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Happy Holidays…for Dogs too!

Two dogs sleeping on bed
Some dogs may be happier in a quiet area of the house during busy holiday festivities © Can Stock Photo / Gordo25

It can be so easy in all the madness and mayhem to overlook our dogs’ needs over the holiday period. Certainly, I always have an influx of inquiries at the beginning of a new year because a dog’s behavior has regressed in some way.

Of course, we can’t expect ourselves to be ‘on it’ 100% of the time, every single second of the day – especially over periods like the holiday season. That’s only natural. But at the same time, there are things that we can do, small and easy steps that can make life a little easier for dogs and their owners to help prevent existing behavior issues worsening or new ones cropping up.

Take the Pressure Off!

This includes both you and your dog. Yes, it’s nice to have your dog involved in the festivities, taking part in family photos, games, joining in with Christmas dinner, having cuddles with lots of different people etc., but what if your dog really isn’t happy about it?

Don’t feel pressured into forcing your dog into taking part just because you think he should, or because other people’s dogs do, or because “normal” dogs do.

If your dog is happier taking himself off into a calmer, quieter zone and not mixing, then so be it. Forced confrontations and coercing your dog into doing something he would rather not take part in is only asking for trouble.


Think about how you are going to manage your dog over the Holidays and how it’s going to fit in with what you yourself have planned.

Will you be having guests? Will you have other animals visiting the house? Is the noise level in your house likely to substantially increase? Maybe there will be unfamiliar sounds like crackers being pulled, streamers or corks being popped.

There could be all sorts of noises and strange, unfamiliar stimuli that could either peak your dog’s arousal or make him super scared. Think now how you are going to manage your dog during these events, rather than respond when it happens.

Kids and Dogs

Kids and dogs don’t always mix. Will your dog be comfortable with the advances of any young children that might be visiting? If not, pre-warn parents and go through with them techniques and strategies for best handling introductions. Or avoid them altogether if this would be your dog’s preference.

Keep Cool

Try to keep everything as calm as can be and instruct everyone to do the same. Situations can quickly flare if excitement rises, children are wildly running around, people are talking loudly, and everything is whipping the dog into a frenzy.

If you notice that your dog is becoming stressed or over-stimulated, allow her the opportunity to retreat to a calm space where nobody else will walk past or enter.

Get the Routine Back

Routines are quickly lost during the Holidays. As far as you can, try to keep to your regular routine of walking, sleeping, and eating as well as any other regular cycles you have, such as play times. Anxious dogs particularly can get stressed if their routine is changed. After the Holidays, resume your regular routine as quickly as you can.

House Mates? Do a Trial Run

If you’re going to have other dogs stay with you over the Holidays, it can be incredibly stressful for your existing dog. If possible, have a dummy run beforehand. Try having the dogs meet on neutral ground for a walk. On a separate occasion, try meeting in a larger space, such as your yard or a larger space indoors for short periods. Ideally, you would do this several times prior to the Holidays.

Stay Safe

Watch out for hidden Christmas dangers for your dog. Here are some examples (see also Foods that can be poisonous to pets and Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List – Dogs*):

  • Choking hazards from children’s toys
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Christmas pudding
  • Mince pies
  • Alcohol
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Christmas decorations
  • Christmas plants – poinsettia/mistletoe/ivy/needles from Christmas trees/holly
  • Silica gel packets
  • Potpourri

*Note: There are also many plants that are toxic for cats. Please see Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List – Cats for a full list).




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