The Holiday Season can be both exciting and stressful for us all, including the family dog. Pups can be particularly vulnerable to holiday stressors because they can’t prepare for Aunt May and her overly aromatic perfume arrival on Christmas Eve. Nor can we ask them nicely to not eat the lovely red flowery but poisonous plants you brought home, or the Christmas tree for that matter.
Manners and Life Skills: Dogs, Holiday Guests, and the Ham
Everyone appreciates a dog with good manners. A dog that can gracefully interact with family and friends during the holidays is a joy to behold. But, not all dogs are there yet, and some may not even want to interact with the guests. So, if you haven’t brushed up on your dog’s door manners or addressed his excellent counter surfing skills, then you may not want them to be the holiday greeters or helping in the kitchen while the ham and sweet potato pie are sitting on the counter.
Although the commotion and hubbub of the holidays can be overwhelming, here are some tips and guidelines to follow to keep your four-legged family members safe and happy, so that everyone can have a very merry holiday season:
- Create a “safe zone” for your family dog, such as a crate, a comfy room in your home, or on the other side of a baby gate. Kids running around, doorbells ringing, noise, strangers coming and going, can be very stressful for your pet.
- Provide your dog with some mental and physical exercise before your guests arrive. Play some recall games, ball retrieve or tug. “A good dog is a tired dog!”
- Prepare some frozen Kongs, stock up on bully sticks, or Himalayan yaks, etc. Before you sit down to the holiday table, filled with all sorts of wonderful smells and goodies, designate a place for your dog to go so they can enjoy their own smorgasbord.
- Never leave your dog unattended with children. Even if your dog loves kids, be sure to supervise all interactions. Always think safety first!
- Instruct children on how to interact with your dog. Many dogs don’t like to be hugged or patted on the head. If you know your dog is timid around kids provide a safe and comfortable space for them away from the kids.
- Interactive food puzzle and treat dispensing toys can occupy your dog and keep them relaxed while your guests are in the next room having some holiday cheer or ringing in the New Year. Not only will you engage him physically, you’ll challenge his ability to problem solve and lessen his boredom while you’re tending to your guests.
- Don’t tempt fate by leaving delicious holiday goodies in your dog’s reach. Mince pies, plum puddings, chocolate and sugarless chewing gum all have ingredients that can be, unfortunately, super toxic for our pets. The Christmas Poinsettia is also poisonous to dogs, so keep them out of reach too. Remember, even the most well-behaved dog can turn into a “counter-surfer” if tempted.
- Trash cans filled with turkey bones or other food stuff can be very tempting to your dog. After all, they are scavengers and resourceful animals. Keep them out of reach or use a trash can with a locking lid.
- Keep small toys, wrapping paper, tinsel, ornament hooks, etc., out of your dog’s reach just as you would with a small child. Dogs investigate the world with their noses and mouths, so prevention is truly the best medicine. Gift ribbons and decorations can be very harmful if ingested by pets. Household décor with moving or hanging pieces can also pose a threat, so be sure to watch for these items.
- If your dog has a long waggy tail or is overly interested in the lovely tree you now have in your home, you may want to put a baby gate or x-pen around it. Neither broken ornaments nor knocked over trees will add to your holiday cheer.
- Consider enrolling your dog in a little pre-holiday manners class. Wholistic Hound Academy is offering a one session workshop called, “No Jumps – The Way to a Calming Greeting,” and a two-session workshop on “Teaching Your Dog Impulse Control Before the Holidays.”
The holidays can be a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends. Your dog is part of your family and you should include him in the festivities. By following this list of guidelines, you can help set him up for success and keep him safe during the holidays.
Wholistic Hound Academy wishes you and your canine companions a very safe and happy holiday season!