It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but the holidays can also be stressful and chaotic for many pet owners. This isn’t to say all animals hate the holidays—some will enjoy the extra attention and the numerous begging opportunities, with tiny hands slipping them scraps under the table. However, many dogs respond poorly to a change in routine, and they dislike rounds of guests entering the home. For these dogs, there always seems to be something about the holidays that just rubs them the wrong way.
It’s impossible to know how dogs will respond to every situation, especially since they can be fine one year and difficult the next. But, while your pet may be trouble over Christmas, with a little extra preparation you can both enjoy a stress-free holiday period.
Create a Safe Space
Stressed out dogs will often retreat to a quieter location. If they can’t escape, even the friendliest dog may show signs of fear and anxiety.
If you have friends and family visiting, it can be easy to miss your dog’s stressed behavior. This is why it is best to provide a space just for your dog, and to let your guests know that this area is designated for your dog only. This is particularly important if you have younger guests visiting, as they don’t always understand when it’s time to leave their new best friend alone.
Renew Your Pet Proofing
When you first brought your pet home, you probably went through a rigorous pet-proofing process to keep the pup away from trouble in the house. Over time, you likely relaxed these processes as your dog grew older and became accustomed to the day-to-day routine of living in your home. Unfortunately, there’s nothing quite like the holidays to upset this routine.
With visitors coming to your home, it’s a good time to update your pet-proofing to ensure your dog doesn't get into any trouble. Review where you store potentially toxic items and leave sticky notes on doors that should be left open or closed.
Check in with Your Vet
A holiday checkup is always a good idea, as emergency treatment over the holidays can be costly and stressful. You vet will also be able to offer advice about seasonal concerns, such as sensitive paws, in addition to checking for routine problems like diabetes and arthritis.
Also, you don’t want to spend Christmas searching for your pet, so it’s a good time to establish or update your microchip dog registration details (US, UK) to ensure your pet can be reunited with you in the event a well-meaning relative accidentally leaves the door open.
Stick to the Usual Diet
Stick to your usual feeding and walking routine as much as possible, and keep your dog from nibbling any forbidden foods. Some foods commonly found on the Christmas table might be unhealthy, but others can be toxic.
Cooked chicken and turkey bones can splinter and rupture your pet’s intestine, while the numerous chocolate desserts available can be poisonous to your pet. Mistletoe berries, holly berries, and poinsettia are also toxic. It’s a good idea to keep all of these items out of your home, or at least out of your pet’s reach.
Try Calming Scents
And finally, if your dog is still struggling to stay calm, there are many pheromone plugins available that can be used to calm your pet during stressful times. These will emit calming smells that only your pet is aware of to help calm the nerves and reestablish a sense of routine. These are best introduced over a longer period rather than a last-minute fix, so try to get your pet accustomed to these plugins a few weeks before Christmas.