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Holidays and Dogs: Keep Your Pup Happy at Every Age

Holidays and dogs don't have to be a stressful combination. Here's how to make the season happy and healthy for puppies, adult dogs and seniors.

Audrey Pavia  |  Dec 14th 2017


Two years ago, I did something I always advise others not to do this time of year: I adopted a puppy. I’d been thinking about getting another dog but had no intention of doing it during the holidays. I had gift buying to do, parties coming up and a long car trip to my cousins’ house on Christmas Day. But a week before Christmas, while buying cat litter at the pet supply store, I fell in love with a little black puppy who was up for adoption. I took him home that day. It was quite the hassle trying to fit little 9-week-old Mookie into our holiday plans, but it did give me the chance to really pamper him in a very special way. Holidays and dogs don’t have to be a stressful. If you’re lucky enough to have a puppy, adult or senior dog in your life this holiday season, you can do a lot to make him feel special.

Holidays and puppies

A puppy with a holiday gift.

The holidays pose tons of safety issues for dogs — especially puppies. Photography © Smitt | Thinkstock.

Any dog under the age of a year old is considered a puppy, and it’s easy to see why. Young dogs are playful, full of energy and always up for new adventures. Use the holidays as a time to pamper your pup by giving him the vital socialization that every pup needs. The experiences he has at this stage of his life will shape his future.

  • „Take him on outings. Make him part of the festivities while also getting him some exercise and socialization. Bring him with you to watch a tree lighting, or take him with you on an evening stroll through the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. If you’ve got snow on the ground, find a fenced-in area and let him help you build a snowman.
  • „Introduce him to guests. Use guests as an opportunity to give your pup positive experiences with new people. Ask guests to greet your pup with a treat so he associates visitors with something good. Dog lovers who come over may even be willing to go outside and play with your pup, tossing him a toy he can catch and return. If children are part of the festivities, ask them to help you socialize your pup by letting them feed and play with him. Supervise all of your pup’s interactions with children, as you want the experience to be positive for everyone.
  • Keep him safe. The holidays can be full of hazards for young dogs. If your puppy is still in the chewing stage, make sure he can’t get ahold of holiday decorations, gift-wrapping accessories and kids’ toys. Strings of lights can be particularly hazardous to a puppy, who can get burned or electrocuted if he gnaws on the cord.

Holidays and adult dogs

Your adult dog has seen a few holidays come and go and may be used to the hustle and bustle. He may even feel a bit neglected because you’re so busy with shopping and preparing for company. This year, make it special for him while also taking care to keep him safe.

  • Buy holiday gifts for your dog. If you’ve never watched a dog open his own gifts on Christmas or Hanukkah, you don’t know what you’re missing. Buy him a few new toys or treats, wrap them like you would any gift, then help him open the first one when it’s time. If your pooch is like most dogs, he’ll figure it out quickly and will be tearing at the paper to get at the next gift.
  • Watch the treats. Though you might be tempted to share your holiday meal with your dog, keep him away from rich foods. They will upset his digestive system (and may cause a bout of holiday diarrhea) and, in the case of certain foods like onions and chocolate, can cause serious illness. If you want to pamper him by giving him a taste of some of your holiday food, limit it to a small amount of turkey, chicken or lean meat served with his regular dinner.
  • Keep him close. When friends and relatives come over to spend the holidays with you, warn them not to leave doors or gates open. To be on the safe side, make sure your dog is wearing a collar with an ID tag bearing your name, address and phone number in the event he should get out.

Holidays and senior dogs

Santa with a dog during the holidays.

Senior dogs might be a bit calmer about posing for holiday photos. Photography © kingpics | Thinkstock.

Senior dogs know the drill around the holidays, and many try to stay out of the way with all the commotion going on. Because of this, it can be easy for them to get lost in the shuffle. Give your older dog some extra attention to let him know you still love him this time of year by making him a special part of the holidays.

  • Dress him up. Pet product retailers go crazy offering all kinds of holiday apparel for dogs at the holidays. Canine Christmas sweaters are particularly popular and come in all kinds of styles, colors and patterns. If you have a sweater-loving dog, this is the time of year to spend some money on a too-cute holiday sweater.
  • If your pooch isn’t the sweater type, you can still dress him up with a holiday collar. Glitter, jingle bells, Christmasy bows and an assortment of other cheery decorations adorn holiday dog collars these days.
  • You might also want to dress him up with a holiday bandanna. My senior Aussie-mix, Candy, gets to wear a kerchief adorned with turkeys and pumpkins on Thanksgiving and a blue one covered with white snowflakes at Christmastime.
  • Take your dog’s photo. Plenty of pet stores and grooming shops offer pet photos with Santa. Dress your senior dog up in holiday cheer with a special collar, sweater or bandanna, and have his photo taken with old St. Nick. Or, if you like to send holiday greeting cards that include a family portrait, include your senior dog in this year’s photo. Doll him up for the occasion, and help him feel like he’s an important member of the family.

Thumbnail: Photography © Ljupco | Thinkstock.

An award-winning writer and editor, Audrey Pavia is a former managing editor of Dog Fancy magazine and former senior editor of The AKC Gazette. She is the author of The Labrador Retriever Handbook (Barrons) and has written extensively on horses as well as other pets. She shares her home in Norco, California, with two rescue dogs, Candy and Mookie.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you

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