Helping your dog cope this Christmas

Christmas is a magical time, but did you know that it’s also the time of year when most dog bites in the home occur – and that children are most often the victims?

At Christmas, dogs can very often become under-exercised, over-stimulated, under-supervised, and over-threshold – with all these factors combining to cause an overload of stress for your dog.

A dog’s usually predictable home is a scene of upheaval, with decorations and presents everywhere and a loss of the usual daily routine. To make things worse, the dog is probably getting less physical exercise than usual while the adults seem to be really busy with activities that don’t involve the dog.

 So how can you 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. Your dog still needs its daily walks, even if the weather isn’t great.

  2. Try and keep your dog’s routine the same as always. A common dog fear is unpredictability, so it’s easier for a dog to deal with the unexpected if they have a routine the rest of the time.

  3. If your usually happy dog bites, Christmas stress can be the cause. Supervise all interactions between children and dogs. 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 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 your dog - your time and your love.

If you have an Agria Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.