The holidays are great fun (and for some, great stress). The same is true for our fur-babies. While you may enjoy having a houseful of friends and family who are gathering around the table for meals, opening gifts, spending the nights and bringing “chaos” to your home, this can be a stressful time for your dog.
A houseful of strangers can lead to anxiety and even “bad” behaviors from your normally well-behaved dog (and cat). We have tips on how to entertain and relieve your dog’s stress during these holiday weeks. These tips are ideal for any family gathering no matter when it happens throughout the year.
How To Relieve Your Dog’s Stress & Keep Them Entertained
Understand that your dog isn’t being bad. He or she is nervous and if the family routine has been upended, you may find your dog is making messes in the house, jumping on your guests, barking, chewing inappropriate items, pacing, not eating and a host of other behaviors related to being stressed out and anxious.
When you look at a holiday gathering from your dog’s point of view (in some cases literally) you notice that for a tiny dog, all he sees is ankles and feet. He runs the risk of getting stepped on or tripped over. A big dog who may not seem rambunctious when it’s just your family at home, may find herself running into tables or furniture that has been moved to accommodate guests. She may even inadvertently bump into a small child and that could lead to the child crying or falling down and someone yelling at your pup.
Protect your pup. Protect your guests. Give your dog breathing room and don’t put him in a position in which he may cause injury or be injured.
- Give your dog an escape route. If your dog loves to be in his crate, make sure it is in a location he can get into it and get away from everyone and everything. Make sure your guests understand that when your dog is in his crate, he needs to, and wants to, be left alone. Get your dog accustomed to his crate being in a different, more secluded location, prior to your guests arriving. Don’t introduce another stressor into his already stressed out self.
- No table scraps. Tell guests your dog is not to be fed table scraps. Even if your dog has an “iron gut” being fed certain foods from the table could lead to injury or in extreme cases, death (chocolate, for example can lead to toxicity). Feed your dog in a separate space from where the guests are gathering. She will appreciate being able to eat in peace.
- Put your dog in a separate room — whether in a crate or not — and turn on DOGTV. The soothing sights and sounds of DOGTV will calm an anxious dog and distract her from the noises of the guests. You can grab a free 14-day subscription of DOGTV for your dog and start watching today.
- Take your dog for a walk. Get your dog out of the house, and preferably on a walk alone with you. The exercise will help calm his nerves. A tired dog is a good dog. A walk with just the two of you — or other family members with whom she’s comfortable will go a long way in helping alleviate anxiety and helping soothe her frazzled nerves. Also, spending time alone with your pup in the midst of a chaotic holiday season is a great way to bond.
- Give your dog a new toy or treat. Distract your dog by giving her a new toy or treat. If she usually only gets food puzzles or other toys that make her work for her treats when you’re leaving her home alone, treat her to this snack when you’re home and when the guests arrive. Make sure no one tries to take the toy or treat away (a young child may feel he or she can play tug of war and you don’t want to put anyone in the potential of harm’s way)
- Don’t forget about fireworks. Fireworks are becoming a part of New Year’s Eve celebrations — protect your pup! If you know your dog is scared of the fireworks at the Fourth of July, he will be scared of the fireworks that are becoming a part of New Year’s Eve celebrations, too. If this is the case, when the countdown to the new year starts or when your city starts setting off the fireworks, make sure your dog is in a safe, quiet space. Turn on DOGTV, the radio or other sound to distract her. Close the blinds to keep the brilliant flashes of light from frightening her. Dog trainer, Geralyn Cada of GC Pet Style of Life says, “CBD oils and products can work to calm your dog during fireworks or other stressful times in your dog’s life. Talk with your vet, look for high-quality CBD products and use in conjunction with calming shirts, quiet rooms and with your own calming presence.”
- Ask your vet. Know that your neighbors just might be setting off their own fireworks and the entire night could be scary for a dog who suffers fireworks anxiety. Ask your veterinarian for advice on helping relax your dog during the potential New Year’s Eve fireworks.
Other ways to keep your fur baby safe include:
- Keeping her away from open doors so she can’t escape out an open door.
- Keep his collar on at all times in case he does escape.
- Pay attention to your dog’s body language and remove him if you notice he is panting, trying to get away, hiding, growling or his ears are flattened back. It is your responsibility to keep your dog out of situations in which he could injure someone simply because he’s nervous.
- Put your dog’s crate, toys and food and water dishes out of the way of foot traffic.
- Find time during the day to sit and reassure your pup. She will appreciate some quiet time (or a walk) alone with you.
What do you do to help keep your pup safe, happy and not stressed out when you have a holiday party? We would love to know! Share your tips in our Facebook group — the DOGTV Pack.