Christmas time can be a stressful time for us and for our dogs. Whilst we enjoy having visitors during the festive season, it may be overwhelming for our pets, especially for shy, nervous and older dogs.
If you have a very social dog that loves people and all the commotion that comes with people coming and going, you are lucky.
For other dogs, slipping out the door may be a risk when guests arrive or depart. This needs to be managed. If you have a ‘door bolter’, keep your dog on lead when people arrive and depart (this will also prevent your dog from jumping up on arriving guests) or have them behind a child gate, in another room or out in the garden. Prevention is better than cure and much better than being seen running down the street chasing your dog in your Christmas jumper and elf slippers!
Other things to look out for during the festive season:
Holiday hazards: chocolate, grapes, raisins, sultanas (e.g., in mince pies, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake), cooked turkey bones, onions, alcohol, poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, ivy, potpourri, tinsel, candy (especially those containing the artificial sweetener xylitol) are all our seasonal favourites but can be deadly for our dogs. Candles can be a danger, too, being knocked over by a wagging tail or Christmas lights being chewed by a puppy. Dog proof your Christmas tree to avoid tinsel or baubles being eaten and try not to leave Christmas presents under the tree, especially if they are edible. The last thing you (or your vet) want is for your dog to spend Christmas in the emergency clinic.
Some healthy options for Christmas treats for your dog (provided they have no known allergies to any of the following) are: turkey meat (without skin or bones), salmon (fillet), lamb meat (no bones), green beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots and sweet potatoes.
Counter surfing: keep all your Christmas food goodies off the kitchen counter. We get distracted when conversing with guests and dogs are opportunists; an unattended turkey that’s been left on the counter to rest will be too much of a yummy temptation! If you can, keep your dog out of the kitchen using baby gates or put them in another room with a stuffed kong to keep them busy while you dish up dinner.
Stress: Even sociable dogs can become stressed by all the extra activity in the home, especially if there are children running about and shouting. This can be very stressful for some dogs and stress can lead to aggression. If your dog likes the quiet life, keep them away from all the action in a quiet area of the house. All dogs need a quiet place to rest. Please, please, please, tell visiting children (and adults) that sleeping dogs should be left alone.
Tips to keep your dog happy during the festive season
If you can, nominate a family member to keep an eye on your dog during visits. If they are showing signs of stress, move them to a quiet place where they cannot be disturbed. Keep hazardous items out of reach. And, last but not least, try and keep your dog’s meal times and walks the same. They are, after all, creatures of habit.
By Diane Lowe
Diane Lowe has been living in the Algarve 23 years. It’s not where she was born but it’s where she belongs. She is passionate about dogs, hiking and being out in nature.