkey sandwiches, mince pies and tins of our favourite chocolates. It can be very tempting to feed your dog your Christmas scraps or sneak them a few mouthfuls underneath the table. However, what most forget is that a lot of the foods we eat are harmful to dogs and some can even be incredibly dangerous for them. For more information on these types of foods and for a copy of our veterinary approved Dog Friendly Christmas menu, see here
Keep your dog entertained
Over the festive holiday, you may find you have less time to spend with your beloved four-legged friends. This can often be confusing for dogs and can leave them feeling frustrated. Follow this link to find out more on how to keep your dog’s mind and nose busy!
Visiting (fury) friends and family
When visiting friends and family you should ensure you provide your dog with their bed, toys, fresh water and food as normal. Dogs are creatures of habit and much prefer when they are kept to their normal routine as much as possible.
This also means that they will become confused if you change the house rules. For example, if your dog is accustomed to going upstairs, you should not expect your dog to understand they may not be able to in another home. Instead, make sure they are not given access to anywhere out of bounds e.g. using a baby gate. You should also allow your dog to explore the areas they can visit; this can be on-lead but ensure they can sniff every corner of the room to check out all the new smells!
If you are visiting family or friends who have a dog in the home, you must ensure the dogs first meet on neutral ground. This means outside of the home e.g. in the garden or out on a walk. You should never force dogs to interact with each other, and ensure they have enough room to move away if they feel uncomfortable or threatened. Introductions should always be made on-lead and you should observe for any signs of fear or aggression.
Keeping your family and your four-legged friends safe is hugely important. With all the excitement it can be easy to forget how to behave around your dog and you may underestimate your dog’s stress levels. Every dog has their limit and a dog bite can be hugely detrimental to any family. For a guide on how to Be Dog Smart this Christmas click here.