With the holidays quickly approaching, you have many things to consider. Between gift-giving, party hosting, and having family over, there are things you might be thinking about other than your dog. However, for dogs, the holidays can be a tough time rather than a joyful one. The unfamiliar crowds, loud noises, and disrupted schedules can be a time of great stress for your furry friends.
Preparing your dog for the holiday season will also prepare you for the holiday season by easing your dog’s stress and giving you one less thing to worry about during the holidays. Here are a few helpful strategies for helping your dog through the holiday season:
Don’t Deviate from Your Routine: Dogs may not understand everything that’s going on, and deviations from normal mealtimes, exercise, and bathroom breaks can add to a dog’s stress. Make sure your family has a plan to ensure that your dog’s usual routine will remain in place when guests arrive and the festivities start.
Keep Up the Training: While you may not have the time to teach your dog new behaviors in a short window before the holidays, you can return to the skills they have already learned and make sure they are prepared for the demands of the holiday season. Ensuring your dog knows how to sit, get down, stay, and can get back to its designated sitting place will be helpful for keeping your dog under control at large gatherings.
Stock Up on Their Supplies: Before the festivities start, make sure that your dog has everything that they might need. Treats, food for meals, and new toys will keep your dog is well-fed and distracted. Buying a toy that can be given out during holiday gift-giving can also help to positively reinforce the hustle and bustle around the holidays, resulting in less stress for your dog.
Manage Your Dog: Exercise before visitors arrive can be a useful strategy to ensure that your dog remains calm during a large gathering. At mealtime, you may consider crating your dog or asking them to go back to their place. What you will need to do for your dog will depend on your dog’s personality and behavior.
Whatever you decide to do to manage your dog’s behavior, rewards should be included for your dog after they follow your instructions. This will help to reinforce good behavior in the future and can help keep your dog less stressed.
Puppy Proof Your Parties: To make sure that your dog stays on their best behavior during holiday festivities, you will need to puppy proof your house. Place decorations above areas where your dog can easily reach and, particularly if you have a younger dog, place anything your dog might try to chew or swallow far out of reach.
Food and plants can also present a danger to your dogs during the holidays. Chocolate can be harmful or fatal to dogs, and so can some plants. Make sure that you do not put these foods or plants in areas where a dog can easily get to them.
Know Your Dog: Above all, the best strategy is to anticipate what might be stressors for your dog, how they might respond to large crowds, and which management techniques your dog responds the best to. Understanding how your dog responds to stress is important in determining your game plan for your pet during the holidays. Removing your dog from high-stress experiences should be the first choice, but if you can’t, helping them to stay distracted or rewarded through the stressful experience allow you to focus more on spending time with your loved ones.
The holidays can be a stressful time for pets that do not understand why crowds are increasing, and their owners are busier than usual. Stressed pets can create stressful environments for their owners, as well. If you find that you are having to calm your dog down constantly or get them off the table or couch, you’ll be more stressed and distracted during the time you spend with friends and family.
These strategies, along with regular training and exercise, can help limit the stress on your pet and allow you to spend time with your friends and loved ones without having to worry about the happiness and well-being of your dog.