HOW TO HELP YOUR DOGS COPE WITH THE HOLIDAY SEASON

By Lisa Tenzin-Dolma

 

 

The holiday season can be very stressful for dogs. Extra visitors, increased noise levels and sensory stimulation, infectious excitement and all that delicious-smelling food can ruffle the fur of even the calmest dog. These tips could help your dog cope more easily with all that seasonal jollity and cheer.

Try to keep to your dog's usual routine as closely as possible. Changes to routine can be very stressful for dogs, so if you follow the usual feeding and exercise times this helps maintain your dog's sense of security.

If your dog's doorbell or greeting manners aren't well-honed, work on teaching these beforehand. Your guests may not appreciate being jumped at, especially if they're wearing party clothes, and children and frail grandparents could easily be knocked over by an over-exuberant dog.

Ask guests not to make a big fuss of your dog. Over-excitement is stressful and can lead to undesirable behaviours.

Monitor children closely in the presence of your dog. Excited high-pitched voices and children running around can distress dogs and can even activate the prey drive in some.

Avoid giving too many extra treats and additions to meals, and ask guests to refrain from feeding your dog tidbits. An upset tummy is no fun for your dog or for you.

Sudden noise can be scary for dogs, so be aware of this if you have Christmas crackers, party poppers or fireworks.

Ensure that foods that are dangerous to dogs (chocolate, mince pies, Christmas pudding etc.) are kept shut away, or are at least out of reach.

Protect your dog from the exuberant attentions of any guests who've over-indulged in the party spirits. Tipsy revellers tend to be clumsy and heavy-handed and this can be unnerving for dogs.

Ensure your dog has a quiet space to retreat to if he feels overwhelmed.

If you're answering the door frequently, ensure your dog can't escape. Make sure your dog is wearing an ID tag, just in case.

Be aware of signals that your dog is feeling stressed: body tension; head-dipping; attempts to move away or find an undisturbed area; facial expressions such as furrowed eyebrows, flattened ears or whale eye; stiff or low body language; excessive vocalising all reveal signs of discomfort. Remove your dog to a quiet area if you notice this.

It's become customary for many people to dress up their dogs at Christmas. Dogs don't understand why this brings them extra attention, and they can become uncomfortable if they're made a focal point for people's laughter. Some dog clothes can cause over-heating and physical discomfort. Consider your dog's innate sense of dignity, and remember he's a dog and not a doll.

Use calming aids such as Pet Remedy plugin and spray, Bach Flower Remedies, a Thundershirt or TTouch wrap if necessary, especially if your household will be very busy.

If you're going away with your dog, prepare him for the additional stress of an unfamiliar environment by adding Rescue Remedy to their food and water for a couple of days before you leave, and during the stay. Give him a short walk around the garden as soon as you arrive, so that he can toilet and sniff about. You can create a positive association with the new environment by laying a treat trail inside for your dog to follow. This will also encourage your dog to sniff around and familiarise himself with the temporary home.

The holiday season is likely to be stressful for you if you have lots of extra guests arriving. Your dog will sense this and be affected by it, so stay as calm as you can.

Be patient with your dog. If you're feeling stressed, you may be less tolerant of behaviours that wouldn't usually irritate you.

And finally … be aware of and considerate of your dog's feelings, and make him feel he is a welcomed part of the group if he wishes to interact politely.