Christmas is fast approaching. Whilst this is mostly a joyous occasion, it can be quite a stressful time for people and also for our four legged friends. Many dogs take comfort in familiar routines and can become stressed when these are altered significantly. This stress may manifest in a range of behaviours that can be annoying or difficult to deal with. I am therefore advising pet owners to think of their dogs (and cats) and prepare a little for the upcoming weekend to minimise any stress.
Here are some tips to help your dog:
- It is easy for dogs to get overaroused or become overwhelmed by visitors arriving. In preparing for visitors, make use of crates, if your dog is crate trained, or use baby gates or doors to give your dog some time to adjust. It may be wise to keep your dog/puppy away from the door as people arrive and let your dog out only after everyone has got in and have settled.
- For dogs that are difficult to control and may become overexcited trying to jump at people or furniture, consider using a lead or a houseline to better control their movements in the house, rather than trying to control your dog by giving lots of verbal commands. An aroused dog will not be able to respond to any of these. You can find a link to house lines in my resource section.
- Give your dog a break. Lots of attention and bustle around your dog can be overwhelming, even for a dog that loves being round people. Consider giving your dog some alone time to recharge away from the holiday shenanigans. Perhaps leave your dog to get stuck into a nice chew toy or stuffed Kong or just have a snooze. This is especially important for puppies. Make sure your dog always has a quiet cosy spot to retreat to.
- Be vigilant for any signs of stress your dog may show. Some of these signs are very subtle but the only way your dog may be able to communicate that things have become a bit too much.
Signs to watch out for:
- a closed, tense mouth and body,
- looking away when someone approaches or reaches to pet your dog,
- slow and stiff tail wags,
- a lowered head posture when someone approaches your dog or gives your dog some fuss.
- lip licking, tongue flicking, and yawning are very good indicators of stress.
Should your dog show any of these signs, help him/her out by removing your dog from this situation.
- Be specifically mindful of children around your dog. Children are not capable of reading a dog and can often be very overwhelming. Never let a child pick your dog up, or indeed disturb a dog that is lying in its bed or crate.
- Keep feeding times and walking routines as similar as possible to normal weekends. If you are struggling to take your dog for the normal walks, perhaps hide small portions of their normal food in the garden for them to find and spend some time playing ball or tug.
- If you are going away and taking your dog, bring his/her bed along and some of the familiar toys to help your dog feel secure and settled.
- If you are leaving your dog at home and going out, make sure to give them a good walk beforehand and to not stay away for any longer than your dog is used to being left.
- Make sure everyone coming into contact with your dog is well aware of the dangers of cooked bones, chocolate and raisins/sultanas. These can cause severe damage to their health.
- Finally, to give your dog some fun, consider putting their normal food kibble into spare cardboard boxes from Christmas presents and let them have some fun ripping into the boxes to get to their food. You can put several boxes inside each other to make it harder to get to the food.
Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to my human and furry friends and clients.