I have been pondering whether or not to write a synopsis of holiday dog guidelines. I feel that we should be very aware of how the holidays affect our pets. After receiving a call from a an owner who described exactly what you should not do during the holidays and complaining on why the dog behaved the way it did, I decided to proceed and send this out to our clients, friends, and family.
During the holidays, days are shorter, personal time is harder to come by, our anxiety levels increase, and sometimes patience is lost. We typically worry about gifts, getting the cooking and baking done, preparing food for family and relatives, deciphering where and when, pondering who gets along with whom and hoping we have enough time to accomplish everything.
It is often at this time, that stress affects our personalities and our family companions easily pick up on this change. In addition, we have a tendency to spend a little less time with our animals. We change routines and we put them in uncomfortable situations. We introduce new “humans”, we may bring in new “animals”, we hang lights that blink, characters/objects that move, and move their favorite furniture around.
A good example of change in routine is the holiday company that stops by. These are the individuals you don’t see often, but show such excitement when you do see them. Your pets look to you and wonders, why all the excitement, why are my owners acting differently, who are these strangers? Should I greet them, hump them, pee on them, sniff their crotch, jump, or bite them.
At this point, you need to be aware that you have pets. Introduce the pets properly, explain house rules to the guests, and allow the pets to settle with the strangers in the house. If you can’t do this, or if you are pressed for time, or entertaining is taking precidence, then it’s strongly suggested you crate your pet. This provides safety to the guests, allows you to concentrate on the task at hand, and allows your dog to feel secure in his or her environment.
After the guests arrive, our next problem is the ample food supplied during the holidays. Cookies, fruit cakes, chocolate, brownies and main course foods are in abundance. Typically, we put these items on the counter while we continue to entertain. Perhaps we put them on the coffee table? Wherever they are placed, be mindful of your pet. Some of these foods are toxic to their digestion. Others will just cause some very nasty bowel movements. By allowing access, it provides the dog the opportunity to sneak treats they should not be ‘sneakin’, while you are not watching. We go to answer the door, forget about the pooch, and come back to the kitchen to find that fruit cake nowhere to be found. Then, the dog gets reprimanded, the owner is missing their desert, and the guests feel uncomfortable. It is a no win situation for all involved. When in doubt——crate!
Our final example is the dog that shows agitation, stress, housebreaking issues, chewing, aggression, and all the common signs of separation anxiety in some form. Animals like routines. Animal learn by repetition. Usually our repetition is routine. Therefore, when we change our routine, it causes some animals to stress. They show their stress in different ways. Some of which I have explained above. If you see signs of any of these behaviors, take a step back and see why the dog is changing their behavior. Once you find out the why, you can address the how you can fix it….and when in doubt, speak to your trainer.
Aside from the change in routine, there are two other areas of concern that can cause complications that I would like to address….The Door and Food.
This time of year brings many visitors to our home. It also brings holiday deliveries from the local Fed Ex, UPS, and US Mail. With people coming and going, the door is opened and closed quite often. Be extremely aware of your dog’s location when opening and closing the doors. Many pets get lost this time of year because of this. Dogs seem to have a tendency to bolt when you are least prepared…so be prepared. Also, a note to the wise to make sure your dog is wearing their holiday pet ID collar that provides the necessary tags for return.
Finally, I would briefly like to address food. Aside from the counter surfing, we have the typical Aunt or Uncle that finds it necessary to feed our dogs from their plate, “because it’s the holidays” or “because they can”. When you allow this, you don’t know how much your dog has eaten; therefore, you don’t know their potty schedule. In addition, some dogs have severe food allergies. It is detrimental to contribute to the food allergy by feeding the wrong item. Most importantly, most people don’t know what’s toxic or non toxic to our pets….Keep away from Chocolate, Sweeteners, Poinsettias, Glass Ornaments, etc…
I understand that we all have items of importance during the holidays and I’m not asking you ignore those things. I am asking that you take a little extra time to be aware of your pets needs. Have a little understanding that their routine changes this time of year too, and be mindful of the way you interact with your dog.
Wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy holiday.