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The holidays can become a frenzied mess of mall crawling and gift wrapping. Take a moment to slow down and set aside some quality time with your dog so Fido doesn’t feel shortchanged. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or none of the above, there are plenty of places to go and things to do with your pooch during the season of giving.
Similar to a summertime block party, a cold-weather “bark” party is a good excuse to kick back with furry friends. Animal welfare organization Found Animals suggests dressing warmly, making festive treats for people and pups, and playing holiday music. You can also go caroling as a group around the neighborhood. If it’s frigid, leash up the pets and have a progressive snack party, stopping at each participating neighbor’s house.
This is a great time of year to thank our brave servicemen and women. Just don’t forget the hundreds of pups who serve alongside them. Found Animals recommends mailing a care package to a military dog along with a letter to the dog’s handler. Many organizations, such as Operation Military Care K9, can be found online.
The Walk for a Dog app by Wooftrax keeps track of your mileage and donates money to the animal shelter of your choice. Schedule your stroll when it’s dark outside, and take in local light displays to get in the spirit with your pooch.
When a foster caregiver is traveling during the holidays, providing interim help can make a big difference. “Many foster animals will be comfortable going to a home with a resident dog,” said Julie Sonenberg, administrative manager for the volunteer program at the ASPCA Adoption Center. “But be upfront about your dog’s behavior with other animals to the shelter so they can match you with an appropriate animal.”
Or, better yet, a snowdog! Then play snowball fetch with your pup. She’ll love to chase those big, fluffy spheres while bounding through the powder, but she may spend most of her time trying to find them buried in the snow. Thankfully, she’ll be dog-tired once you’re ready to go back inside.
Makes 1 to 2 dozen biscotti. Recipe courtesy of Doggy Dessert Chef.
For athletic dog owners who know how to cross-country ski, consider skijoring. To get started, Kevin Murphy, president of SkijorUSA, said you’ll need cross-country skis, a pulling harness for your dog, a skijoring belt, and a tug line with bungee. “It’s best to find a local skijoring or dogsledding club to help get you started,” he said. “Often, a dog will better understand it’s OK to pull and run when part of a group.”
Certified Professional Dog Trainer and founder of High Country Dogs, Louisa Morrissey, said the rule of thumb is that a dog more than 30 pounds in good health who likes to pull might do well at the sport. “Many skijor with Huskies, Husky mixes, and Pointers, but you will see many more breeds out enjoying the sport like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Labs, and all sorts of mixed breeds,” said competitive skijor racer Rebecca Knight. “Get the dog used to the skis and poles before hooking up the harness and attaching to your skijor line.”
Snuggling up with your pooch in front of a classic holiday movie is a relaxing way to spend a quiet evening during an otherwise hectic time of year. Some favorites that feature canine characters? How the Grinch Stole Christmas — because little Max is utterly adorable — A Charlie Brown Christmas — Snoopy is at his height of his charm — and A Christmas Story — the neighbors rambunctious hounds provide great comic relief.
Fur babies believe in Santa, too! Let yours have her picture taken with the man in the big red suit. Most malls and department stores offer this whimsical photo op and many give donation dollars to either local or national charities.
“The cold winter weather can make joints, fur, and paw pads a little worse for the wear. So treat your pooch to a full body massage to loosen up any stiffness and soothe sore spots,” said Heal Animal Massage founder Rubi Sullivan. Turn on calming tunes like “Through a Dog’s Ear,” and find a comfortable space for your dog to lie down.
Sullivan proposed three techniques: Effleurage helps calm the tissues by using light pressure with your flat hand over the skin and muscles. Passive touch is simply keeping the flat of your hand resting in one position without moving it — good for achy joints and relaxing nerves. Tapping involves drumming your fingers individually with a gentle, percussive stroke to stimulate both weak and healthy muscles.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.