With so many festivities, from Thanksgiving and Hanukkah to Christmas and Kwanzaa, the end of the year is an incredibly busy time. All that additional excitement and activity can be a lot for your dog to handle. Not to mention all the extra visitors, sights, sounds, and smells. Plus, it’s easy to get wrapped up in holiday preparation and neglect your dog’s regular routines. Add all that up, and you have a recipe for dog stress. The following tips will help you prepare your dog so you can both enjoy the coming holiday season.
Consider Your Dog’s Personality
Some dogs adapt well to chaos and change while others need the predictability of routine. Some dogs can handle lots of visitors, but other dogs become anxious around children or strangers. Some make well-mannered house guests; others are better left at home. Think about what your holiday might entail and then consider your dog’s personality. If you anticipate your dog’s needs, it will be easier to accommodate them.
Don’t expect your dog to simply cope. A stressed dog might act out and exhibit problem behaviors or even become aggressive. And it’s not fun for your dog to endure stressful situations. Instead, help your dog in whatever way suits them. Will they be happier in their crate when company comes over? Then be sure you have plenty of chews and food-stuffed toys to keep them occupied while they’re inside. Will they need exercise and potty breaks in the middle of the day? Then schedule that into your holiday routine. The more you can adapt to your dog’s needs, the better the holiday will be for everyone.
Purchase Appropriate Supplies
Stock up on all the items your dog is going to need. With a huge holiday to-do list, it’s easy to forget your dog has a shopping list too. Purchase food and treats. You want to be able to reward good behavior. Also look for chews and food-dispensing toys to keep your dog occupied when your attention is elsewhere.
Consider buying your dog something special like a new toy or some bully sticks. It’s fun to let them participate in holiday gift-giving, but it will also help them form positive associations with the hustle and bustle of the holidays. And if you think you might need baby gates or an exercise pen to keep your dog out of a certain area, get these barricades in place in advance so your dog can get used to them.
Stick to Routine
When the big day arrives, try to stick to your dog’s usual routine as much as possible including mealtimes, potty breaks, and exercise. The predictability will help your dog feel less overwhelmed. And as you will be incredibly busy, it’s important to discuss with family members who will be responsible for the dog’s needs. Assign dog duties in advance so you don’t neglect anything.
Exercise is particularly important right before visitors arrive or before meals. It will burn off your dog’s excess energy, which might be more than usual with all the activity going on around them. A tired dog is more likely to nap than bother your guests or beg at the table. If you can’t provide physical exercise, definitely get your dog’s brain working. Mentally stimulating games can be just as tiring.
Brush Up on Training Skills
The holiday season might be a tricky time to start training new behaviors. You will likely be too busy to be consistent. But you can certainly brush up on the behaviors your dog already knows. Basics like sit, down, and stay are helpful for controlling your dog’s behavior. Cues like leave it and go to your place are also incredibly useful. They allow you to be proactive and prevent problems before they occur.
Manage the Situation
If your dog’s obedience skills need work, or you know their personality won’t mesh with your holiday plans, then you need to manage the situation for your dog. First, you don’t want your dog practicing rude behaviors like begging at the table or counter surfing. Second, you don’t want to push your dog past what they can tolerate.
Management will vary based on your dog’s personality. It might mean blocking access to certain rooms, using a crate when you have company, or keeping your dog on leash when people come to the door. The important part is to make the experience rewarding for your dog. This isn’t a punishment. If you put your dog in their crate, provide them with a special chew toy. If they are tethered in one area, provide treats and toys in that area, and so on.
Even if your dog can handle the holiday commotion, it’s still a good idea to give them an occasional break from the excitement. Alone time is a proactive way of ensuring you don’t ask for too much from your dog. Family mealtimes are a great opportunity to put your dog in their crate or ask them to go to their place in a quiet room. You can focus on your feast, and your dog can rest and recharge.
Puppy Proof Your Home
The last component of management is puppy proofing. No matter the age of your dog, ensure there is nothing dangerous for them to get into. That includes holiday plants and foods that are toxic to dogs, like chocolate. Don’t leave anything where your dog can sneak a bite. Also, watch where you place decorations. A curious dog can be injured if they try to chew or swallow them.
Consider your dog’s needs and avoid adding undue stress during this hectic time. It may be a lot of work but preparing your home and your dog for the holiday season will help ensure everybody enjoys this special time of year. Your dog will thank you for it.