Including your dog in festive holiday celebrations is all part of the fun of the season; however, your dog might not be feeling the same holiday spirit as you. At the end of the year, things don’t look, sound, or even smell like they usually do, and that can cause canine confusion and anxiety. Problem behaviors tend to flare up, and there are many dangers and stressors to be aware of. To make sure your dog enjoys the merriment as much as you do, here are some holiday safety tips.
Be Aware of Holiday Dangers
Decorating the house is a holiday tradition for many families, but the change in scenery can be stressful and even dangerous for dogs. Water in the Christmas tree reservoir and some plants, such as poinsettias, can potentially cause vomiting or diarrhea if they are consumed. Ornaments and tinsel pose a choking hazard, and strings of lights mean exposed wires running through the house, which are dangerous if your dog decides to chew on them. Puppy-proof your house during the holidays, just as you did when you first brought your dog home, keeping an eye out for possible dangers.
Avoid Tummy Troubles
Food can be a big part of the holidays and sharing table scraps with your dog might seem harmless. But rich, fatty, or spicy foods might upset your dog’s stomach, particularly if he’s not used to them. Be sparing with the tidbits or forgo them altogether and instead consider making your dog his very own special homemade doggie treats.
Some common holiday foods can be toxic to dogs. Chocolate is a favorite treat for people, but can cause serious problems for your dog, even in small amounts. And fruitcake, a seasonal delicacy, may contain dried fruits like raisins. Raisins and grapes can cause serious damage to your dog’s kidneys, even in small doses. Don’t let your dog get into the turkey carcass because cooked bones can easily splinter into dangerous fragments. Keep all food, treats, and edible gifts out of reach of your dog rather than under the tree or on the coffee table. Before the holidays, be sure to brush up on your dog’s “Leave It” cue.
Manage the Hustle and Bustle
There is often extra activity and commotion at this time of year with family and friends dropping by to socialize. You might also find your doorbell constantly ringing as a result of packages and additional mail delivery. These extra callers, particularly those who are unfamiliar, can set an anxious dog on edge or overwhelm an easily excited one. Teaching your dog to go to his crate or lie on his bed can be helpful. It gives your dog a quiet place to relax and escape from the noise and fuss. It’s also impossible for him to get into mischief, such as counter-surfing or begging, if he’s lying on his bed or relaxing in his crate. Be sure to give him a nice chew toy or stuffed Kong to keep him happy while he stays in his special place. If you’re still working on your dog’s front door manners, this is a good time to bring out a baby gate to block his access and prevent him from practicing bad behaviors such as jumping on guests.
Beat the Stress
Dogs are creatures of routine, and the holidays bring many changes to their daily life. Along with the added comings and goings, the environment transforms. Furniture might be moved to accommodate a holiday display or the dog’s toys and bed pushed aside for more space for guests. Walks and playtime can fall to the wayside as you tackle your holiday to-do list. All of this can add up to a dog that is confused and distressed. You might find your dog acting up for attention or becoming more irritable with things he used to take in his stride.
Do your best to minimize your dog’s stress and stick to his usual routine as much as possible. Keeping him mentally and physically exercised will help keep him calm and ensure that his needs continue to be met. For serious distress, speak to your veterinarian. Calming supplements or a dog-appeasing pheromone diffuser might also help lower your dog’s anxiety. If you can keep your dog safe and stress-free, he will be able to enjoy the holiday season as much as you do.