The holiday season is upon us, and this can have a big impact on the lives of our dogs. It’s easy to forget how they might be coping with all these changes, especially when we get caught up in frantic preparations! Some of our PDTE members have shared their top tips to make sure dogs stay happy and healthy during the holiday season. Pennie Clayton from the Horse and Hound School in the UK suggests the following: Christmas can be exceedingly difficult for dogs as there can be so much going on. We all get caught up in preparation for events such as friends and relatives visiting, and become busy with parties and social occasions. Dogs don’t know it’s Christmas and this time of year is such a radical change from normal, which is always unsettling and stressful for dogs. Here are a few pre-Christmas thoughts as we all start to prepare for this time of year, and a reminder to keep things as normal as possible for your dog. Remember it’s your dog’s home as much as it is yours Visitors are not always as accommodating as you might be, so please don’t allow guests to tell you how your dog should behave, or suggest that they should sit on your dog’s favourite place on the sofa. It’s not fair if your dog is suddenly demoted by guests and visitors. Let your dog have a place of sanctuary Don’t expect your dog to ‘be social’ and stay in the same room continually with guests. If he is uncomfortable or needs a bit of space then he must have a quiet place where he is allowed to go and relax undisturbed. If children are present please put a visible boundary a few feet away from his bed (such as a line of duct tape) and tell them they must not step over this boundary to reach the dog. Keep to a normal diet Things can be added into his normal food like bits of turkey, freshly cooked vegetables and maybe some roast potatoes but don’t overdo it. Rich food is no better for our dogs than it is for us. Treats and presents should be vetted by you If people give you presents for your dog which include highly coloured chews moulded into candy canes and boots, or novelty foods such as ‘doggy mince pies’, please quietly put them in the bin at the first possible moment! These kinds of treats are loaded with chemicals and toxins. With this in mind I went to a big pet store today to do a bit of research and I can honestly say there was nothing ‘Christmas themed’ in the aisles that I would have considered buying for my dogs. Walks should still be for your dog I have often come across hoards of people out for a Boxing Day walk. Large crowds can be really stressful for your dog, especially if they are normally walked with only a few dogs. Make sure you maintain your daily walks, and allow your dog to sniff, explore and just spend some time with you. If you are accompanied on your walks don’t let children hijack any of them by trying to play games constantly, especially ones where your dog is asked to play fetch and dash around. Neither should ‘show and tell’ type obedience tricks be part of your dog’s schedule to entertain guests. Children should be taught to respect dogs – they are not playthings. Don’t leave your dog alone for hours while you are visiting friends or family It is not good for your dog to be left for extended periods of time because you are out visiting people. Please make arrangements so that he can stretch his legs and go to the toilet. Isolation is just as bad for our dogs as having to cope with a house stuffed full of people. Good gifts for dogs So what do make good presents for our dogs? Try some cow feet (but not the ones filled with gunk!), pizzles or natural rawhide. Or even Kongs, treat balls or interactive toys, such as Nina Ottosson designs.
Marina Gates Fleming works as a canine consultant in Belgium, and recommends the following around Christmas: Allow for curiosity…but also safety! A curious dog is a healthy dog, so expect your dog to want to check out any additions to the decor. Take advantage of these enriched environments and let them investigate and sniff. That being said, if you have a Christmas tree, it is best to place it in a corner to avoid your dog inadvertently toppling it over. Baubles, tinsel, lights and the tree water are all potentially dangerous for dogs, so make sure they are supervised around the tree. Place any candles where there is no chance of an inadvertent bump or tail wag sending them toppling and causing a fire or injury. Be aware of potentially dangerous food The following items can be potentially toxic and dangerous for our dogs, so keep them out of reach: grapes and raisins (no Christmas pudding), chocolate, cooked bones, holly, poinsettias, mistletoe, alcohol and any foods high in fat, sodium and sugar. Supervision is key During the holiday season there is usually lots of noise, hustle and bustle. This might be fun for us, but it can be overwhelming for our dogs. Be aware of people coming and going as the risk of dogs following someone out and escaping is much higher at this time of year. Don’t let your dog be one of them. Children are often very excited to see dogs and as it’s the season for socialising, they are more likely to come into contact with one another. It’s important that during this already exciting time all interactions are supervised, regardless of how mature the child or gentle the dog. Unwrapping gifts doesn’t just have to be for humans A lot of dogs love helping us unwrap our Christmas presents, and this can be even nicer if they have a present of their own! It can be fun for us and them to wrap a new toy or some treats up for them to unwrap during the festivities. Being mindful of your dog during this time will make life easier for you and for them. Happy Christmas everyone!