Despite being one of our most popular holidays Christmas is not necessarily your dog’s favourite time of year.
What we perceive to be normal Christmas activity, such as putting up and decorating the tree, wrapping and hiding presents, along with extra family members trooping through the house, can create a stressful environment for your dog.
Simple steps to make your dog feel safe and reassured in their own home will have a big impact on their happiness during the holiday season. This, combined with keeping an eye out for signs of stress, will minimise the effect on your dog as well as other family pets. Signs of stress can include loss of appetite, cowering, pacing and inappropriate urination.
Five tips for preventing stress in dogs
1. A quiet retreat
Prepare a quiet hiding place for your pet to retreat to and feel safe – you may have visitors to the house that your dog is not used to and the dog may become frightened or overexcited. Also a dog that is not used to children may shy away from or become frightened of the loving attentions of little hands and consequently snap or bite. Having a quiet retreat for your pet can help prevent any events like this.
Reward your dog for being calm so he or she knows this is the behaviour you want. Some dogs respond well to treats as rewards, but remember to take those extra calories into account when dishing up your dog’s Christmas dinner! Others respond better to play, but any dog will appreciate some one to one playtime amongst all the activity. If you have many people coming and going from your house be sure the dog is safely kept away from the door so that they do not escape into the danger of the road – and keep a collar and tag on at all times just in case.
Maintain their routine to ensure a sense of ‘normal’ around the home.
Regular exercise – a walk after a hearty Christmas lunch is good for you as well as your dog. Do ensure that your dog gets his or her regular walks and this will help keep their routine and avoid them getting bored or grumpy.
5. Talk to Your Vet
If you have any concerns about how your dog may react, talk to your vet or pet care specialist in advance. There are even some products which can help calm a nervous dog which they can advise about. And make sure that as well as preparing your dog for your guests, you prepare your guests, who may not be familiar with dogs, for how to behave around him, and everyone will have a really happy Christmas!