With the holiday season quickly approaching, life gets more exciting in anticipation of friends and family get-togethers, special meals, parties, gifts, special events, and many other out-of-normal-routine activities.
Perhaps you’ll have family visiting for a few days, and perhaps you will focus more attention on nieces, nephews, or grandchildren who do not live in the dog’s household. While our dogs love special times as we do, sometimes the extra activity and disruption of the normal routine can be stressful or overwhelming for them. Stress can manifest in different ways; digestive upset can be common, especially if Uncle Harold slips the pooch a few tidbits from the dinner table. When dogs are stressed, behavior issues can also appear, such as excessive barking, hyperactivity, destruction of household items, whining, shaking, and even possibly biting.
Dogs are mainly creatures of habit, and how well they handle a sudden change in routine is different for each individual. Here are a few ways to help your dog get through the holiday excitement with as little stress or upset as possible.
Holidays mean special treats, and certain foods are consumed by humans more often during this time, but keeping your dog’s diet consistent and resisting the urge to have him share those goodies will help keep his digestive process stable. A few occasional treats are fine but try to avoid those with high sugar content, and especially avoid chocolate for your dog’s safety.
With many people going in and out of the house during family visits, it can be easy for a dog to slip out the door unexpectedly. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with identification tags, and/or is microchipped with up-to-date information on record. If your dog should become lost, this will help ensure his return.
Dogs love to have a “den” or quiet space where they feel safe and can rest when they want to get away from daily activity for a peaceful snooze. We highly recommend crate-training your dog, so they will always have a space to retreat to that is uniquely their own. If a dog is showing signs of stress during holiday times, it may be beneficial to allow them some time in their private space to relax and get away from the current activity. While the dog is resting in his private space, all the visitors should understand that he should not be disturbed. If you don’t have a crate, a bedroom, laundry room, or other designated space will work, as long as the dog enjoys being there.
Sometimes the daily walks your dog is accustomed to may be skipped due to other commitments during this time. Just as exercise is a way to relieve stress for humans, it is the same for dogs. If it is unavoidable to miss your dog’s routine exercise activity, providing him with special toys will keep his mind busy and drain excess energy. There are many types of dog toys available. From ones that hold treats and the dog must physically manipulate it to remove the treats to ones that hold items such as peanut butter or other dog-safe substances that can be frozen and will slowly melt and keep your dog occupied for an extended time. Safe and durable chew items will drain physical and mental energy for those enthusiastic chewers. And there are many types of puzzle toys designed to keep dogs entertained for hours.
Another popular option is having your dog attend a doggie-daycare, where he can play and socialize while you’re busy with other activities. This is an excellent solution for daytime hours, and usually, pups come home drained of energy and happy to snooze the evening away while the family celebrates the season.
Dogs love being part of the family and joining in activities, but for the times when that’s not possible, these tips will keep your dog safe, happy, and relaxed so everyone can enjoy the holidays!