While Christmas festivities and opportunities for visiting with old friends and family members are great for people, they are often incredibly stressful for dogs. In reality many people also feel a lot of stress at this time, which is further communicated to their pets through changes in tone of voice, body language and even typical behaviors.
There are several ways in which the humans in the family can really help minimize Christmas chaos in the home for their pets. Taking just a few minutes to ensure that routines are maintained, the dogs are well exercised, time is spend with the dogs and a few other simple strategies will avoid a lot of issues. Failing to follow these steps may lead to a highly stressed dog that acts very much out of character or that simply becomes difficult to deal with over the holiday season.
Stick With Routines
One of the first things that tends to go out the window during the Christmas season are the typical daily routines that you may have, particularly when it comes to going for walks or working in playtime with the dog. This translates into the dog sensing a real change in the household. Some of these changes such as kids not going off to school or people not going off to work can actually be very positive for the dog. He or she will have additional attention and lots of people to play with and interact with. Just be prepared that this can lead to a bit more excitement and rambunctious behavior on the part of the dog, especially if egged on by the kids.
These types of uncontrolled routine changes can't be helped, but try to set up a mini routine. This may include having the kids go outside with the dog for a half hour walk or some play time. Increasing the physical activity, even indoors, will help in dealing with any type of anxiety or stress that the dog may be experiencing.
Continue to do the major activities with the dog on a routine, at least as much as possible. This means to feed at about the same times, provide the same amount of outdoor time or walks and also to still find a bit of time for routine obedience work or grooming activities. Keeping to these types of routines keeps the dog balanced in the environment.
Avoid Overindulging In Treats
This one really goes for both the people in the household as well as the dog! At this time of year it seems that a focus on healthy eating and diets sort of fade as snacking, munching and entertaining with food become the focus of most gatherings. If the dog is present in the house when company is there ask them to please not feed the dog, no matter how much he or she begs and gazes with longing at the piece of turkey sandwich.
Not only will feeding your dog constantly during the day lead to more problem types of behavior with increased begging and simply being underfoot but it can also cause changes in their digestive functioning and blood sugar levels. Both of these issues can lead to significant problems for the dog and the owners.
One of the major issues with constant snacking on human food is that the dog's digestive system will rebel. This is typically not life threatening to the dog, but will lead to problems with diarrhea, vomiting and incredible amounts of gas. None of these issues are pleasant to have to deal with, especially when company is in the house and it is too cold to simply have to dog stay outside.
Large amounts of sweets or high carbohydrate types of foods can also lead to dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar levels. For dogs with diabetes this can be life threatening. Other dogs may experience periods of extremely high energy followed by crashes, just like people do after eating a lot of sugary or high carbohydrate foods.
Lots Of Strange People In The Home
Entertaining is a big part of holiday festivities in many families. When people are visiting dogs are naturally going to be slightly on edge and more prone to behaviors that are protective or territorial. Well socialized dogs that are used to people coming and going in the home will have less problems with this than dogs that are used to very quiet types of lifestyles.
Provide a safe, comfortable and relaxing place for your dog to go when they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed with all the visitors in the home. If your dog has been crate trained the crate can be the perfect refuge for the dog. It is important to locate the crate in a room that the dog can access, preferably away from the major traffic areas of the home. Talk to guests and let them know that the crate is the dog's den, and he or she should not be disturbed while in the crate. It is particularly important to talk to children about this, as kids often don't realize they have to respect the dog's space.
If dogs are not crate trained you may want to make a comfortable spot in a bedroom where the dog can go and just be on his or her own. Move the dog's bedding there as well as provide some of his or her favorite toys. You may also want to provide food and water in this area to ensure that the dog realizes that this is his or her space.
Although spending time in celebration and entertaining is important with your family and friends, it is also important to still find a small amount of quality time to spend with your dog. Perhaps it is just a 10 minute petting session before you go to bed or a routine grooming and a short play time. Whatever you do find time each and every day to spend in positive interaction with your dog, ideally several times through the day.
Spending a bit of quality and relaxation time with your dog will also be good for you as well. You may want to actually block off time to go for a walk, play a game or just sit and spend some time with your loyal and lovable friend. This type of mental and physical relaxation is good for you both during the chaotic holiday season.