Happy Hounds for the Holidays

12 tips for celebrating a safe and fun holiday season with your dog

It’s that festive time of year – when you’re running around in a frenzy trying to wrap last minute gifts while baking cookies and decorating your home before the guests arrive. Who’s got time to take care of the dog? But beware – failing to prepare your dog for the holidays could literally bite you in the butt.

Here are my 12 tips on how to celebrate the holidays so you and your pooch have no other regrets than having eaten a little too much.

Safety first: puppy proof your home

1. Low-hanging Christmas tree ornaments are tempting for many dogs. What’s the difference between a bauble and a ball? One takes down the tree when you grab it! Avoid decorations and lights at dog height, especially if you have a puppy.

2. Presents come with their own dangers: if ingested, ribbons and yarn can become entangled in your dog’s stomach and could mean a trip to the emergency vet. Don’t leave gift wrapping supplies on the floor and clean up after gifts are unwrapped.

3. If someone gives you one of those Christmas plants (poinsettia, holly), keep them well out of reach: both are toxic to dogs.

4. Avoid leaving things like lit candles, boxes of chocolate (toxic) and bags of snacks (suffocation risk) on the coffee table. You’ll be half asleep watching Netflix before you realize what’s happened!

5. The trash can tends to quickly overflow after the holiday meals. Make sure your dog can’t get into the bin, and safely dispose of poultry bones.

6. The arrival of cheerful guests can derail even the most well-behaved pooch. You still have a few days to practice door manners with an easy 5 minute game you can play while you’re prepping stuff in the kitchen. Win-win!

7. If your holiday guests include young children, plan ahead of time so that somebody can always supervise their interactions with your dog. Small children have a hard time reading a dog’s body language and respecting his space. Don’t just expect your dog to “be good” with children. In all the festive excitement, things can happen quickly. And nobody wants to see tears at Christmas.

8. Prepare a safe space for your dog with a comfy blanket and a nice, long-lasting chew such as a stuffed Kong away from the comings and goings, but still part of the family. Get him used to this zen spot before the festivities begin and tell ALL your guests that your dog is off limits in his safe spot: no petting, playing, staring at or sweet talking to.

9. Have a jar of dog biscuits ready to reward your dog for awesome choices and encourage your guests to drop a treat for your dog on his bed or wherever you prefer he hangs out.

10. Try to keep one eye on his body language. Is your dog getting stressed? Overwhelmed? Worried? Help him! Show him he can retreat to his safe spot and give him something relaxing to do, like a snuffle mat or a food puzzle.

11. Your dog wants to be part of the fun. Make sure he’s got something to celebrate as well. Maybe make a doggy surprise parcel for him to shred while everyone else is busy unwrapping presents.

12. Incorporate some fun dog activities into your holiday traditions, like a nice long decompression walk in nature with fresh air and lots of sniffing. Ahhhhh, now doesn’t that feel good?!