Just like people, dogs are susceptible to stress during the holidays. When things are hectic, dogs can be negatively impacted by the changes. Here are some situations that are potentially troubling for dogs during the holidays. But with some basic planning and care, your dog can remain happy and enjoy the holidays, along with the rest of your family.
1. What are the Signs of Stress in a Dog?
Dogs will exhibit certain behaviors when they are upset, stressed, or fearful. For example, they may become clingy and stay very close to their owners. This could be interpreted as being affectionate when it is actually anxiety. Owners should be aware of signs that their dog is uncomfortable during the holidays.
Destroying property, showing aggression, pacing, pinned-back ears, panting, and/or excessive barking can indicate that your dog is upset in some way.
2. How Do I Stop My Dog From Being Afraid of Visitors?
The holidays are a time when there may be a variety of people coming and going to your home. Being around people can be enjoyable for your dog, but it can also potentially cause stress.
Give your dog a break if they become overwhelmed by visitors. Bring them to a quieter part of your home, where they can have a more relaxing environment. Or do some kind of exercise with them. Going on a walk or run or chasing a ball is a great way to help your dog when they’re overwhelmed. Exercise burns off stress and increases their happiness.
3. What Holiday Food Is Good for Dogs?
The holidays mean plenty of salty, sweet, and fatty food — which dogs cannot digest. Some can even be toxic to them. Which means much of the holiday food we enjoy is not good for your dog.
Foods to avoid include chocolate, raisins, grapes, avocados, onions, garlic, and macadamia nuts. These can be quite harmful to dogs. Other foods, including fried turkey and glazed ham, should be kept away from your dog — along with bones (turkey, chicken) they might choke on.
4. Include Your Dog in Your Holiday Celebrations
Most dogs are beloved members of the family that are included in the holiday, as they are for other occasions. Dogs are familiar with their family — and find comfort and happiness being around them. If your time and attention is focused elsewhere, your dog will notice.
How Can I Include My Dog in My Holiday Celebrations?
Make sure to find some one-on-one time with your dog. If you have a house full of people, go in a separate area for a little playtime. If everyone is having a meal together, be sure to have a dog-friendly treat or cookies ready so your pet can be included at mealtime. If everyone has stockings, get one for your dog. This way, they will have some small gifts to explore while other family members do the same.
5. How Do I Create a Routine or my Dog During the Holidays?
Dogs are accustomed to their daily routine and find safety and comfort in the familiar. During the holidays, there are new activities, people, and sleeping and eating patterns.
The closer you stick to your dog’s normal routine, the calmer and happier they will be. This means going for walks at the same time as usual (or as close as possible). Feeding them their regular food at their usual time, using the same bowls as you normally do — is another key to maintaining routine.
6. How Do You Calm a Stressed Dog When Traveling?
(Credit: Monika Wisniewska/Shutterstock)
The holidays are a busy travel time, with many families bringing their dogs with them. While it is great to include them in your travel plans, precautions are needed to keep your dog calm and happy.
If your dog only goes in the car to visit the vet, they will most likely be nervous during car travel. Try taking your dog for some short (non-vet related) drives so they build positive associations with the car — before holiday travel. Plane travel brings its own set of concerns. Keep your dog with you in a carrier in the cabin whenever possible. This way, they will not have the stress of separation.
Read More: How Does Traveling Impact Your Pets?
How Do You Prepare to Travel with Your Dog?
Regardless of how you travel, bring something from home they are used to, like a blanket or a toy. It’s also helpful to bring food your dog is used to. You might want to bring them to the vet before the holiday trip in case they need anti-anxiety medication. Also, be sure to have the name/number of a vet near where you will be staying, just in case.