6 ways to help your dog cope this Christmas

Christmas is a magical time, but did you know that it’s also the time of year when the majority of dog bites in the home occur?

It isn’t difficult to see why, so by understanding why it can be so stressful for dogs, it’s easy prevent your dog from becoming anxious and unhappy. Carolyn Menteith, Trainer and Behaviourist for Agria Pet Insurance, explains what the triggers are and how to help:

Most dogs can cope with the temporary craziness of Christmas – but for a surprisingly large number, it’s stressful and worrying. In the Nightmare Before Christmas scenario, the dog is under-exercised, over stimulated, under-supervised and over-threshold. An accident waiting to happen.

A dog’s usually predictable home is a scene of upheaval, with things everywhere and unexpected visitors to the house. To make things worse, the dog is probably getting less physical exercise than usual while the adults seem to be running around doing everything that don’t include the dog.

 So how to make sure you all have a merry Christmas…?

  1.      Remember your dog’s needs don’t stop for the festive season. Make sure they get enough exercise, stimulation – and indeed your attention – as they do at every other time of the year.

  2.      Try and keep your dog’s routine the same as always. It’s easier for a dog to deal with the unexpected if they have predictability the rest of the time.

  3.      Supervise all interactions between children and dogs – your own children and strange ones. If you can’t, use baby gates to keep them separate – or just keep your dog with you.

  4.      Watch out for any signs your dog may be getting stressed. Dogs can’t tell you when they are beginning to feel worried, so you need to look out for their tell-tale signals. This might be subtle signs such as licking their lips, yawning, showing the whites of their eyes, or just trying to move away – or it might be more obvious signals such as tension, looking worried, lowered body language or attempts to hide.

  5.      Don’t let anyone – child or adult – handle your dog roughly or inappropriately. No grabbing, hugging or rough play. This is especially important when alcohol is involved as from a dog’s point of view, drunk people behave very unpredictably.

  6.      Have a ‘safe space’ for your dog where they can go and not be disturbed. Use this space anytime things get chaotic, noisy – or you just can’t supervise your dog – and make sure the dog has a special treat to make their ‘den’ feel special and not as if they are locked away from the fun.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do however is make sure you have some ‘dog time’ every day. Time where you forget about the madness of the season and you just focus totally on your dog, making sure you give them what they need to be healthy and happy. This is the very best Christmas present you can give you dog - your time and your love.