5 ways you can help your dog have a stress-free Christmas

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Christmas is a time full of joy and celebration for many of us, however it’s not always as fun for our dogs. 

Here are 5 ways you can make the festive season easier for your dog.

1. Understand your dog

The first thing you can do to help your dog through the festive season is to look at things from their point of view. Not every dog will enjoy having lots of visitors to their home, the novelty of Christmas decorations or being left while you go and attend parties. 

Understanding what your dog is able to cope with and what they enjoy and don't enjoy will allow you to make things easier for them.

For example, if your dog doesn't really enjoy being fussed by people they don't know, when you have guests over make sure that people know not to bother them. More on managing your guests next!

2. Manage your guests

Another big part of the festive season is gathering with friends and family, which some dogs will be able to enjoy and cope with well, however others will find this more difficult. 

For example it may be that their bucket gets too full with all the excitement and and they struggle to behave appropriately, or it may be that they find having lots of people in their house quite worrying. This could be related to movement or noise or both. 

One way you can help to make this easier for your dogs is to give your guests clear instructions. 

For example when people enter your house ask them not to engage with the dogs straight away. You want you dog to be able to be calm when people enter the house and if people come in with lots of high energy and excitement, it will make it far more difficult for your dog. 

Don't be afraid to manage your guests, such as telling them where to sit, “come in, take a seat” whilst pointing to where you’d like them to sit. Get them a cup of tea or coffee so that they have something to do that isn't stroking your dog or get them settled before bringing your dogs out.

3. Give your dog a safe space to retreat to

Another really important thing you can do for your dog is to provide them with a safe, quiet place to retreat to if things get too much for them. 

If your dog is used to a crate this is an ideal solution however it might just be their bed in a quiet room.

Some dogs will prefer to stay close to you, but still wish to be left alone. This is another example of when you may need to give your guests clear instructions that when your dog is on their bed or in their crate etc they are to be left alone.

If the safe space you set up is new, or you are moving their crate or bed to a new place, do this ahead of time to allow your dog to get used to it before guests arrive.

4. Introduce novel items gradually

The festive season is full of new and different experiences for your dog or things that only really happen once a year and so are out of the ordinary. Having a tree in your living room covered in lights and sparkly decorations could be quite scary for some dogs, or really tempting for others!

If this is your dog's first Christmas you may want to introduce them to decorations slowly, for example bringing in the tree and allow your dog to get used to it before you decorate it. 

Equally you might show the decorations to your dog before putting them on the tree so that they realise they're nothing to be scared of. 
Often as dog owners we can expect too much of our dogs and we don't appreciate how difficult it can be for them to make good choices. 
Last year was Mango’s first Christmas and although she wasn't scared of any of the decorations she found it too difficult to leave them alone so instead of setting her up for failure by having them within her reach we decided to put our tree in a room which she wasn't allowed in. 

This year the tree has made it to our living room, however it’s behind a baby gate so that she can get used to it being there, but still taking the temptation away by not allowing her physical access. 

Often as dog owners we can expect too much of our dogs and we don't appreciate how difficult it can be for them to make good choices. 

Did I want to have the Christmas tree in a different room last year? No, however it definitely made Christmas less stressful for both humans and dogs. 

5. Keep non-dog friendly food out of the way

Finally, during this time of year there are often a lot more sweet treats around which can be potentially harmful to your dog, for example chocolate or sweets with xylitol. 

Ensuring that all of these items are out of your dog's reach will make Christmas a lot safer and far less stressful for your dog because nobody wants an emergency trip to the vet!

Here's a list of common Christmas foods which can be dangerous to dogs:
  • Chocolate
  • Christmas pudding, mince pies or any foods containing raisins, currants or sultanas
  • Stuffing, in particular ones containing onion.
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Blue cheeses
  • Alcohol
  • Cooked bones
  • Food containing xylitol (birch sugar)
From everyone at Sussex Canines, wishing you and your dogs a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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