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How to Help Your Dog Have a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Victoria Stilwell shares tips for helping your dog make it through the holidays with as little stress as possible.

Victoria Stilwell  |  Dec 15th 2016


Editor’s note: Have you seen the Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our December-January issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

With the holidays just around the corner, think about how your festive celebrations will affect your dog, and plan accordingly so you can all enjoy a safe, happy holiday and new year.

Spending holidays away

Leaving your dog at home requires the help of a responsible friend, neighbor, or pet sitter to stay, visit, feed, and care for him. This is particularly good for dogs who don’t do well in new environments or find it hard to cope in a boarding or day care situation. This option might be more expensive, but the extra cost is worth it for peace of mind and your dog’s comfort.

If you decide to board your dog, find a facility that understands and provides for your dog’s individual needs. Some dogs prefer playing with one or two friends while others feel comfortable running with a whole crowd. Make sure the facility has caring, professional staff as well as webcams so you can check on your dog’s progress and comfort throughout his stay.

Dog in front of Christmas tree by Shutterstock.

Dog in front of Christmas tree by Shutterstock.

Spending holidays at home

If you are staying local and hosting your own party, spare a thought for nervous dogs with unfamiliar guests. If your dog is antisocial and/or scared of strangers, give him a safe zone he can go to if he feels uncomfortable. This might be a crate or small area or room that has his bed and food and water bowls in it. Be honest with your guests, and tell them that your dog needs space, but be aware that young children find dogs very hard to resist.

If you feel your dog will react badly to any guest, particularly a child, keep everyone safe by putting him in a comfortable area with a baby gate to separate him from the action or in his own room. You can play music for him and provide safe, interactive toys to keep him occupied. This way you will have peace of mind and focus on hosting the party.

Keep young dogs, especially those who like to chew, away from decorative ornaments that could be tempting. Brightly colored baubles and tantalizing tinsel are new and exciting objects, especially for puppies, but ingesting material like this will lead to all sorts of internal problems. Properly secure any fragile glass decorations, and keep them out of reach.

Dashing with your dog

Keep exercising your dog throughout the holiday season. It’s easy to neglect this important activity the busier you get and the more you entertain, but remember: A tired dog is a happy dog. Exercise releases pleasurable endorphins in your dog’s body and is a great stress reliever for both of you. You might just need to go for a good walk yourself after hosting the family party!

Woman running with dog by Shutterstock.

Woman running with dog by Shutterstock.

Food goodies and baddies

Some foods are hazardous to your dog’s health.

Chocolate is extremely poisonous for both dogs and cats (rule: the darker the more deadly), and any suspect ingestion should be reported to your veterinarian immediately. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhea, and increased urination, progressing to seizures and sometimes even death.

By all means, give your dog a tasty treat from the leftover turkey dinner, but do it in moderation! While turkey and all the trimmings are delicious, too much can cause pancreatitis — a potentially serious condition. Turkey bones can cause choking and constipation as well as seriously damaging internal organs.

Onions, avocados, grapes, and raisins should be kept well out of your pet’s reach. Keep treats to a minimum, and make sure the ones you give are nutritious and low-fat. You can also make less last longer by putting treats in a durable activity toy and leaving your dog to solve the problem of getting it out. Mental stimulation is as important for your dog as physical exercise.

Have a great Holiday Season!