The holidays can be a stressful time for us as we prepare to host gatherings, decorate, or prepare for travel. All this activity can also be a stressful time for your pets!
To help your dog to cope with all the extra activity, make sure you are getting them out for exercise like walks and fetch to burn off energy. You can make sure they are getting a mental drain as well through items like chew toys and treat stuffed toys to focus on so they are not getting as anxious while their schedule is disrupted. These will also keep them focused on good items instead of getting interested in potentially dangerous holiday foods. Foods that are dangerous for dogs include onions, garlic, caffeine, medications, avocado, walnuts, grapes, and chocolate. Remember after the big meal, to ensure food is put out of reach of pets, either back from countertops or in garbage cans with lids, or in the fridge to keep everyone safe and happy.
With holidays come festive decorations- there are also things we can do to ensure their safety. With Christmas trees, ensure that there are not any ornaments dangling where they may tempt a dog or cat to play with them. Put them higher up on the tree if necessary, or opt for a smaller tree in a windowsill or table. Make sure that your pets are either trained to leave presents alone or prevent access to wrapped gifts by using a barrier such as an xpen or fireplace grate, or even leave the presents in a different room with the door shut until everyone is ready to open them. Also keep in mind that holly, mistletoe and lillies and can be dangerous to dogs so ensure they are out of reach when displayed.
If guests are coming to your house with their four legged family members in tow, be sure to remember to take introductions slow. As tempting as it may be to let all the pets meet at once, try to introduce them outside where the resident dog will feel less stressed about a new dog in their house. Also give them breaks from each other throughout the gathering so they get a time to rest while taking in all the excitement.
Your dog may also feel better with some alone time in his own space. You can baby gate them to a room away from guests with a treat toy or chew that will give them time to recharge and settle down. Some dogs may be nervous around new people or babies, and this will give them time to take in the people and see and smell them but also be in a safe area where they don’t feel the pressure to be near everyone. You can also use a baby gate to keep your dog away from the front door so they don’t accidentally slip out- or to give them time to settle before meeting guests. If a baby gate isn’t an option, you can have your dog wear a leash and drag it around, that way if they need to be redirected or stopped from getting into trouble, you have the option of grabbing the leash to help them make the right decisions.
It is a great idea before the event to have someone whose job it is to monitor the dogs throughout the event. They would be in charge of making sure the dogs are comfortable and happy, not eating food that is dropped on the floor, and watching children interacting with the dogs. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but it is really important to ensure that your pets are safe and happy during the holiday gatherings.
Lastly, always know your local emergency veterinarian’s number and location and have it easily accessible. Having the information ready to go will save precious minutes just in case an emergency does occur!