Lesley’s survival tips for a harmonious Christmas with your beloved pooch!
It is now widely acknowledged that Christmas can be a stressful time when we often get together with people who we haven’t seen much of all year and the pressure is on for the house to look perfect, the food to be a gastronomic delight and the season to go off without any arguments.
Those of us who share our lives with dogs will know that inviting people, who just don’t understand that the dog is one of the family and needs to be treated as such, into our homes brings with it a whole new level of stress as often we try to disguise doggy odours on the furniture, dog hair on the sofa and the fact that the dog must have a slot in the present opening ritual in order to open his or her own gifts. Then of course we want to sit and watch as they tear into the wrapping paper to reveal the squeaky toy beneath and oh how we laugh as our fur baby runs around the lounge “squeak, squeak, squeaking”! Whilst the guests grimace.
In part 1 I have put together a few tips on how to have a harmonious and safe Christmas with your dog from the human perspective. Part 2 will be the dog’s perspective on the whole proceedings.
- Keep the chocolate out of reach of all your fur babies. It contains theobromine which is highly toxic to dogs (and cats). The darker the choc the more toxic it is. I have been unfortunate enough during my time working in veterinary practice to watch dogs die over the festive period.
- Remember that the dog has no concept of Christmas and can often feel a bit confused at the change of routine and raised stress levels of their humans.
- It’s all chew toys to them! Your dog is not being naughty if it eats your child’s new toy or your new slippers, they have no concept of one piece of rubbery plastic being ok for them to destroy verses the other piece of rubbery plastic which happens to be someone’s treasured possession! Keep your eyes peeled and if you see the dog honing in on the wrong thing, take it away in exchange for what you deem more appropriate.
- If you want your dog to be on best behaviour make when your guests arrive make sure you have drained some of it’s energy, give it a walk in the morning (even in the rain!), give it some energy draining toys such as a kong stuffed with tasty things and some of it’s food. A dog with excess energy will amuse itself with what it can find and you may not like it!
- If your dog jumps up at people when they arrive have it on leash for a while until it has calmed down – the last thing you need is Nanna with a broken hip on Christmas day! Obviously it is best to teach the dog an appropriate method of greeting humans for next year.
- Have you ever been left in a room alone with food or drink that you love? It is really hard to resist the temptation to sneak a little taste. It is the same for your dog. If you leave the turkey on the side unattended either raw or cooked many dogs will not be able to resist the temptation. If your dog gets hold of cooked turkey and eats the bones this can be very dangerous and even fatal for it as they can cause an intestinal blockage. Even the string from a joint of meat can be enough to kill a dog ( I have also witnessed this).
- Keep an eye on the dog with children. Children can be very excited at this time of year and sometimes this makes their behaviour a bit more challenging than normal. Children should not be allowed to tease the dog, pull it, sit on it, take it’s toys away from it. Even passive dogs have a breaking point and no dog should be put in the position where it feels its only defence is to bite a child.
- If you are going to leave your dog whilst you go out to visit family ensure that you have walked it before you leave and if you are going to be more than 4 hours or so make sure that someone is on hand to pop in and let it out for the loo.
- If your dog is overwhelmed by lots of noise and activity in the house provide it with a safe space that it can escape to for some peace and quiet when it wants to. Introduce this area before the big day so that they know what it’s all about.
- Don’t give your dog alcohol you may be used to it, but the dog isn’t.
- Watch out for the dreaded fire works, they are often let off on Christmas night as well as New Year’s eve these days.
These are just a few tips to help you and your doggies enjoy the festive season. The thing I write most often is: remember your dog does not speak English! Dogs are deeply perceptive animals, but they are canine and they think with canine logic, not human logic and sometimes this can be misinterpreted as being naughty as opposed to being a dog!
Enjoy your Christmas with the one companion you have who will never speak about you behind your back, is always pleased to see you even if you are grumpy and offers unconditional love all year round – remember this when ‘non-doggy’ family members request you shut the dog in the garden because it is hairy.