How to make Christmas perfect for your dog

Posted on Dec 11, 2019

Our dogs are members of our family. So it’s only right that they should enjoy Christmas as much as we do. The trouble is that dogs don’t really understand what’s going on at Christmas. It can be a confusing and even dangerous time for them.

To really make Christmas a fun time for your dog, you may have to do some things that seem counter intuitive. But trust us – it’ll all go towards this being the most fun festive season your furry friend has ever had:

Understand things from your dog’s point of view.

Dogs are pretty resilient. And they’re good at going with the flow. But remember that, for all their acceptance of the strange things we do, they don’t understand what Christmas is all about. Why has this weird tree thing appeared in the house? What’s with all the flashing lights? Why has the routine changed? And all that food everywhere…

The change and excitement of Christmas can affect your dog in a number of ways, depending on their temperament. You may find that they get overexcited and start charging about (to the peril of things like Christmas trees and glasses of wine). Alternatively, they may react with nervous confusion and spend a lot of time hiding in their bed. In both cases, try and keep as calm as possible. A calm demeanour around a nervous dog will reassure them that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Calmly ignoring an overexcited dog means that their behaviour won’t be reinforced by attention and they should (eventually!) settle down.

Understanding that Christmas can be an exciting, bewildering, and sometimes frightening time for your dog will help you to make things easier for them.

Kids and dogs

It can be hard to hear this, but children and dogs aren’t always a good mix.

Children can be provcative for dogs. Even if they’re not directly prodding or pulling at your dog, things like running around and making loud noises can cause your dog to react. They may be excited by the chaos and jump up, which could result in small children being knocked over or scratched. They may find the noise and movement frightening. And children teasing dogs or refusing to leave them alone could result in the dog defending itself – which will not end well for either the child or the dog.

However, there is no reason why any child guests and your dog can’t co-exist peacefully. You just have to follow a few simple rules:

  • Never leave your dog unattended with small children. This isn’t just for the children’s safety. Your presence will calm and reassure your dog
  • Educate children about how to behave around your dog. Do not let them tease the dog or pet them roughly, and insist that they leave the dog alone when it’s sleeping or eating.
  • If your dog is prone to chewing, tell children to place toys and presents and other precious things out of the dog’s reach.
  • Understand (and teach the children) about how your dog communicates. For example, turning away, tucking their tail between their legs, and even growling are all warning signs that the dog is uncomfortable. If the child backs off at these warnings, the dog will feel heard and is likely to be less fearful of the child.
  • Under no circumstances let a young child feed your dog treats, unless you’ve given them treats for the purpose. As we’ll show in a moment, dogs can be badly harmed by foods which are perfectly fine for human consumption.

Seasonal dangers for dogs

Christmas presents several dangers for dogs (most of them to do with eating things that they shouldn’t!) Every year, hundreds of dogs are rushed to the vets because they’ve accidentally poisoned themselves. Common Christmassy dog-poisons to watch out for include:

·         Raisins, grapes and sultanas

·         Chocolate

·         Macadamia nuts

·         Mushrooms

·         Blue cheese

·         Pine needles

·         Alcohol

·         Poinsettia

·         Tinsel

·         Onions

·         Brittle cooked bones

·         Fairy lights

·         Leeks

·         Mistletoe

·         Batteries

·         Potpourri

·         Antifreeze

·         Xylitol (a sugar substitute found in low-sugar foods. Even a tiny dose can prove fatal for dogs).

Making your dog feel included

Every dog is different. You know your dog best so you are best qualified to decide what they will and will not enjoy at Christmas. For example, some dogs tolerate wearing Christmasssy outfits, but others will find being dressed up hot and bothersome. Don’t feel pressured into forcing your dog to do something they don’t want to in the name of Christmas.

Lots of us love buying presents for our dogs and filling little Christmas stockings for them. And it’s likely that your dog loves getting those presents, too! So there is no need to leave your dog out of the gift-giving. But remember, what your dog really wants at Christmas (and always) is to be with you. Dogs are in many ways a lot better than humans at capturing the true spirit of Christmas. They love us, and they are more interested in spending time with us than they are in wearing fun little outfits and getting mountains of presents.

Although they probably wouldn’t say no to some leftover turkey slices.

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