A Dog Owner's Survival Guide to Christmas
The countdown has well and truly begun, the decorations are going up and the festivities are approaching. The global pandemic saw a huge increase in dog ownership so with so many new furry friends around I thought I would share my top tips to surviving Christmas with a dog but more importantly how to keep your dog safe and happy too amongst the chaos.
The Christmas Tree
Dog's are curious little creatures, especially when something new comes into their environment. Puppies can be very interested in the hanging baubles, lights and branches, let's be honest it is pretty impossible to puppy proof a Christmas tree. So what can you do?
Think about popping the Christmas tree on a raised surface out of reach of your dog.
If you are going to have the tree in the same room that your puppy hangs out then do some training with your puppy to help them learn that it's more rewarding to ignore the Christmas tree than get involved with it. I recommend teaching a good 'Go to bed' or 'Settle'. I also recommend teaching your puppy a reliable positive interrupter or reliable recall should they start to explore the tree a little more closely.
Don't hang any chocolate decorations on the tree.
Management- If you aren't there to supervise your puppy then using a playpen, baby gates or their crate are great ways to manage the environment and prevent any unwanted interaction with the Christmas tree or presents underneath the tree.
It may be best to not have presents under the tree. I remember Luna's first Christmas, she loved nothing more than helpfully unwrapping the presents. If you receive a gift from someone just make sure that there is nothing dangerous to your dog in the gift, chocolate, sweets etc.
Christmas Foods & Drinks
Christmas is all about the food, the platefuls of nibbles, the boxes of chocolates, glasses of champagne! Be very mindful as to what may be in reach to your dog. A lot of Christmas food contains raisins, nuts and chocolate, all of which are toxic to dogs. Keep drinks off floor level.
Of course plate your dog some of your Christmas dinner, it would be rude not to! Just be careful as to what you put in the bowl, a lot of the foods we eat can be too rich for some dogs and it also may contain foods that aren't safe for dogs to eat.
Christmas Fancy Dress/Jumpers
It's very tempting to dress your dog up like one of Santa's little elves but the majority of dogs find this overwhelming and it can cause a lot of unnecessary stress to the dog. Best to avoid.
Many of us add some festive greenery to our homes during Christmas, many of these plants can make dogs very ill. Always make sure these are out of reach to your dog.
Christmas can see a lot more visitors into our homes, especially with the pandemic many dogs just aren't used to it. It may be quite overwhelming and stressful for your dog. Here are my top tips when it comes to visitors and your dog,
Create a quiet safe space for your dog, ask guests to respect if they are in their safe space to leave them alone. Most dogs will lack good quality sleep on either side of Christmas.
Give your dog a good walk before your guests arrive, I suggest playing lots of calm sniffy calms during this walk.
Have plenty of good chews, kongs etc ready to go. Chewing, licking and sniffing are great ways to promote calm behaviours, self soothe and release those happy endorphins. A perfect activity to keep your young puppy or dog busy instead of jumping and mouthing all your guests.
If you have children around then always supervise any interaction with the dog, avoid too much handling or unnecessary picking up.
A visitor Dog at Christmas
Are taking your dog to friends or families home that already have a dog or maybe your guests are bringing their dog to your home then read below.
Introduce the dogs by taking them for a walk or meet in a nearby park. Observe their interaction and body language.
Once arriving home depending on how their interaction went it can be a good idea to keep the dogs on leads initially for a few minutes before letting them off.
Always supervise the dogs when together.
Feed the dogs in separate areas, that goes for any chews, kongs etc.
Some dogs are just not very good at sharing, it may not be the best idea to have any toys chew etc around for the dogs to potentially fight over.
Provide both dogs with a safe, chill-out zone. Even if they are the best of friends, it is advisable to give them regular breaks from each other.
Most importantly have fun, be your dogs safe space and have a very Merry Christmas!